Where to Travel
The world is filled with thousands upon thousands of destinations. The choice can be bewildering. It is why one often hears this statement: “I want to travel, but where do you think I should go?” This is a question often asked of me in person or in forums on travel websites. It is impossible to answer with any degree of confidence unless the intending traveller asks a few questions of themselves:
What are my interests – This is your most important question. In order to narrow your choice, consider what pastimes do you like to pursue, and what activities do you enjoy most: bustling cities, natural wonders, historical sites, religious sites, cultural activities, fine restaurants, shopping excursions, the fine arts (galleries, theatres, concerts), unspoilt beaches, pulsating nightlife, adventure activities, recreational activities, luxury hotels or resorts, relaxing spas, sporting events, and educational tours (such as to learn a language or take cooking classes). The list is only restricted by what you like to do with your time.
If you are still unsure of your interests, then read travel brochures, speak to friends, watch travel shows or documentaries, and read blogs such as those on at TravelBlog. My travels to Ethiopia, Somaliland and Tajikistan have directly resulted from reading blogs on that site. These sources are excellent for providing you with ideas.
How much time do I have to travel – If you only have a week then you are best to travel nearer to home. You do not want to be taking 14+ hour flights one way just to spend five days exploring in a city. By the time you get over jetlag, your sightseeing time will be greatly reduced. If you have a longer period to travel try finding a cluster of attractions or countries in a region or continent and see those instead. Longer travel also allows you to explore a single location more deeply so having a longer period of time does not necessarily equate to seeing more places.
How much money can I spend – Your budget is a major determinant of how long you travel, but equally importantly where you travel. For example, if you do not have a lot of spare funds, travelling to Europe is inadvisable as your funds will quickly diminish and you may be reduced to eating only bread and condiments for an extended period, whereas South-East Asia is a much better choice to the unsurpassed value for money that the region brings. If you don’t have the money for a luxurious African safari, maybe see another part of Africa instead that does involve such expensive safaris. Look at less travelled destinations too and also more popular places during shoulder and low season – there are bargains to be found.
When will I travel – Generally wise to avoid places of extreme heat or cold unless there is a specific reason to do so (such as to see the Northern Lights). Also be aware of humidity – if you are not used to humidity, even a temperature of 32 Celsius in humid South-East Asia is going to extremely uncomfortable and it if going to feel the equivalent or hotter than 40 Celsius in a dry climate. Try to visit such places when humidity is lower. Rainy season means different things in different areas. In the tropics it is usually a short, sharp storm of 1-2 hours in an afternoon whereas the rest of the day is fine. Rainy seasons in parts of Africa and Europe means a lot of rain spread throughout the whole day. Good to avoid such places unless you plan to be indoors the whole time.
Best to avoid popular tourist areas during peak seasons – the places are crowded and more expensive than necessary. Either visit in the shoulder or low season or find somewhere else.
Who am I travelling with – If travelling alone than this is an easy question to answer. However, if anyone else is travelling with you than all of the above questions need to be answered by everyone else in your group. Remember even if you are travelling in a group it does mean you need to do everything together. For example, if a party of four is travelling in a city, there is nothing wrong with two of the group visiting an art gallery whilst the other two relax in a spa. It is a good idea to openly discuss with your fellow travellers before the trip that this an idea comfortable with everyone. Suddenly heading off on your own during a journey may have the rest of your party thinking that either something is troubling you, or that they have caused you problems.
Planning an itinerary – Once all of the above are done, it is time to make an itinerary, which I personally find to be very enjoyable and exciting. What I do is to write down the most important places, sites or experiences of a trip (approximately five) and then build my itinerary around seeing each of these highlights. Your itinerary will quickly fall into place if you list a few essential stops along the way. Look at a map and determine the best route (including factoring in travel time) to link in the sites and your itinerary is almost complete.