Close the guidebook and open your mind – the first step to choosing a destination is to spend some time thinking about what kind of trip you want to take. What kind of experiences are you looking for? What do you want to achieve from your trip?
Your choice of destinations will be radically different if you are more interested in contemplation and soul-searching than bungee jumping and full-moon parties. Lounging in a hammock on a pristine beach might not be as appealing to some as trekking through the jungle in quest of gorillas. Figure out what the goal of your trip is, put it on paper and use it to guide you as you research those magical places that fit in with what you’re searching for.
You have a goal, now what? Before you do any real research, keep the books closed and make a list of those places that interest you. Pictures in a magazine, stories from a friend, or cultures you’re curious about, the reasons don’t matter. First write down the places you dream of going and then see if it’s practical to get there on this trip.
It is critically important to understand that you can’t go everywhere or see everything, and it’s best not to try. The most common travel mistake is to try and fit in too much in too little time.
With a goal and a list of dream destinations in hand, it’s time to do some research. The Internet is a great source of information, but should be supported with other sources including libraries, guidebooks, travel agents, embassies, other travelers and friends.
Things to think about:
– One country, one region or a round-the-world trip?
- This will determine transportation, language and visa issues.
– Stay in modern, first world countries or explore the developing, third world?
- Modern comforts and a variety of food choices vs much rougher living conditions.
– What will the weather be like while you’re there?
- Going to the beach during a monsoon sort of defeats the point.
– How far will your money go?
- The US dollar goes half as far in England and twice as far or more in Southeast Asia
– What will the travel infrastructure be like?
- High-speed trains or buses that tend to break down?
- Western style or squat-and-drop toilets?
- Subway, tuk-tuk or taxi?
– Peak season vs low season
- Prices and crowds go up in peak season, and deals are often readily available during the low season.
– Health and safety
- Is there a danger of contracting a disease? (get vaccines)
- Is there any kind of travel advisory for your choices?
- Is there a high risk of theft or violence? (prepare accordingly)
- Are snakes, insects and other wildlife things I need to worry about?
Talk with friends, find an online community, and read the guidebooks. Once you’ve made the decision on where to go, the hard part is over. All you have to do now is make it happen. Where do you plan on going and how did you decide?