So you’re sat there, absent-mindedly twirling an old-fashioned globe with your left hand with google maps open on the laptop on your right.
Where to? It’s the travel equivalent of standing in an aisle at Walmart staring at a seemingly infinite range of fabric softeners. How do you decide? How do you even start deciding?
Some advice, necessarily drawn from extremely narrow personal experience:
- First, write a long list of everywhere you have ever dreamed of going, no matter how ridiculously impractical. To use the vernacular, this rocks, although it isn’t great for one’s personal productivity. Here are ours:
- Prioritize places you will never be able to go again. This can be because they are undergoing rapid change and may shortly no longer exist; because they are properly out of the way (Antarctica is apparently quite hard to fit into a two week vacation); or (for us) because they are likely impossible with children or when older
- Try to fit in one-off festivals where you can. Tribal shows in Papua New Guinea, the mass games in North Korea etc. – hard to fit in with half term, from what I hear
- Try to go during the right seasons – no Siberian winters; no Saharan summers, no monsoons. This complicates the itinerary horribly, and we have the spreadsheet scars to prove it. Trying to optimize a 16-segment OneWorld anticlockwise round the world air ticket into both the Northern and Southern hemisphere’s seasons is intrinsically hard (ask a mathematician, or even a travelling salesman)
- “Take appropriate means of transport”. A number of friends have been inspired by long periods of free time to undertake epic voyages of physical endurance. To us “appropriate transport” means: if you have a particular desire to cycle from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego or row solo across the Atlantic that’s great. But recognize which parts of the journey are about the journey, and which parts are about the destinations. To me, taking the Trans-Siberian railway has always sounded eye-rollingly dull
- Danger areas – depends on your personal tastes. We are not particularly nervous travelers, but if there is anything more than a sporting chance of getting properly kidnapped, actually shot or treading on a live land mine the place is probably worth avoiding. We hear Northern Afghanistan is lovely in spring, but we’ll be giving it a miss
- Revisiting – for us, we only wanted to revisit places one of us had already seen if they are truly amazing. Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands and Japan crept in as repeats here
Iterate until thoroughly sick of the thought of leaving home and you end up with an incredible itinerary, which includes almost none of the places you originally dreamed of. Result!