Once AJ and I decided we wanted to go travelling for a year, the first important decision was where in the world would we go? While a simple question, it’s one that needs a lot of careful thought and consideration, especially when you’ll be travelling over an extended period of time. What budget are you working with? How long will you be away for? Do you want to see many different places or fewer places but in more depth? When’s the best time to visit your destination(s)? What’s on your bucket list?
Let me talk you through the processes that AJ and I went through and how we arrived at our current itinerary:
Where To Go:
A lot of what happens on your journey travelling comes down to one basic thing: what do you want to get out of travelling? What are your aims, your motivations?
This is the first question you should ask yourself/discuss with your travelling partner(s) – when you know that, a lot of the decisions should be easier to make.
Step One: where in the world do you want to go?
- What’s on your bucket list?
- Cheap and cheerful or luxury?
- Rural or City?
The first thing we did was have a discussion about which parts of the world we wanted to hit up. Our first criteria was pretty simple: we wanted our savings to last as long as possible which meant not going anywhere expensive. This ruled out North America, Europe and Australia. Our next step was to take out our world map and our specially purchased mini stickers. We each had three colours of sticker: green for where we definitely wanted to go, blue for where we’d like to go, and pink for where we’d go if the chance came up. One by one we laid our stickers out and when we were done it was pretty apparent where we were going: nearly all the blue and green stickers were in either South America, Central America, or South East Asia. We got rid of any sticker that wasn’t in these areas and then started taking a look at the countries we had chosen.
Step Two: skim the surface or explore the depths?
- Do you want to see as many different places as possible, or settle down in one place and really get to know it?
Our second criteria came in to play at this point: both of us are completely emotionally, mentally and physically drained by travelling, as in the physical moving from place to place, whether it’s planes or buses or boats. On top of that, neither of us are particularly fond of rushing through a packed itinerary in a short space of time or racing around a city in only a couple of days. We knew, therefore, that we would rather spend more time in fewer countries so we could really get to know them. This meant cutting down on the number of countries with stickers on them, which let me tell you, was REALLY hard in some cases, and meant that we’re already planning a separate South America trip to see the rest of the countries we won’t get to during these travels.
Step Three: Where do you want to start? Where do you want to finish? What’s going to happen in between?
- What will the climate be like in your destination at different times of the year?
- Are there any particular activities you want to do in any of your destinations? Do they have to be done at particular times of the year?
- How do you want to travel between destinations? Do you want to have a strict itinerary, complete free reign over when you come and go, or something in between?
When we were trying to figure out where to start the first thing we looked at was when we were leaving the country and what the climate would be like in each of the different countries on our itinerary. We had hoped that we would be able to travel with the good weather, but unfortunately September is a good time for South/Central America and South East Asia, and March/April (the half way point when we’d be moving between the American continents and Asia) was smack dab in the middle of the hot season. This meant that for us, whichever way we went, we would end up travelling somewhere during the hot season. As I am Irish and AJ is British we are acclimatised to wind and rain, not a 40 degree humid summer, but we would have to face it either way!
Our decision ended up being pretty easy in the end – we were both desperate to do the Inca Trail and other hikes while in South America, and therefore needed energy and to not be dying from heat and humidity. So we decided to start in Peru, work our way up the coast of South America, up through Central and then fly from Mexico to Thailand. This means that we could do the hiking in decent conditions and then focus on scuba diving when in Asia during the hot season. We wanted to have free reign over our itinerary so we only booked the absolute essentials and left the rest to be decided on the move. We’ll get ideas from research online, talking to other travellers and looking at other sources of information to get ideas.
Resources that we’ve found useful include:
- Lonely Planet Guides
- Trip Advisor
- Tourist Information Websites for specific countries
- Local travel conventions/information days (for those of you in England, the TNT travel show is brilliant!)
- And many MANY blogs by other travellers.
Once you’ve made the initial big decisions about where to go, that’s when the real detailed planning can begin. The resources above are very useful for this as well.