Deciding where to go on a big vacation

When I think about a big vacation, I think of “opportunity”.

The ability to go on vacation “somewhere” for 2 weeks, means that I don’t need to be too concerned with flight time or time change.  A 2 week vacation gives me the freedom to get lost in the world and to take the time to find those experiences that stick with me long after a trip.  

Where in the World to go on vacation

It also gives me some time to reflect on how I have traveled the world so far, and what I am truly looking for in a next adventure.  With that in mind, I begin by exploring countries.  Given that I love travel, and that vacation time is limited while working a normal job, we need to get the right mix of when to go.  Traveling internationally for an extended period of time is not always possible given work responsibilities.  So years ago, my wife and I created a travel bucket list.  It contains all of the places we thought we’d like to see before we die.  It is a list that grows and shrinks at times.

The Value of our Travel Bucket List

I one hundred percent feel that every travel lover should create a travel bucket list.  I’ll have a separate post on the best thinking on how to create your travel bucket list. For now it’s a list of locations that we want to go, sorted by area of the world.  Next to some places is a big “Y”, which tells me that we have to go when we are young enough and healthy enough to complete the trip.  Places like Papua New Guinea and Madagascar have a “Y” next to them.

A side effect of getting older is that at some point our bodies and health will no longer enable us to do certain trips or the risk would be too high.  Since we all have to work for a living, we tend to be limited on vacation time each year.  In my perspective, that time needs to be optimized for the long term.  You never know when you’re health or body will start telling you to slow down.

The great part about having a travel bucket list is that my “young” vacation spots have been whittled down over the years AND the bucket list provides an excellent starting point for sorting out where to go on my vacation.  The exciting part is that there will always be more places to see and experience.  My one true wish is to be able to travel freely without worrying about money, today is not that day.

Organizing our Ideal Travel Locations

Today I am revisiting our travel bucket list and reviewing the “Y” labeled locations.  As those locations will be less appealing as time goes on and I want to see them!

The locations on our travel bucket list where I feel that we have to be young in order to fully appreciate and that I still have not been to are:

  1. Nepal
  2. India
  3. Sri Lanka
  4. Canadian parks
  5. Fiji
  6. Congo
  7. Madagascar
  8. See gorillas in the wild (Uganda, Rwanda)

See how great this is?!  I’ve already focused my attention on 7 countries based on the list I started putting together years ago.

Zoom out: Beyond the Travel Bucket List

But first I need to take a moment to just think.  The world is big.  I love my initial list but perhaps there is somewhere else that I want to see more?

Disclaimer: These are my personal thoughts based on prior vacations and I wondered if I should even include them here as they do not apply everywhere.

  1. Do I want an Asian trip with its buddhism experiences, amazing styled art, tons of people everywhere, amazing beach locales & where communication with locals is tough?
  2. Do I want a South American vacation, where the landscapes are wonderful, the people poorer, everything is affordable, and I get to practice my spanish?
  3. Do I want an African adventure, where the wild world becomes my world, where I need to think about my safety more than other places, where the feeling of being a less-exploring, safer tourist becomes attractive.
  4. Do I want a European trip, an old world but still full of first world nations, amazing architecture & food, old cities, castles, roads, interesting people who will most likely speak a bit of English
  5. Do I want to do Antartica – I’m pretty sure this would just be a really expensive boat experience or a real adventure to reach the south pole.

Eliminating travel options for this trip

Ok.  Getting back on track to deciding where to go based on my initial list. I think about the places I want to go most – Congo and Madagascar.  Those places are so remote and dangerous in a way that I want to get there while I am young enough to go around as less of a target and not always on a tour. 

My wife on the other hand is no longer interested in these types of journeys and as much as I loved my Papua New Guinea trip, I wished she was with me on it.  So both of those places are out.

So onto Nepal.  For our honeymoon we went to China and Tibet.  Nepal is an amazing country with a ton to see including high altitude mountains, buddhist temples and tons more.  The only thing is… We went to Tibet.  Looking at Nepal tourism, I am seeing a lot of similarity between Tibet and Nepal in terms of things to see and do.  As excited as I am for Nepal, it reminds me of how I think about most of Europe at this point – there are a ton of similarities between neighboring countries.  Going to a neighboring country would be awesome, but similar.  I do want to see Nepal and learn what makes it special, but there are still unique places and experiences for me to see in other countries.  So Nepal is off the list for this trip.

Canadian parks – EASY.  This one is off the list because Canada is too close for a 2 week trip.  I can save this for when I have a one week trip to plan.  

Which leaves Sri Lanka, India and Fiji

Looking at that list my gut tells me that I should hold off on Fiji.  From the little I know about Fiji – it’s a group of small islands that make up a nation and provide lot’s of snorkeling, scuba-ing and beach opportunities.  My last big international trip was the Galapagos islands which was another amazing set of islands with snorkeling, explorations and all kinds of similar island activities.  With this in mind, I remove Fiji from my list.

That leaves Sri Lanka and India, which oddly are in the same area of the world.  First thought, can I do both?!  A quick look at the map tells me the answer is “no”.  There is way too much to cover in both countries for one trip.

A brief look into Sri Lanka, which is just south of India, is that it looks amazing!  But my gut tells me that I should do India before Sri Lanka.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it is because I know more about the dangers of going to India and that I lean towards higher risk places at this stage of my travels, leaving the lower risk places for when I am a bit older.

Considering Safety in India

Warning: My dad will love the next few paragraphs since he hates me going to risky places I hope he never reads this.

India is a place that I always shied away from but know that I shouldn’t.  I work with a lot of Indians both on-site and off-site and they have over the years encouraged me to go.  But more importantly I know that my wife also wants to go there.  I worry about India because I just feel that there are documented risks in every city/town.  I’m a white guy, I know that I could be a target because the fact that I am there means I have some money.  It makes me a little less likely to explore a city by walking through it alone.

The second thing I worry about is how women are treated in India, including tourists.  I know that my wife is in a little more danger than I am.  In fact, I’ve already had a conversation with her to ask her if she will please make sure that I am by her side whenever we go out.  

India Travel: Next Steps

India is a big place and there is a ton to see.  The Taj Mahal is naturally a must see.  Safari, which I love after my South African adventure, will be great if we can arrange to see the big cats of India – Tigers, Leopards, and Lions!  I’m also aware of the Maldives, which could be an amazing place to put our feet up for a few days.  I just need to see what locations are reasonable for us to get to on this trip.

So right now, I’m leaning heavily towards India for our 2+ week trip at the end of the year / early Q1.  

The next phase is to start researching the big things that I really want to see and do there and sort out what is both possible and realistic.  And… Do I really want to go there?  Does my wife?  Let’s see.