How I Choose Where To Go
I don’t have a bucket list. I keep my eyes and ears open for interesting places to visit.
Sometimes it will be somewhere I’ve had on my radar for years (e.g. Spring Green, Wisconsin). Other times, an overheard conversation will get me to thinking (e.g. Sicily). I have no parameters. That is, I am attracted to places near and far away.
Of course there are some considerations. Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are probably out of the question for the foreseeable future. Going into a war zone is not high on my list. Other locations require monitoring. For example, early in 2011, there were simultaneous bombings at sites frequented by tourists in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. My trip there was planned for July. I figured if this was a one-time event, I would go. If a pattern developed, I would not. When no similar situation occurred, I went. I don’t want fear to dictate my travel plans. Significant reasons for my peregrinations are to expand my horizons; to learn about places and people who are different from me in language, culture, and values; to experience the topography and geography on foot, by bike, in the water, by horseback.
Generally, I want to be pretty active. Cuba was fascinating but I had to create some exercise (there was a marvelous Art Deco building in the Sierra del Escambray Mountains that had 100 stone steps. I ran up and down five times out of desperation). But recently I’ve discovered that a trip can be too active and not have enough culture. That happened in Patagonia and in Bosnia. I was hiking seven to ten hours a day. That didn’t leave much time to explore villages and interact with the inhabitants. So finding the right mix of activities is important.
Weather is another consideration. I don’t want to choose a place that’s too hot or has too many nasty bugs (e.g. In Kruger National Park, my guide said it was so buggy in the summer there that he had to wear goggles to keep the bugs out of his eyes. I was glad, then, that I had chosen to visit in their winter). But sometimes the best plans can go awry. My trip to the High Tatras in Slovakia and Poland was planned for early September because, so I was told, the tourists would be gone and the weather perfect. It snowed every day!
I usually pick a place because I’m curious about it. Most of the time, it turns out to be a wonderful choice. I think it’s desirable to be open-minded, open-hearted and flexible. If you are, then almost anywhere can be the right place to visit.