You’re planning on a big grand long term travel adventure. You’re going to leave, see the world, and come back more worldly, cultured, and interesting.
But where are you going to go?
Sometimes the answer to this question is easy. You’ve known your long-term travel destination your whole life, your apartment is covered in photos of the sites and cities, and you studied the language in college. You even cheer on that country’s team during FIFA even though you don’t know anything about sports (or is that just me?)
Other times, the answer is less straightforward. You’re not obsessed with any particular culture, or you haven’t dreamed of going to one particular city, and you don’t speak any foreign languages fluently.
All you know is that you really want to travel and experience another culture (or two or eight…).
So where do you go if you don’t know where you want to go? The long-term travel destination conundrum.
It’s a really common problem, so don’t worry.
The best part is that there really is no wrong answer! Because it’s your trip.
I’ve come up with some sets of questions to get you thinking and help you figure out where you want to go.
Let’s start with some easy either-or’s.
These will help you figure out what sorts of travel destinations you should do more research on, and maybe some that you can cross off your list without too much fret. They’ll also help you figure out which types of activities and accommodations you’ll want to focus on!
- Adventure or culture?
- South and North America have a bazillion options for outdoor adventuring if that’s your cup of tea (think Canada, not Catskills).
- If you’re more interested in experiencing the genuine culture, you can do that pretty much anywhere! You just have to go with the right mindset. Some accommodation options that make this easier are Couchsurfing, housesitting, or AirBnB, so that you’re not just hanging out with other travelers the whole time.
- Party all night or museums all day?
- There are tons of European cities that are downright famous for their night life, like Berlin in the electronic music scene. Are you looking for more of a vacation/escape-from-life kind of destination? Check out the myriad of beachy places known for more of the all-day beach party life.
- Beer or wine?
- In Continental Europe this becomes a little bit of Eastern v Western, though that’s definitely an oversimplification.
- Germany is an obvious beer destination, as is Ireland. England has an awesome craft beer culture that’s been growing over the last few years, too. Belgium is known for their unique beers,
- And of course, there are countless wine options all over the world. In Europe, there’s Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Austria, and Port in Portugal, just to make a few. And in South America, Argentina and Chile are great wine producers too.
- Mountains or beach?
- Depending on if you’re an outside kind of person, and in which way. A lot of countries even have both!
- Watching your wallet or willing to splurge?
- There’s looooads of information about more affordable travel destinations. This one just takes research. The expensive options are usually pretty obvious, and are the famous places everyone wants to go to (Paris, London, etc). Fewer people know about the budget long-term travel destinations. Chiang Mai is a great example, that hot-spot of digital nomads right now, and a few Eastern European places too. Nomadic Matt is a great resource packed with years of information about budget travel hacks and destinations. But proceed with caution. It’s easy to deep-dive into his blog only to emerge and realize it’s 3:00 in the morning. Because it’s that awesome.
- Haute couture or down to earth?
- I would put a lot of the super popular European destinations under “haute couture”: Paris, Rome, Milan, London. I’d also put Tokyo on that list, and New York, if you do it a certain way (there are many New Yorks all layered on top of one another).
- Since we already talked about outdoor adventuring, we’ll say this one is more about a chill attitude: Berlin, Dublin, Portland, Colorado, Barcelona (this one could also go either way), anywhere in Australia. Lots of these down-to-earth places aren’t tourist heavy, so you may stumble on hidden gems in this category while you’re on the road!
And then there are some practical things you can think about:
- Do you have friends, family, or old acquaintances who live abroad that you could visit?
- Visiting someone you know (or even someone who knows someone you know, you know?) can help you save money and also give you a personal tour guide and introduction to the local culture. Solo day-trips can also add a big dose of solo adventuring while you’re saving a bit of cash on their couch.
- Do you want to meet other travelers and make new friends while you’re on the road?
- If you want to make new friends and meet other long-term travelers while you’re traipsing, I always recommend hostels. It’s hands down the best way to meet other travelers if you’re on the road alone.
- Are you looking for places heavy on history?
- While every place has history of some kind, not every place records and preserves it. I like Europe for this reason, but there are other destinations that preserve their history too.
- Is a decent night-life or party scene a deal breaker for you?
- Are you looking for a long-term travel destination where you can let loose the inner party animal you keep on a leash from 9-5 Monday through Friday at home? There are certain places that are known for their night and party life for travelers. Germany, for example has made itself a major hub of the international electronic music scene.
- Which region are you most comfortable traveling to for your first long term trip?
- If it’s your first long term trip and you’ve never really camped before (*sheepishly raises hand*), maybe you don’t feel comfortable going on safari in Africa just yet. That’s okay! And that doesn’t mean you’ll never ever get to go. Maybe you want to start with something slightly more familiar, like Europe or South America. On the other hand, maybe you’re one of those raring-to-go, jump-in-head-first types who wants to go all out or not at all. Maybe for you roughing it in Africa for your first trip sounds like the best and greatest thing ever! Do that, then!
This is just to get you started
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the types of things you can consider when choosing long-term travel destination , but it’s enough to get your juices flowing. Have anything else that you think is a good thing to consider when deciding on a destination? Let me know in the comments!