How do I Choose the Places I Visit?

I’m starting to feel it – ever so slightly! In three months I’m heading off for my first overseas trip in a year and a half, which, for me, is a LONG time between drinks as they say. My trip will be a combination of destinations which see a fair fill of tourists – Portugal and Spain, and also a few which are not so well known or visited – Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

The Pamirs in Tajikistan

In fact these places I mention to friends or work colleagues and some tell me they have never even heard of them. But it’s really not as if I look at a map of the world and scan it for places I haven’t heard of and then decide to go there. Almost exclusively I either have been interested in a place for a long time before I actually go – West Africa is a case in point there – or I meet someone who has been to or lived in said country, we have a conversation and the place piques my interest.

I’m also rather visual when choosing a place to visit, and often can be sold on a single photo. Iguazu Falls in Brazil/Argentina is a prime example. Saw a photo, had to go. Or a place is interesting by reputation – Galapagos is another example.

So for this jaunt into Central Asia, I’m going principally for Turkmenistan. I saw photos of Ashgabat, which looks like another Astana (Kazakhstan capital), and then I heard about the Dervaza gas Crater, which was accidently set alight in the 1970s, expected to burn for a week and is still burning as I write!

On top of this, I felt I wanted to see all of the Central Asian countries, I haven’t yet been to Tajikistan, and so whilst I was in the region I might as well go there as well. I knew basically that Tajikistan was a country at altitude with incredible nature and mountains. And the thing is, the more I researched it the more interesting it became to me. Then I hit a wall in the last week, because I found that there wasn’t much else out there in the way of information. Which in of itself is appealing to me. It will be challenging too – next Sunday I’ll be doing a post about what I am most looking forward to on my upcoming trip.

Choosing Spain and Portugal wasn’t hard. They are two countries in Western Europe I haven’t been to yet, and I’ve always wanted to go Barcelona ever since I saw a photo of the Sagrada Familia. Portugal is fast becoming a really popular destination in Europe. No, I tell a lie, it already is. The climate is great too, we can head there in late November/December and it won’t be icy cold.

The Seine River from atop the Eiffel Tower.

But to be honest, I’m more drawn to the out of the way places. Two years ago, in Paris late May and it was flooded with tourists. Paris is an incredible city, but when you have to fight to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, I really don’t feel it’s worth it. But that’s the reality of a place like Paris in 2019. And so many other cities today.

An Angkor temple

Which is a pity but the fact is, where there is something universally regarded as ‘amazing’, people will flock there, and it’s easier to travel internationally today than it ever has been. It doesn’t mean the Louvre, the Colosseum, Central Park, Angkor Wat etc are not worth seeing, and as long as you can capture the photos you want, you may be able to look bac and  only remember what you saw, but it does mean that the experience may not be as stress free and enjoyable as you might like.

And so, I find I actually try to avoid these sort of experiences where I can. But then, something – such as the Sagrada Familia – is there to be seen and I would kick myself forever if I didn’t see it. Deep Breath – jump in!

Ultimately I have always mixed the known with the lesser known n my travels, and I suspect this will continue for some time to come yet. How about you? How do YOU choose your destination? Please comment – and May the Journey Never End!

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6 Comments

      1. Oh great! I will check out some of your Vietnam posts. I am originally from Hue, Vietnam. Hope to meet you guys in my hometown again some day.

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