Strangely enough, sometimes the most difficult and torturous decision you make in your travels is simply choosing where to go next. With a whole wide world out there full of incredible destinations available to you, it can be an extremely intimidating process to actually commit to one and begin to plan your trip!
The first step is to keep a running list of your dream destinations. Don’t be afraid to have a long list, and don’t be surprised when you find that your priorities and goals shift over time. A beach-y location that obsessed you for several weeks in the middle of winter may not hold the same appeal by the time spring rolls around, or a country that fascinated you might not seem as pressing after you visit another place on the same continent. That’s okay. The world is big, but life is long! There will always be a next adventure.
And that’s all it is — next. Committing to one trip doesn’t mean you won’t take all the others you are imagining in time as well. Your only goal is to pick one adventure at a time, and then the next, and the next, and the next!
The first and most intuitive criteria is simple. What speaks to you? What place simply captures your imagination, whatever the reason? Don’t overthink it. Sometimes there is a clear answer, and sometimes you’ll turn up with a few options. If no particular location or people come to mind, try thinking in terms of why you want to travel, like warm weather and relaxation, high-adrenaline adventure, cultural immersion, reconnection with a loved one, etc.
Another approach is to consider individual experiences or goals. Is there a festival you’ve always wanted to attend? Did you promise yourself that one day you will walk the Inca trail, or scramble up a glacier, or learn Japanese, or see a lion in the wild? This is the time to indulge yourself! Let your imagination run wild.
Once you have a few (or a thousand!) possibilities to work with, you can start to narrow them down by practical considerations. And remember, the stars might not align for, say, Iceland this year, but maybe next year you’ll stumble upon a cheap package deal you can’t refuse! Here are a few of the aspects of your trip worth considering.
It’s always worth it to check out cheap deals on airfare. You may just stumble upon something incredible that you hadn’t been considering before. Or, maybe this is the year to take advantage of a favorable currency exchange and leave the luxury tour of Europe for next time.
It’s great to have favorite places that you return to year after year, but when there’s so much to see in the world, sometimes you have to be decisive about going somewhere completely new. If you’ve already toured much of Asia, you might redirect your sights towards South America. If you’ve stayed in primarily English speaking countries, perhaps you would enjoy the rush and new experience of embracing culture shock. If you’ve been talking to people and making friends, try exploring a natural wonder for a change of pace.
Some places are harder work to travel than others. That doesn’t mean they aren’t just (if not more) rewarding, but a challenging destination can take a lot out of you. Availability of quality infrastructure, ease of communication — these things have a large effect on your trip. After an incredible adventure in South Africa, you may find that lounging in Hawaii is just what you need.
If you find yourself still paralyzed by choice, you can always add in more criteria to narrow it down. Here’s another detailed way to think about choosing your next trip. But remember — the beauty is, there are no bad choices! No matter where you go, you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime.