“Where are you going next?” It’s the question I’m asked most frequently, especially after returning home from a trip. Truth be told, it’s a question I often ask myself, sometimes even before my bags have been unpacked, with the dust on my shoes still fresh from the latest adventure. And with a world of unlimited possibilities challenging the reality of limited time and resources, it may be the most difficult part of planning our travels. Where next?
As I’ve been mapping out our own future itineraries, I’ve put together some thoughts and resources for helping to zero in on that next destination.
My Six Tips for Figuring Out Where to Travel Next:
1. Ask yourself this question: If you could only visit one more place, where would you go?
At first, it may seem to be an overwhelming question, but it’s surprisingly easy to answer. You’ll probably come up with at least a half dozen “must dos,” but I guarantee that one or two of them will make you immediately smile. That’s when you’ll know you’re onto something good. And if the smile-filled destination is too lavish or far-off, keep it on a future list, with a plan for making it happen.
2. Read a general travel book before picking up a specific country or city guide.
One of my all-time favorite travel books is 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Organized by eight world regions and then divided into countries, cities and places, it’s a wonder of a travel tome and a perfect place to start dreaming about destinations. National Geographic’s Destinations of a Lifetime and Lonely Planet’s The Travel Book are also terrific overview-style guides that are sure to get the wheels of adventure turning.
3. Check out worldatlas.com
This website is like and old-fashioned library reference room, filled with everything you ever wanted to know about the world. The top bar features a drop-down menu that includes Continents, Countries, Travel and World Facts. Clicking on a continent opens a page with a colorful, user-friendly map and a wealth of information about the area. Clicking on a country provides more detailed maps and information. I also like the Reference Pages and Helpful Tools sections at the bottom of the home page, which include a currency converter, distance calculator and an interesting latitude & longitude finder.
4. Ask yourself another question: If you could do something somewhere besides home, what and where would it be?
This is one of those nothing-is-off-limits, let-your-imagination-go questions. Maybe you once studied another language and have always wanted to test your skills where it is spoken. Perhaps you’ve dreamed about taking a cooking class in a city known for food you love. Or maybe it’s something active – hiking a trail to Machu Picchu, golfing in Scotland, snorkeling in Hawaii. It’s surprising how once you have a goal, the travel ideas begin to flow, and the trip starts to take shape.
5. When you have an idea, write it down.
There’s something about declaring our intentions in writing that turns them into action. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a list of travel destinations kept in a file, written in a journal, jotted on a phone app or posted on a Pinterest page. It’s the visual reminder that is key. Brilliantmaps.com recommends a variety of pushpin poster maps and scratch-off maps for tracking where we’ve been and where we dream of going, a creative way of combining wall art and travel planning.
6. Keep in mind that where and how you travel is as individual as you are.
Months ago, as I began telling friends and acquaintances that we were planning a trip to Antarctica, I noticed two distinct responses: “Wow!” and “Why?” Like-minded travelers thought it was a fabulous idea, and others couldn’t understand my desire to visit such a remote part of the world. One person even asked how I’d come up with the idea. But for me, it was a destination that had been brewing in my mind for a very long time.
The best trips are those that are inside of us, waiting to be acknowledged and moved to the front of the line. They excite us and motivate us and challenge us to turn a wisp of a dream into a reality. They make us smile, and they make it easy to answer the question…Where next?