Monday, May 6, 2013

How do I Pick Where to Travel

It is not uncommon for me to be asked how do you select where your next trip will be?  Given that I am generally traveling from anywhere between 3wks to 3 months, and traveling alone I certainly need to do my homework. 

The quick answers are:
  1. Does it align with my top interests?
  2. Is it visually stimulating?
  3. Is it safe for an American?  as well as, is it  a woman traveling alone?

It always starts with  #1, my top interest: endangered cultures their customs and religion. 

After years of traveling, I recognize that it is not uncommon for the younger generation to want to be a part of the new ways and the older generation to want their children to have a better and easier life than they do. Combine this with increasing levels of tourism and communications, let alone massive political juxtapositions and what results is the perfect Petri dish for dissipation of the old ways.  All of this creates an enormous sense of urgency for me.

As an example  I was fortunate enough to tour Myanmar/Burma for a month, three years ago before Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest and nominated to the lower house of parliament.  It was a wonderful country with a strong Buddhist practice woven into every aspect of  life, sweet gentle people mostly living simple lives and many UNESCO World Heritage sites.  As of late,  whenever I speak with someone who has visited I hear about the development and significant changes that is underfoot.  My need to go back is immediate before too much of the charm, old ways and authenticity is replaced by modernization and Western ways. I anticipate that I will be back there before year end 2013. 

When addressing #2, I start by perusing the professional Photo Sites like Getty Images: .  What does the imagery show me?  Does it make my heart jump.  What are the people in the images wearing?  What messages are on the billboards? What does the landscape and cityscape look like?
As far as #3, I start with the US State Department Travel Site: latest safety status is posted here as well as tips on spots that may need to be avoided even if the country is generally safe.  

Another great resource in the Lonely Planet Thorntree Blog:  Up to the minute information is posted here by fellow travelers who are often presently  or very recently on the ground.  This site was an invaluable tool as I worked to secure entry into Tibet the summer of 2012, amidst numerous immolation and non-stop changes in travel restrictions that were being imposed. 

Carpe Diem, seize the day.  It is a big and fascinating world out there.  Do what you love and if its travel I propose that you go sooner rather than later. No time like the present.