“How did you choose to go there?” is a common question we’ve gotten after getting home from traveling. The short and most truthful answer is that we just pay attention until some place pops on our radar. That’s it. Of course, the details can be a little muddier.
Close your eyes and spin the globe
As a kid I had a light blue and green globe of the world – about the size of a basketball – that I could spin on its axis. It didn’t take me long after acquiring my globe to spin it rapidly, close my eyes, and then smash my finger down against the textured landforms to see what my next imaginary destination was. I quickly learned there is more water on Earth than land. My next imaginary destination was often smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! I chewed up a lot of time perusing the countries, cities, and mountain ranges of exotic-sounding countries.*
Today, I still like exploring the world from our home in Alabama. My weekly copy of The Economist provides a broad dose of details about what is going on politically in Myanmar, talk on the street in the UK about a Brexit, or international courtroom spats between Bolivia and Chile about ocean access. Further, our ever-present Internet connection lets me devour enormous amounts of time going down all kinds of rabbit holes researching foreign lands, different cultures, and history. So, yes, part of our destination choices come about from this randomness streaming at us. But, there is still more to the process.
Does it speak to you?
My wife and I are big believers that you should go somewhere when it feels right. We don’t go somewhere just because it is on the next “hot list” of Condé Nast. One of our friends may highly recommend that we take the next flight to their favorite city. It doesn’t matter. The place has to speak to us.
I realize this sounds New Age so I’ll explain what I mean. Usually, the idea of a destination shows up in a random fashion. For example, my wife may be reading a novel that takes place in Argentina and asks me why they are in a perpetual cycle of economic trouble. I’ll do some more research and find out that Buenos Aires is considered to be like a more Old World version of Paris than Paris is now (kind of true). A few weeks later I stumble across a travel blog extolling the virtues of Argentina and Patagonia. Then, either because we are now much more biased toward hearing references to Argentina or we actually do hear more references, the subtle upvoting of Argentina in our minds really takes off. The next thing I know, we have booked plane tickets to the 8th largest country in the world and are looking for a place to call home for our stay in Buenos Aires.
I honestly cannot remember what the influencing factors were for us to go to Argentina but the sequence of events was probably close to this example. My point is that if you open your ears and eyes to some hints floating around, your next destination will present itself. Ok, you’re right. This does sound like a New Age book.
Sometimes the poles are switched
We’ve occasionally had the opposite of the upvoting effect when it comes to picking a destination. For whatever reason, it can sometimes feel like we cannot or should not go somewhere at that time.
When we found ourselves in southern Italy last October we decided to turn north after a few weeks. We stopped at Florence. After we had seen more beautiful artwork and statues than we had previously imagined could exist in one town, we thought that we needed to visit Venice as our next stop or next, next stop. We tried finding Airbnb places, hotels, guesthouses, …anything. We then tried finding places in the towns around Venice across the channels. After having Airbnb hosts turn us down and hotels that had a single room available come back with eye-popping prices, we realized it was not meant to be. We continued north to Innsbruck, Austria and had a wonderful time with an inexpensive mountainside apartment, gorgeous weather, and a picture perfect train ride there. I really felt like us trying to visit Venice at that time was similar to magnet poles being pushed together. Then, once we decided to go to Austria, it was like we were suddenly shooting along a river with a good rain surge behind us. I’ve learned that you should not try to force yourself to go somewhere if it just isn’t working out at that point in time.
Not now or never… but, rather, now or later
Just because you don’t go somewhere at a given point in time doesn’t mean you won’t ever. We will visit Venice. I don’t know when but it will happen. Even when we visit a place and spend a lot of time exploring it that doesn’t mean we won’t be back. Some places may get added back to our mental list further down than others but we leave all options open.
I suppose my advice can best be summed up by recommending you read wide and deep, talk with friends and fellow travelers, and let a bit of randomness guide you along. Most importantly, though, go with what you feel is where you should go next.
There are probably as many ways to pick your next trip or home away from home as there are personalities in the world. If you have found some interesting ways to narrow down your choice then please comment below.
* A great side effect of my globe time was that I could – and still can – pretty much smoke any geography-based trivia questions. This skill can usually offset my severe deficiencies when it comes to questions about TV shows.