Savings plan squared away, it’s time for me to get serious about the best part of planning for a solo long-term trip: Where in this great big world I will go! While I still have some reservations about making this whole trip happen, knowing that all of the stops on my journey will be the places that I want to go and all the things I do will be things I have dreamed of doing with no discussion, compromise, or convincing of others necessary, is really really exciting!
So, to get started on my list, I asked myself where I would go knowing I could stay for as little or as long as I want, spending slow time to get to know the people, places, food, culture, etc. The answer to that question was so easy: Everywhere! Every country on Earth. All of them. Umm, ok. Not helpful. Be reasonable I told myself, just write down the first places that pop into your head, keeping in mind that you will be on a budget. Here is what I came up with:
- Central America
- South America
- South East Asia
- New Zealand
Better, but this is still almost 40 countries and totally unrealistic! So, I decided to go one by one and measure the destination against how badly I want to go, how budget friendly it really is, and how realistic it would be for a solo woman to undertake.
1. Central America: As I mentioned in an earlier post, I really want to spend some time in this part of the world. I have been fascinated by the cultures and natural beauty of this entire region for quite some time. Costa Rica, which I visited in 2007, was my first real culturally immersive trip, after my college study abroad, and the point of no return – I would never again be able to get enough of the world. Even all the way back in high school, working part-time at Barnes and Noble, I would borrow the Lonely Planet book about Belize to browse on my lunch break. If I go nowhere else, I am going to Central America. Plus, this is logically a great starting point for me, as it is easily accessible from NYC airports and a relatively cheap flight.
2. South America: Fascinated by my high school Spanish teacher, who hailed from Argentina pronouncing “ella” and “ellos” funny, and the movie “City of God”, set in the favelas of Rio De Janeiro, my interest in South America was recently topped off by my bucket list trip to Peru and the Inca Trail this past August/September. I also got a taste of La Paz, Bolivia (and a really expensive 5 year visa), but not nearly enough! I will be able to work on my Spanish long-term and it is the natural progression south from Central America. Yep, South America is definitely happening.
3. Italy: While certainly not as budget friendly, I have been purposely putting this trip off for some time. Why? Part of my family comes from Italy and the Italian in me is a serious lover of ALL Italian desserts and food in general. I am fascinated by Italian culture and want to spend some time getting to know the country and see where that part of my family came from. Not only do I want to see Rome and Milan and Venice, but I also want to see Parma and Tuscany and Sicily. Hopefully the costs in some parts of Central and South America will balance out the costs of Italy. This stays on the list!
4. Morocco and Jordan: Recent trips to Egypt and Turkey have piqued my interest in these countries. I really want to experience the vastness of their deserts, dig deeper into Arab culture and see with my own eyes the bustling streets of Marrakech and the history in Petra. But, I remember how overwhelmed I felt at times while in Egypt, even with a group! I would definitely visit these places with (male) friends or with a small group tour, but don’t see myself going there solo. For now, I’ll strike these from the list.
5. India: With so many interesting places to visit, architectural wonders, great food, bright colors, smells, sounds, and so many people, what is not to like about India? It is cheap and certainly makes for an amazing adventure. My sister’s recent trip here along with friends’ assurances that India would satisfy my inner hippie have only served to increase my interest in this country. But, even more than I want to go to India, I want to go to…
6. South East Asia: Interested in Thailand since the tragic 2004 tsunami brought the world’s attention to the country, it has been high on my list. Further investigation has made this entire region a must see for me. Tales of gorgeous beaches and lagoons, exciting cities, underground cave systems, temples and delicious food have me sold. Not only is there much to see and do, but this region will be one of the easiest for me to keep my budget and maybe stash enough for a treat or two – think Bali, Java, Fiji, Tahiti – getting chills just thinking about it!
7. New Zealand: On my mind since my 2005 study abroad in Australia, I have always sort of regretted not making it to New Zealand. With limited funds, I chose to stay in Oz and visit Uluru, Melbourne and Tasmania instead, telling myself I would be back to this much smaller country to give it the time it deserves. Well this just might be that time! Interested in the vast wide open beautiful places, the hikes, the traditional Polynesian culture and some of the less extreme extreme sports, I definitely want this on my SoleJourney. However, realistically speaking, it is more expensive than almost all of the others and would probably be one of the last, if not the last stop on my trip.Will I have any money left? I don’t even know how long I’ll be gone yet!
With a little progress made, but so much still to be considered, I don’t think I will be finalizing this list any time soon!