Do you ever get tired of being on the go-go-go when you travel?
Does everything whip by so fast you don't even remember where you've been or whom you've met? Have you been traveling so much you're suffering from travel burnout?
Squeezing every possible moment out of our travels is something we all try to do.
By trying to see more, we often end up seeing less.
Sometimes, settling down for a week teaches you more about a culture than any amount of rapid sightseeing.
Choosing a place to call home for a week (or much longer, of course) is part art, part science.
Naturally there's passion involved: you fall in love with a place, you stay.
If you don't know where to set yourself down, let's try together.
Culture and History
If you're an avid seeker of knowledge and culture and you'd like to stay somewhere that hasn't changed much in years, stay away from a modern metropolis. Most European cities will do the trick, as will some Asian cities.
If you're keen on staying in a city, try one of the more traditional neighborhoods. In Istanbul I lived in Sariyer for a week, way up the coast, and commuted into town every day from my apartment (I'm a fan of Airbnb and use them a lot when I travel).
But if I had the choice, I'd go for a small provincial city - Segovia or Avila rather than Barcelona.
Could you live like a local in this place?
How near are you to major transport hubs? How easy is it to get in and out? However lovely your new home, you might get tired of it once in a while and you'll need to escape. Countries and cities served by low-cost airlines are worth a look, as are places near major train lines and bus stations.
You'll probably want some kind of internet access or wifi. How often will you need it? Is a weekly visit to an internet café enough or will you be uploading hundreds of photos a day? In addition to access, cost and signal strength and speed should be considerations.
Is it legal for you to live there a month or two or more? If you're not European, getting a long-term visa in the EU will be difficult unless you're a student or have a job (and even then, it's far from simple). Some countries are stricter than others so check extensively before you go. Thailand, for example, is relatively flexible, allowing you to nip in and out of the country to renew your visa. Indonesia, on the other hand, is quite strict.
Is the country politically stable, or do you run the risk of being sealed in or deported? I was once stuck in Prague while the then Soviet Union decided whether to re-invade Czechoslovakia. The borders were temporarily closed and the most popular building was the post office, where people lined up for blocks to call abroad and let everyone know. It only lasted a day or two but - it might not have.
Is this a safe country for solo women? How to avoid crime abroad is always a concern, more so if you plan on living somewhere for a number of months. Lets face it - some countries are more woman-friendly than others. While I'd feel perfectly comfortable in Turkey, I'd definitely feel less so in Iran. There's also the issue of unwanted male attention, which is more common in some countries than others.
Putting down roots might be easier somewhere relatively familiar. You may prefer a 'taste' of home - the existence of a Starbucks, for example, of bookshops or a large English-speaking community nearby. Or you may like the novelty of difference - Arabic or Cyrillic script, for example, or a country where English isn't the second, or even the third language. A place like Ethiopia is - at least to me - quite foreign. The only significant expat community is in the capital, Addis Ababa, but elsewhere, you're on your own.
If you're on a limited budget putting down roots is a financial decision. We may all want to live in Tahiti or London but it's not always possible - the one exception may be if you become a housesitter, in which case you'll be able to live pretty much anywhere for free. Otherwise you have to seriously take your budget into account, as well as working possibilities. Some countries will allow long-term visas and allow you to work as well. Others will throw you out the moment you're suspected of teaching English abroadwithout working papers, so choose wisely and match your destination to your budget - and to overseas jobs possibilities.
Quality of life is something we can't neglect, especially if we're staying put for some time. Weather, for example - I get nervous at the first sign of freezing so France, where I now live, is about as cold as I can handle. If the idea of tropical rains makes your skin crawl, stay away from the Equator!
Then there are all the other things that make a place liveable - public transport, entertainment, friendliness, cleanliness, health infrastructure and the existence of disease... make sure your chosen home matches your own values and needs.
Once you've set your criteria, it's time to start shopping - for a new home, that is!
Over and over, the same places come up. That's because other travelers have tried them before you and can speak from experience. Here are just a few of the eternal favorites:
I'm a great believer in putting down roots when I travel. Some of my own homes away from home? Bangkok (more than a year); Algeria (three months - twice); Eritrea (two months); South Africa (two months); Italy (six months); Brazil (four months); Geneva (many many years).
If I don't have time to do that - sometimes trips are only a few days long - I've learned to appreciate the benefits of slow travel, where I can intensify my travel experience even for a few hours.