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Where Should I Travel Next? The Art (and Science) of Deciding Where to Go

Women on the Road
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Perhaps you're a seasoned traveler who's seen it all, so the question stumps you: where should I travel next?

Or you may be new to travel and bewildered by all the holiday destination choices out there. Don't worry - you'll find plenty of inspiration here.

You can start by clicking through to the thumbnails below, or you can skip them and keep reading.

The thumbnails will lead you to a variety of things - specific travel guides for women, stories of my own travels, memories... this isn't a traditional destinations section but one stuffed with history and observations and anecdotes. 

But if you're still confused about how to pick a vacation destination, just keep reading.

The art of deciding where to travel next

Coming up with the best travel ideas is hard work.

Imagine having to choose between going to Madrid and Milan, Malaysia and Mexico...

How on earth do you make up your mind? 

Of course it's part art (flair, instinct, desire, dreams) and part science (budgets, visas, distance, time...)

But knowing that doesn't really help.

Travel DestinationsSo many choices!

Here's what does: QUESTIONS.

Each time I can't decide my next trip, I ask myself questions that help narrow my choices and force me into clarity.

This is the first - and main - question.

Why exactly do you want to travel?

It's not always obvious.

Usually, it's because you have a destination in mind - a country, a region, a city.

But your travels can be about many other things so understanding your motivations and your desires will help in your decision. Here are some typical travel motivations...

HOW you travel is as important as why.

Ask yourself...

  • Are you traveling solo? Some destinations are more fun on your own, but some - like honeymoon destinations - will leave you feeling like the odd woman out.
  • Do you want to take a short holiday or leave it all behind and go for the long haul, for months or even a year or more?
  • Do you like the new or the old? Do you revisit places a dozen times or do you hanker after the thrill of discovery or are you happier with what's familiar?
  • Are you a slow traveler or are you the 'If it's Tuesday it must be Belgium' type?
  • Do you like to schedule your travel around special events? A national day or a festival? 
  • What do you eat? If you're a vegan you might not do that well in Spain or Argentina...
  • Distance and cost are often factors. If you only have a week you don't want to spend half of it traveling around the world, jetlagged.
  • How do you feel about local culture and customs? I have several friends who won't go to countries where women's hair must be covered. Make sure you're all right with local culture before you take off.
  • Are you connected all the time? Addicted to your iPhone? Some parts of the world won't even have a signal, let alone a wifi connection.

Asking WHY and HOW you travel might help you decide WHERE to travel to 

1. Are you a lover of nature and the environment?
The lemurs of Madgascar, the whales and dolphins of British Columbia, the magic of Lake Song Kul in Kyrgyzstan or the beauty that is Lake Malawi

2. Do you dream of tropical rainforests, of the twitter of exotic birds at dusk?
Think of Costa Rica, the Kinabatangan River in Borneo or the Brazilian Amazon

3. Do you hanker to stalk wildlife with a guide at dawn?
South Africa is ideally diverse.

4. Are you an avid chaser of amazing natural beauty?
The Grand Canyon or Alaska, perhaps? Iceland's glacier caves? Australia's Great Barrier Reef or the Gibb River Road?

5. Are you more of a culture vulture, with history in your future?
You can't go wrong with places like Italy, Turkey, Greece, India or Peru, and certainly China is replete with history.

6. Or perhaps you're drawn to the mystical?
To secret places like Mamoiada in Sardinia or hidden places in the Philippines

7. Are you a city slicker, happiest sipping an espresso in a sidewalk café?
Your ideal destination could be Paris... or San Francisco... or perhaps in the casinos of Las Vegas

8. Is budget is your major issue?
You'll find Bangkok, Lisbon or Kuala Lumpur a bit more affordable - and this cost of living chart can help (so can this one)

9. Or are you an inveterate shopper?
The world is full of fabulous markets - from Istanbul's Grand Bazaar to the flea markets of Paris. Or head for the world's great clothing centers, Florence for example.

10. A festival junkie?
Then it's Rio for the Carneval, Hong Kong for the Dragon Boat races, New Orleans for Mardi Gras...

11. A wine lover?
That will get you to France, California, Chile, Australia, Italy... Where to next?

12. A food tour fanatic?
This is one of my favorites! I've tried them in so many cities... - and then there's this amazing food market in Lyon... and these markets in Madrid. I could go on. And if you're hooked on coffee, there's a visit waiting for you in Colombia's coffee triangle.

13. Or do you at least organize your own street food tour?
So many places have wonderful street food traditions - Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok...

14. Do you want to see some unforgettable architectural sites?
The Colosseum in Rome? The pyramids of Egypt or Mexico or Central America?

15. Is this your first time traveling? 
You might choose one of the safer destinations for women - like Singapore or perennial favorites in Europe, like Portugal

16. Or maybe first time solo?
Some countries simply lend themselves to independent travel because they are so organized and simple to navigate, like Switzerland or South Korea or Singapore

17. What about being sporty - are you into sailing, biking, hiking?
Now that's not (at all) me but - there are few places you CAN'T indulge in your sporting passions. An up and coming adventure sports destination? Albania!

18. Do you dream of sun and sea?
Sample the beaches of Turkey, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Zanzibar or the Seychelles... or one of my top destinations, Sabah, Malaysia

Travel DestinationsAssisi, Italy, one of my favorite destinations ©WOTR

19. Maybe you're a mountain girl...
You could follow in Birgit's footsteps and climb Kilimanjaro, or walk around the Mont Blanc or, more like me, play it safe with a visit to a lower-altitude ski resort like Charmey in Switzerland

20. Are you looking for off the beaten path vacations?
Try spending a week in Sri Lanka, exploring Saharan sand dunes in Morocco or bumping along the roads of Brazil (and stopping in Rio for a while) or Cuba, utterly unforgettable.

21. What about something ON the beaten track?
There are so many interesting travel destinations out there. It's not hard to find top 10 lists online - I even have one!

22. Would you like to follow in the footsteps of great explorers?
You can follow the footsteps of great explorers like Freya Stark or Alexandra David-Neel or Marco Polo

23. Is security an issue?
If so, consider visiting places considered safer for solo women.

24. What about things like social mores and attitudes towards women?
Some destinations are absolutely hostile to gays and lesbians so think twice if you belong to the LGBTQI community. Others are not particularly welcoming to women, especially solo travelers. Do your research and choose accordingly.

25. Are you political?
You may decide to avoid certain countries because of their politics, and reward others for theirs.

26. Maybe you're the really adventurous type?
Your travel destinations could be Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan, for example), Iran, Inner Mongolia - or why not one of the world's unrecognized countries?

27. Or desperately curious about places like the Middle East?
In which case you could try the safety of Doha, the surprises of Dubai, the mysteries of Muscat, Oman, or why not solo in Lebanon?

28. What about developing and emerging countries?
Like Nairobi in Kenya, or Vietnam?

29. What if adventure isn't enough?
You'll always have the world's dangerous places - though I wouldn't encourage you to put yourself in danger...

30. Would you like to explore a specific region?
Try Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, Central America, the Andes, North Africa, the Baltics - you can organize a circuit and never have to backtrack. Or use a city like Annecy, France as a jumping off point to the French Alps.

31. Or maybe travel overland across continents to many countries?
There's Cape to Cairo, Bangkok to Hanoi, the Panamericana or the Silk Road, London to Istanbul, Beijing to Moscow, the Trans-Siberian... (I'm partial to long journeys!)

32. Are you curious about the New Europe?
Budapest, Bulgaria, the Baltic States, or even Moscow.

How to decide where to travel is a highly personal quest, and half the fun of travel is choosing your vacation destination (at least it is for me).

Still can't decide? Then, drumroll: here are...

the top 10 vacation destinations for 2020

Amangiri/Lake Powell, Utah/Antelope Canyon, Arizona - Forbes

Panama - CN Traveller

Bhutan - Lonely Planet and Elle

Gzira, Malta - Smarter Travel

Los Cabos, Mexico - Good Housekeeping

Tokyo, Japan - Rough Guides

Chad - Robb Report (this is my top choice from this list!)

Georgia (the country) - Travel Lemming

Salta, Argentina - Refinery29

Prague, Czech Republic - The Zoe Report

Here's how I made the list.

There are so many top 10, top 25 destinations or top 50 vacation spots that I looked at the leading ones and chose the #1 destination from each. So there you have it, from the experts, in no particular order - the list of Number One travel destinations!

(Of course you could do it the fun way and just throw a dart on a map and see what happens. I sort of did that.)

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