One of the prime cerebral occupations of the traveler is looking into a world map, evaluating where they have been and where they are going — dreaming into the travels of old, gazing at the travels of the future. There are transitioning points in world travel where the path ahead splinters and frays like the end of an old shoelace: one path through a region all of a sudden becomes many.
There is perhaps no higher freedom than looking at a map and knowing that you can place yourself down upon almost any part of it.
Travel works in phases. At first the entire world is open — you can go anywhere — but then you select a region, then a country, and your focus refines itself and your options become fewer. Soon enough, a path across a certain part of the world presents itself, and you travel it through. But at the end of this regional path, the entire globe makes itself available to you once again, and a plethora of choices — paths — reappear: you are at an intersection of the globe, ready to choose your direction, the next region to travel through.
Travelers do not travel from country to country — to do so would require a bank account befitting a successful Wall Street broker — but from region to region. A single part of the world is generally selected for a projected six month to two year stretch of travel, which is entered at one end and then traveled through to the other. At the end of this path, the world opens up again:
Where to travel next?
I am asking myself this question as I look over a map of the world. The regions marked out in red are the ones I have already visited. I want a new horizon for this next move — I want to go to a region that I have not yet visited before.
As I look at the map of my travels, it becomes apparent that there are seven large regions that I have not yet set foot in.
1. Northeast South America: Brazil, the Guineas, Venezuela, Paraguay, Bolivia.
Pros of traveling in this region
- Some extreme landscapes: mountains and jungles.
- I have not yet visited this half of South America — I feel as if I only have a half way impression of this continent.
- May potentially do a guidebook for the Amazon region.
- Familiar culture, language in some countries. My family speaks Spanish, and have spent numerous years in Hispanic countries. Parts of this region are Spanish speaking and would be good for Petra’s continued proficiency in this language.
- Brazil is fresh territory. Brazil is its own cultural entity in South America, and is calling my name.
- Relatively not expensive to get in and out of.
- Work is available for English teachers.
Cons of traveling in this region
- Same old, same old. I have traveled a lot in South and Central America as well as Mexico, and I am really wanting a new horizon: something different, something to get my blood pumping, new riddles to figure out.
- Romance languages are my least favorite of all language families to communicate in. Give me Chinese, Japanese, a language with grunts, groans, clicks, or tones, and I will learn and speak it fine, but Romance languages are not my best.
2. West and East Africa
A massive white blotch spans over the Africa continent in the map of my travels. I have not yet been to Africa south of Morocco or Egypt; though my wife, Chaya, had traveled in the south of the continent.
The pros of traveling in West/ East Africa
- I really want to go there
- I have not experienced the cultures
- Would make for good writing
- Chaya’s uncle is an anthropologist who conducts research in Uganda
- Cheap to rent apartments or rooms by the month
- New landscapes — I am tired of looking at the same places all the time under the guise of a new place name, I crave a different view.
The cons of traveling in West/ East Africa
- Expensive to get to. I am looking at over a $700 one way plane ticket to get to Africa.
- Wife fears for the health of Petra. Chaya is under the much touted impression that the African continent boasts a higher frequency of communicable disease than other regions of the world, and is therefore apprehensive about bringing her child there. Though she had no problem bringing Petra to El Salvador, where the food preparation methods were amongst the most unsanitary in the world that I have yet observed (read Petra gets Amoebas).
- Lack of work, low pay. It is looking as if Chaya is going to take an English teaching position soon to compliment the income we bring in from this website. In much of Africa these positions seem to be volunteer or very low paying.
- Potentially complicated culture to make friends and/ or work in.
- Hotels in some regions are not cheap.
3. The southern region of Africa
Same pros and cons of as stated above for West and East Africa, only add $500 more for airfare.
4. Australia/ Oceania/ Island Southeast Asia
The contrasts of this region are almost enough to get me on a plane right now. This is a massive region of large islands, thousands of small islands, and one big country/ continent. This region has Islamic, Christian, and Buddhist influence, and has been a crossing point for civilizations from all over the world for thousands of years. This region is a true soup of world cultures.
The pros of traveling in Oceania
- Culturally diverse.
- Potential for work teaching English in Indonesia or Malaysia, or doing grunt work in Australia or New Zealand.
- Big countries. I find that the larger a country is the more I tend to like it.
- Radical differences at border crossings. I like to cross borders and see a new land hit me right in the face.
- Parts of this region seem cheap enough to travel in with my budget.
- Extreme landscapes: ocean, beaches, mountains, jungles, deserts.
The cons of traveling in Oceania
- Don’t want to go broke and run to Australia with only a hope and a graft.
- Expensive to fly in and out of some countries.
- Island areas, so flying intra-regionally is necessary.
- Some countries are expensive.
- Visa complications. Indonesia only gives 30 days upon entry.
- Do I really want to be sitting around Australia when there is a whole world out there?
5. Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Gulf States, Iran
Visa complications and the costs associated with traveling in this region do not present it as an option at this point.
6. Eastern Europe/ Central Asia
This region is really beckoning to me right now. The lure of a 365 day on arrival tourist visa to Georgia sounds pretty good. Entering this region from Bulgaria and then traveling a northern loop around the Black Sea and then going to Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan before crossing the Caspian sounds like a good stretch of travel.
Pros of traveling in far Eastern Europe and Central Asia
- Good, clear line of travel presents itself.
- Many different countries and cultures.
- Covers a wide span of geography.
- Diverse landscapes.
- Possibility of work in almost all countries.
- Easy visas outside of the Stans.
- Cheap travel.
- Not expensive to get in and out of the western portions of the region.
- I have a general interest this span of the world.
- I really want to travel through the Stans — maybe hitting MRP head on as he travels in the opposite direction.
- China — one of my favorite countries in the world — is at the end of the road
Cons of traveling in this region
- This is not a Spanish speaking region, so Petra’s knowledge of this language would probably wan. No other dominant language for her to learn other than English.
- Winter. This region has a harsh winter season, so travels should be planned for the spring, summer, and early fall. Being stuck through a Caucasus winter does not sound like fun to me.
7. North of the Eastern Hemisphere
Too many cons here, not really an option as of now. Scandanavia, the north of Eastern Europe, and Russia are EXPENSIVE. Russian visas are a headache and expensive to get, and many other countries of the region are on the idiotic Schengen 90 days in, 90 days out regiment. Not a good choice for the VJT family right now.
So here it is, where we will travel next fully framed
There are seven large regions of the world I have not yet traveled in, and paths are leading to five of them at this juncture. Where would you like to see me travel throughout the remainder of 2011? Enter your vote below:
In point, a traveler can only go to one place at one time, and the choice of what region you choose to go to must be sought with care — as this will more than likely be the area you travel for the next 6 months to 2 years. You must make decisions in travel, and, at its root, travel is just one long exercise in decision making. The traveler physically moves himself like a piece across the chess board of the world, each move requires calculation.
Ultimately, choosing the next region I will travel in comes down to my intuition at the time when purchasing a plane ticket. Once a plane ticket is purchased, the deal is done: the next region I am going to travel in for the next six months to two years has been selected. Though, readers, you can drastically impact this decision, please place your vote in the form above and share your suggestions in the comments below.
Wade, Chaya, and Petra