The World is Our Oyster – How do we decide where to go first?

As many of you who have been following along know, we’re almost ready to embark on the adventure of our lives.  We have sold our house and are in the process of ridding ourselves of all of our worldly possessions in order to travel indefinitely.  Throughout all the steps it has taken to get this far, we have been having to make decisions left, right and center regarding everything from prices to ask for furniture to what colour to paint the walls.  Despite the fact that both of us tend to to be indecisive, we’ve made most of these decisions quite effortlessly.  However, now we’re faced with the serious itinerary questions of where to go, for how long, whether to search for house-sitting gigs or just wing-it with hotels and hostels and we’re feeling a little like deer caught in the headlights.  In all of our planning, we’ve discussed “travelling the world” as though it is a place we can buy a flight to and we’ve skirted the inevitable itinerary questions from various friends and family with either jokes or lists of possibilities but, with our move out time fast approaching, we need to start some serious planning and flight booking.  So we are turning to our readers for help.

With so many options out there, we would like to know how some more seasoned travellers have faced the daunting question of where to go first?  We’re open to suggestions. So far, all we know for sure is that we will be meeting up with family in Thailand in November-December 2013 and we plan to stay on in Southeast Asia until the rainy season starts in April-May 2014.  So the big question we are struggling with is where to go between August and November.  It feels like too short a time to to explore Australia and New Zealand and since we have to make our way to Southeast Asia anyway, we’re leaning towards going to Indonesia.  Our first stop would likely be Bali for some much needed relaxation and beach time after all the renovations and stress of the past few months.

If you could choose anywhere in the world for your first stop, where would you go?  For those who are already travelling, how did you decide on your first destination? And if there are any Bali or Indonesia experts out there, we would love to learn some insider tips.  Please leave us your suggestions, comments and advice – we’d love to hear from you!

Bali dreaming…

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42 thoughts on “The World is Our Oyster – How do we decide where to go first?

  1. In 1999 because of budget restraints I had to choose between buying a sofa or a vacation to East Africa. I chose the latter. So, my first stop would be Kenya or Tanzania again. As my plane was getting ready to land there, I got an aerial view of a cluster of giraffes running on the ground followed by wildebeest. It was unbelievable to see so many animals running freely in the wild. The people and their hospitality = simply wonderful. We spend 4 weeks in East Africa and it was the best decision I had ever made.

    • You’ve probably bought a sofa or two since then but it sounds like you haven’t had another chance to go to Africa so you definitely made the right choice!! East Africa is in our plans for sure. Was your trip a tour or independent travel? We’re interested in doing it independently but wondering if we’d be biting off more than we can chew to take on Africa right away… we wondering if we should wait until we have some travel experience and have further developed our “travel legs” first or maybe do a tour for the first time.

      • Yes we did buy one sofa after that. 🙂
        In all honesty, East Africa was expensive. We did not hike Kilimanjaro on our trip which many folks have on their to do list. We used lonely planet, made our own reservations and traveled independently. So I think I concur with you about having some travel experience and waiting might be a good idea….

      • Thanks for the follow up response. We’ve heard a lot of people say that Africa was much more expensive than they expected. We certainly were surprised by the cost of our trip to Egypt. Despite the expense, we plan to go at some point and we will have a ton of questions for you when we are ready to take on East Africa!

  2. Wow! What a dilemma to have!

    I would avoid Europe In August – bound to be very busy with holidaymakers (and expensive) as it is school holidays for many EU countries. And don’t rule out Australia either – August is a good time to visit the centre and the north (Darwin / Cairns) though avoid Melbourne and Perth areas. And how about Japan?
    Jude xx

    • Yeah, we’re definitely not complaining about having this dilemma… Thanks for the great suggestions! The costs of Japan and Australia are a bit prohibitive for us with our Canadian dollars as is Europe for that matter. Also, I would love to see Japan in bloom in the Spring since the pictures of the gardens always look so beautiful. Australia is still a consideration – do you know how the weather would be in the north at that time? And most importantly, how would the snorkelling/diving be on the Great Barrier Reef at that time of year? Though it’s probably a pretty pricey place to our diving certs….

  3. You will absolutely love Bali.. it has been my most favourite trip this year. You could spend weeks in Ubud / surrounding areas and you can’t miss the Gili Islands (no motorized vehicles or dogs). Unfortunately, my trip was limited to 9 days so we split it up between those main areas. I would suggest avoiding Kuta – it’s like Phuket, busy and crowded.. but a very unique beach / surf culture, which may be of interest to check out!

    • Thanks Laura! Bali definitely sounds intriguing. I’ve read that the Gili Islands are not to miss. I hope you write a blog post about it and post some pictures soon. When are you off on your next adventure? We’ll have to make a trip out to visit you there too at some point.

  4. Don’t be put off by not starting with SE Asia too early – there is plenty to see and do here, many countries, and although it is pretty hot, and a bit rainy in some places if you choose the place well, it’s not so bad 🙂 I’ve heard great things about Indonesia though it is supposed to be very crowded and might be a big culture shock for your first place. Enjoy the options!

    • Thanks Ellen. We’re really happy we’ll be going back to SEA again this year, there were so many things we didn’t have time to explore last time because we had to get back to our jobs. We are so looking forward to doing things at our own pace without looming departure dates! And having the option to move on to where the weather is better makes us less anxious about the rainy season wherever we go. From our research so far, it sounds like Bali is pretty laid back so it seems like it might be a good way to ease into the culture shock of the rest of Indonesia. Decisions, decisions (we’re certainly not lamenting having so many options 🙂 )! In the end it might just come down to the price of flights….

  5. It depends how long you intend to travel for – I think a round the world ticket is great as long as you go in same direction and you can get them for 12 months-see my blog re Australia and USA ( http://sushitrip.travellerspoint.com ) if you want info on any of those areas at any time.

    Australia is the most expensive place but with high economy, comes high cost of living so leave that for a while.

    I lived in Bali for some time and and that’s a nice place to go especially if you plan to be in Thailand in November it would make sense to be in SE Asia for a few months travelling around. August will be high season in Bali (loads of Australians use it as equivalent to Spain for the UK) expensive and very touristy – in the SOuth but try Uud for the artist end and also travel north – I have friends there can maybe assist you in helping to find accommodations
    .
    I am based in Goa India and offer couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.org) which a brilliant FREE accommodation way of travelling. My other blog http://www.susanuren.wordpress.com thas more on me and my quirkiness (although it is not erlly a travel blog – more about me and my quirkiness!

    Anyway, hope some of that helps – feel free to contact me for more info on anything travelwise as I have contacts in loads of places – Thailand included.

    Susan

    • Thanks Susan, we will check out both blogs for sure. If we end up in Bali area first (or we should say when because we will definitely go at some point), we will take you up on your offer for accommodations help and any other tips/advice you can offer. And we will also visit India at some point during this adventure, so if you’re still offering couchsurfing when we’re there, it would be great to stay with you!
      Since our travel plans are indefinite (not sure if we’ll ever go “home” to Canada for more than a visit…) and we want the greatest flexibility we can have especially with so many discount airlines out there now, we’ve decided not to get a RTW flight ticket, at least not yet.
      We really appreciate your advice and suggestions – it’s so great to glean so much info from more experienced travellers like you who’ve been there, done that! And we continue to be amazed at the openness and friendliness of the travel blogger community as a whole – the kindness of strangers exemplified!

  6. The rainy season in the Northern part of South East Asia may start between April-May, but not on the Southern part, dry season is around May to September. That means it’s a good time to go to Bali/Indonesia (Lombok, Commodo Island and Java. Check this out: Travelfish (http://www.travelfish.org/country/indonesia) a good website of all information about Bali/Indonesia and other parts of South East Asia. I tried it for my last trip to Bali and it has a pretty accurate and current information about anything and everything.

    Happy traveling.

    • Thanks Nin. We love Travelfish.org! We used it a lot for our Southeast Asia trip planning and found it very current and and accurate in it’s descriptions too. It will definitely be a significant resource for researching Indonesia. That’s good to hear about the weather at that time of year, it certainly reinforces Indonesia’s spot at the top of list of places to go first. How is it for costs in comparison to other countries in SEA? It is so great to be able to tap into the wealth of knowledge from more experienced travellers like you, thanks for your help!

      • Compare to the rest of the world, South East Asia is off course cheaper, but Indonesia is not as cheap as Cambodia, Vietnam or Burma. However, there are many standard of eating places, hotels etc that you can find, besides, Jakarta and Bali is the higher end of Indonesia. Else where in Indonesia are supposed to be cheaper. Don’t plan to much, just go and do it.
        Good luck!
        Nina

      • Wow, thanks Nina for the fast response! We had figured Bali and Jakarta would be similar to the Thai islands and Bangkok during high season – busy and pricey, especially compared to Chiang Mai. But similarly, we expect we will have opportunity to find the cheaper but nice accommodations once we get there and get a feel for the places.
        Learning to travel without much planning will be a big part of the challenge of this adventure for us. It’s a big leap of faith to decide to do this at all and it will be a series of smaller leaps of faith to just go without a set itinerary and trusting that we’ll figure it out once we’re there.

      • As much as its more expensive than the rest of Indonesia, Bali & Jakarta is still cheaper than Singapore or the West or even Middle East. Besides, as good and as hard you try to plan, once you are down there things might not be as good as you have planned. My husbands and I are also plan to do an overland trip to Indonesia in 2 years time. That would be a big challenge for. Us, as many places in Indonesia are still un tap (as per travel books). However, we won’t do much planning…
        Nina

      • Nina, you’re absolutely right – we’ve learned that our plans need to stay flexible and changeable or we might miss out on opportunities that we didn’t even know existed prior to arriving. And yes, many parts of Indonesia are still rather uncharted in terms of travel info. That’s one of the great things about the travel blogger community though, we inevitably will connect up with someone who has done a similar trip and can advise based on their experiences and mistakes. Thanks again for your help. Your overland trip will definitely make you experts on all the transport options. Safe and happy travels!

  7. Congratulations! Sounds like you have some serious excitement coming up! I am American, and have spent the last two years living in South Korea with my English boyfriend. We have recently decided to travel the world for a year, and we are currently in our first destination, a tiny island in Thailand called Yao Noi. It is amazing, and I couldn’t recommend it more. We went through the process of looking for a house to rent for 3-4 months and it was all so much easier than I expected! I’m writing this from the hammock on my front porch, in fact. We love Thailand, but my boyfriend LOVES Bali. That is our next stop in fact. We’re both writers and have blogged about life in Thailand and Bali, so if you want to check out our blogs, please do. Mine is chicadventures.wordpress.com, and Steve’s is twentyfirstcenturynomad.com. I think your idea of Bali first for some R&R is great, then tackle Thailand and the rest of the world! BTW, it’s rainy season here now, and it’s really not a problem…and everything is so much cheaper! Best of luck!

    • Leslie, your hammock on your front porch sounds very enticing (turning a little green from envy over here). We will definitely follow and read your blogs. We’re curious, how did you decide on Yao Noi with all the islands to choose from in Thailand? We’d also love to hear details about how you went about finding a house for rent as that process seems a bit intimidating to us, especially when we don’t speak Thai. Thanks so much for your suggestions and advice.

      • No need to turn green, you’ll be here soon enough! 🙂
        We found Yao Noi on a whim. We were vacationing in Phuket, and some friends of ours that teach English in Thailand recommended that we go on a day trip to Yao Noi. We fell in love with the laid back lifestyle and gorgeous empty beaches, and decided this would be our first stop on our trip around the world! Here’s a link to a blog I wrote about finding our house…
        http://chicadventures.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/

      • Thanks for responding, Leslie. We loved reading your “House Hunters International” blog. Very entertaining and informative (we’re fans of that show too). Yao Noi sounds like it’s worth a visit when we’re in Thailand again.

  8. Such a wonderful decision to work through. Sounds like you already have some great ideas. If you are trying to make your dollars go further, definitely stay in the Asian region. I am a huge fan of slow travel, so take the time to really immerse yourself in the culture. Try to arrange a home stay and a little language lesson early on and open some doors for when you explore further afield. So excited for your upcoming adventure!

    • Thanks for the support and advice Anita. As newbies, we have to learn to do true slow travel – we’ve never travelled without looming return flight dates before so this will be a very different from any travel we’ve done before! Great advice on the language lessons and home stays for immersing ourselves in the culture and making connections.

  9. I’m really enjoying your travel blog and adventures! If you’re already going to Thailand, perhaps you might be interested in traveling through Cambodia. I had a wonderful experience there touring Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Kampong Cham and would recommend it for architecture, history, food, and art.

    If you would like to read about my trip to Cambodia, you’re welcome to visit my blog: http://danagoestomadrid.blogspot.com

    Also, I have a post about how to select travel destinations: http://danagoestomadrid.blogspot.com/2012/01/selecting-travel-destination.html

    Enjoy your travels!!
    -Dana

    • Thanks for the suggestions Dana! We have only visited Siem Reap/Angkor Wat so far in Cambodia so we definitely will want to see more of the country when we are back in SE Asia region. Thanks for sharing your posts, we will check them out. We always appreciate the stories, tips and advice fellow travellers share. And thanks for following our blog!

  10. Just turn up!
    We are in Bali at the moment and its amazing. Bring your sunscreen and your sarong and you’ll be fine. There are lots of atms and exchanges rates are good so don’t worry about that. Bring cash for the airport and get it changed for the Taxi to the hotel. I would recommend ubud as it is beautiful. We are currently just outside ubud in a homestay which I would also recommend, a lot of hotels have them. You stay with a Balinese family in their family compound ours I’d beautiful, we pay the brother to drive us around and the women cook our meals (we pay them of course) and their cooking is better than any restraunt. We helped them prepare for a ceremony and took part I would really recommend it for a cheap alternative and you get a real feel of what Bali is like.

  11. Why don’t you try the Philippines? There’s a lot to choose from depending on the activities you want. Try Palawan or Boracay if u want the beach, or maybe you can go Ilocos or Cebu for some historical adventure. 🙂 If you want hiking/trekking, try Albay region for Mt. Mayon or Mt. Pulag in Cordillera.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Irene. We’re actually talking about visiting the Philippines when we travel from Bali to Thailand. The pictures we’ve seen of Boracay and Palawan certainly look amazing! Your suggestions of regions to visit will definitely help when we’re planning our first visit there. We would love to contact you for tips and advice when the time comes!

  12. If you’re still in Toronto (which must be nice this time of year) I suggest you step out of your front door with your backpacks and start walking. You might have to catch a few trains, buses, boats and pIanes if you want to get as far as Thailand by November but sometimes the best trips are those without a clear plan.

    • Thanks for reading and your comment, Thrifty. We certainly understand that this type of travel is very different than the vacations we’ve taken so far and there will be a learning curve to taking your advice of travelling without a clear plan. We are still in Toronto and yes, we could start our travels in our own backyard but we’ve seen a lot of Ontario, Canada and USA in the years of living here so we plan to fly somewhere new first – then the goal will be to walk out the door and start walking. Besides, we’re not getting the greatest weather in Toronto this summer anyway :).

  13. Awesome blog you have here 🙂 , back in 2010 i’ve decided to travel to Beijing for my first travel destination without my family but then in the middle of the period before going to Beijing i’ve been invited to go travel with my friend to Bandung,Indonesia. It was really an adhock trip but still awesome! I shopped a lots there and bought many things for the next Beijing trip 🙂 the year after again i’ve bought ticket to Bali,Indonesia but then due to overlap with my class, i’ve to cancel it. Still in the list maybe after my graduation later 🙂 Bali is a great travel destination.

    • Thanks for your comment, achika. Sounds like you learned very quickly the importance of flexibility in your travel plans but you’ve made the best of it when plans changed. We expect we’ll be faced with opportunities and changes in plans too and we hope we will be able to just go with the flow when these things come up. Hopefully, you will be able to give yourself a trip to Bali as a graduation present, if you can’t go sooner :). We will be watching your blog to see where you end up next!

  14. More fuel for the fires of discontent! I have a very stay at home kind of partner, so an adventure like yours is never going to be on the cards for me. I can dream. 🙂

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