This is a question we get asked regularly, along with ‘Where would you recommend?’
It’s also one we debate ourselves, when we reflect on our travels so far.
It’s not that easy to answer. Firstly because everyone’s experiences are different (even Colin’s & mine). It’s based on what you like personally & how you perceive experiences & events. It also depends on how you choose to travel.
In this blog I attempt to explain why it is difficult for us to answer this question simply.
How you travel
The first factor is how you choose to travel.
* Are you on holiday?
It’s probably all about relaxing for 1-2 weeks, perhaps in a rather nice hotel; catching some rays & if you have time taking in a couple of tours/sites. You’ve worked hard to save up your holiday spending money & that means plenty of cocktails by the pool & little luxuries you don’t normally have at home.
* Touring to a timed agenda?
You have a period of time in which you’ve set yourself an agenda of places/countries to visit. You also have an allocated budget.
* Slow travel with no agenda?
You have no agenda & no set time to achieve your travels in. You probably have a place or country in mind, but will be happy to see where fate takes you.
* or using a country as a base?
Are you temporarily living in a place for a period of time, either working or integrating socially with the local community?
Your exploration of that place/country depends on your free time available.
For us, Central America was a slow travel experience; whilst Asia (because of visas & purely amount of countries we packed in) had more of a feel of a touring experience. Certainly, we were not able to fit in the volunteering we wanted.
Whether you like to spend your money on little luxuries whilst away such as fine dining & smart hotels; or like us, work to a tight budget, just means your experiences are different based on what you can afford & your expectations.
Not better, nor worse… this has one BIG assumption however, that it is a country that is not expensive compared to your own.
We’ve found that usually the costly items are things such as:
* travel within a country
* organised tours &
* entrances to the sites
Over the last 3 years, we have said ‘no’ to very few things based on cost. Instead we make our own way on public transport or work an alternative way around things. For us, this has just enriched the experience of a place or country, letting us get to know the people & culture better (which are factors important to us as detailed below).
This is probably the most complex part. For us, we realise the answer to ‘What is your favourite …‘ comes down to the factors below. You probably have ones you could add:
We’ve met the most amazing, kind, happy, interesting, inspiring & generous people (& many who were not). Being around the local people from each country we visit is important to us when we travel. Be it the mode of transport we take; where we eat; the places we stay or by other means.
* Culture – religion, customs, ways of doing things, music…
It’s just that feel you get about a place & the people who live there, that makes the difference between special & OK.
I’d never really focused on religion before, but experiencing the Buddhist culture of Thailand & Laos & then the Hindu religion in Bali makes you contemplate life differently.
We didn’t realise how important this was to us until we visited Asia!
Whether this be looking at a beautiful sunset over live volcanoes, or snorkeling with tropical fish, this is another biggy on our checklist.
* History & ancient sites.
We’ve been so lucky to see some amazing things from Tikal ruins in Guatemala, to Angkor in Cambodia, these are the true ‘wows’ that you never forget.
* Comfort factors
When you’ve been on the road for some months, sometimes that small link to home or cultural similarity (however vague) can give you that ‘instant like’ about a place. From finding Branston pickle & Worcester Sauce in Kampot, Cambodia, to the similar humour of the Vietnamese people, these are the things that made us smile.
* First Impressions guided by your senses.
Whether it is by sight, like the ‘slap’ of colour that hit us when we arrived in Guatemala 2 years ago; or sound, such as the soft vocal tones & gentle bicycle bells of Bali; or by smell, such as the unique mix that is Bankok …
Life on the road has to include plenty of fun! Again it depends on your definition.
For me, its the simple things: laughing on an overnight train with Tan a Vietnamese girl; watching Colin talk about shaved heads with a group of novice monks in Laos; having my photo taken with each female member of a Sri Lankan family; watching kids make paper planes from a bridge in Laos (& Colin the biggest kid, eager to join in) … the list is endless.
If I were to draw up a grid to rate each of the places we have been to against the criteria above, I’d probably have a better chance of answering the original question. However, it would probably make the answer even more complex.
Therefore, as you can see, it really is a difficult question to answer.
I love to know what you think…What’s your view?