A concise traveller’s dilemma

With just six weeks left until I leave the snow and frost of this country behind in a bid to hunt down summer on the other side of the world, the time left to plan the itinerary of my trip is running out, and the decision of exactly how to plan it looms heavier.

My trip (while trying hard not to picture Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in a rural English restaurant every time I use the term) is being split evenly over Australia and New Zealand, countries which have a definite start and end date on my flight path, and parts of South East Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, which don’t. I have yet to decide how I want to split the time for the latter part of the trip, with the biggest decision I’ve made so far being what factor sun cream to take. (Factor 50, in case you are wondering – I burn like a crisp.)

Three months seems like a long time to be out of the country, but when I consider how many destinations I am trying to reach, it feels as though I’ll run out of time before I’ve got my feet on the ground of the tropical forest floor or white sandy beaches.

As much as the destinations involved suggest a long, relaxed holiday, those who have been backpacking before will know that travelling is far from the luxury of a week on a sun lounger somewhere foreign. It is hard work at times, and despite every panic attack, fully-booked hostel, and severe case of being lost in a Bad-with-a-capital-B area you undoubtedly come across being worth the overall experience, travelling takes a lot of mental strength sometimes.

I think this is the first thing that separates travelling from going on holiday. The second is how you spend your time in the places you are visiting. Holiday-goers often remain in one spot for a relatively short time, while backpackers seek to explore vast territory over longer periods. And there is my dilemma: My trip isn’t exactly the one-week-in-Spain package holiday you would describe as a short break, but allowing just five weeks to cover as many countries puts certain restrictions on how much I’ll be able to cover when I’m there.

So the way I see it I have two options: I could choose one of the countries to fully explore, covering various areas, urban and rural, and covering more than the hot-spots, or I could skim the highlights and visit the main spots, ensuring I have time to do the same in the other countries on my list. The latter seems preferable in terms of fitting in more countries, and not having to miss out on places I really want to see, but the prior fits better with the ethos of travelling. Knowing a country fairly well and experiencing the culture there as someone who will be spending considerable time amongst its residents will no doubt result in a better and more enjoyable experience, while make for better opportunities to write about too (another aim of mine while I am there).

The more research I pour into the destinations I wish to cover the more it seems like I really won’t have the time to see it all, or even anywhere near half of it. Having never been to that corner of the world before, the trip is set to offer completely new experiences, and once I’ve got over my fear of imminent malaria, I believe they will be times I’ll fall in love with and want to experience as much as possible, and therefore should limit my destinations to one Asian country.

It’s funny how writing stuff down often results in answering your own questions. I wonder if the same thing will work if I find myself in a rural area with a rapidly-developing allergic reaction to a scorpion bite again. But surely that type of thing can only happen once, can’t it?

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