The first way to get jazzed about your trip and to push you closer to your goal of actually doing it is to get some great and inspiring cities on your route list. Last year I wrote 10 Common Stops on an Around the World Itinerary (and where you should go instead). Here are five more places that you should consider adding to your route.
1. Bagan, Burma – you’ve seen those photos of the temple spires sprouting through the mist, here is where you’ll find them. This pagoda-studded plain on the banks Ayeyarwady River in northern Burma makes a lovely, if dusty, day trip from town by bicycle. Bagan is a solid travel day by bus from Mandalay or Yangon.
2. Sri Lanka – it’s not “India lite”, but it is everything you love about India without the choking crowds, the gaping stares or the infuriating honking. With eight Unesco World Heritage sites in a country the size of West Virginia you’ll be consistently engaged. Do a safari tour, a bicycle tour, or a beach tour and let the spicy air of Sri Lanka light your senses.
3. Tromsø, Norway – widely regarded to be the best place in the northern hemisphere to see the northern lights, Tromsø has a burgeoning tourist infrastructure built up around thrillseekers out to get bedazzled in a way they’ve never been before.
4. Quito, Ecuador – the city is undergoing a sort of renaissance, so to catch it now would be a big win on your itinerary. Quito’s old town has been on the Unesco World Heritage List since 1978 and they’ve also just opened their brand spanking new airport.
5. Kyoto, Japan – in terms of peace and tranquility, Kyoto is the major Japanese city that has them. It’s terrific for walking (The Higashiyama neighborhood has loads of shrines, temples, and museums) and in the spring the cherry blossoms will knock your socks off. There’s a major airport here so you don’t have to spend a lot of money on bullet trains. In terms of expense Japan just isn’t as expensive as you think.
5 Ways to spice up your travels
1. Travel overland a lot
Flying between every city on your around the world trip is a surefire way to become an expert in seatback entertainment and airport security, but if you want your travel experience to be greater than planes and airports, we recommend you travel overland.
Traveling overland (meaning by train, bus, car, camel, human-powered palanquin) will save you money and give you a first-person perspective on the lay of the land, not to mention insight into how the bulk of the population moves from place to place.
It will keep you grounded (so to speak) and give you time to contemplate your existence while you watch the scenery pass before you. There’s nothing quite like rolling into a new city the same way they did a thousand years ago.
I put together an extensive post on the best cities between which to travel overland. Keep this in mind when you’re putting together your itinerary – you’ll find the price of your RTW ticket is a lot lower as well when skipping a few airplane legs. TripPlanner makes it easy to add surface legs into your itinerary.
2. Do couchsurfing and/or home rentals
Staying in hotels every single night of your trip is unwise for a couple reasons: you waste money first of all, and also because you cut yourself off from the very people you’re trying to get to know. One of the best ways to have encounters with locals is to stay with them in their house.
The idea may be unsettling to those that haven’t done it, especially when you show up with all your possessions hanging on your back, but the end result is always extraordinary – conversations, bewilderment and with any luck, a connection in the region for future visits.
There’s little doubt Couchsurfing is here to stay, not only as a viable accommodation option for budget travelers but also as a way to meet people, to get perspective into their culture and to add some variety into the old tedious check in/check out routine.
Or else try a home rental. Consider spending a whole month in one city! It will allow you a hidden glimpse into the rhythm and life cycles of the locals and give you a chance to slow down your traveling pace as well, which is commonly known as zen bliss.
3. Take adventure tours
A lot of independent travelers skip doing big organized tours because they think they don’t coincide with their idea of so-called “grassroots travel”. But by skipping them, they’re also skipping experiences they just wouldn’t get outside of the tour.
Consider these ways of packing your trip with adventurousness:
- Safaris – zoo animals in their natural habitat? Win!
- Cruises – I’m on a boat!
- Bike tours – exercise your independence.
- Treks – make friends with travelers and mountaintops.
- Guided walking tours of cities – local love and knowledge on where Victor Hugo ate dinner.
If you plan tours into your travel budget ahead of time (ie, before you leave) you’ll reduce the impact on your traveling expenses while you’re on the road. No need to go crazy, folks, but a few select tours can really add a ton of value, and Trivial Pursuit skills, to the price of your trip.
Pro Tip: Book the tour locally instead of beforehand to maximize the tour’s cost. Visit a local travel agent or visit the actual tour office yourself.
4. Connect with short-term traveling companions
The idea is to not travel alone for a spell, or grow a group around that person who’s totally starting to get on your nerves. Give your traveling days some interest by letting some strangers spice them up for you.
Days will be filled with new conversation, nights filled with going out of your way for fun things to do. You’ll stray from your probably too rigid anyway schedule when someone else is convincing you to take the five-hour drive out to a remote wind-swept beach.
If you’re inherently shy or have difficulty approaching people, this post on the HostelBookers blog lists the best spots in the world to meet other long-term travelers when you’re solo on the road.
Or else visit Globetrooper, a service that connects fellow travelers on the road. See who is going where you’re going meet up with them. You never know how spicy things will get. Hubba-hubba!
Okay, it’s time to give a little back. Don’t let the voluntourism buzzword dissuade you from this most noble of traveling pastimes. This option is probably the best for you and everyone else as well.
Since volunteering has gained such popularity in recent years, a selection of companies have taken up the reigns to accommodate them all. On Nomadic Matt’s website is a great guide to choosing your volunteer path.
There’s no reason why your around the world trip needs to be bland, one where you come back saying, “that was pretty fun” but not, “OMG, life is crazy amazing!”
That’s what a spicy around the world trip should do, revitalize your spirit for living because you never knew what was out there. There are so many ways to get excited and stay excited about the trip you’re going on.
Mid-trip doldrums are inevitable but if you keep something on the horizon you’re super jazzed about you’ll sidestep this condition and keep the thrills coming.
Good luck, y’all!