Regular readers of Solo Traveler may recall a very popular post I wrote a few years ago called, When Travel is the Goal, Not Destination. It focused on how to choose a destination when the most important thing about the trip was the traveling itself, not where you were going.
In that case, the obstacle to travel was money, and I looked at ways to plan a trip by changing the starting point from destination to budget.
Fast forward 3 years and the landscape of travel looks very different. Not only might money continue to be an obstacle, but now there is an additional one: travel itself.
During this time when travel has been restricted, it's only natural that we would be longing for it even more. Many of us have been cooped up in our homes for several months. We may have been forced to cancel or at least defer planned international trips. We may be feeling frustrated and disappointed, even when we understand that staying home is important for the greater good.
How, then, can we satisfy our desire to get out and explore the world, but do it safely, within our budgets, and with care and consideration for others and the situation we are currently facing?
If you're like me, you can probably find something interesting just about anywhere, whether it be the architecture, the food, nature and landscapes, or the people. I can't actually think of any place I've traveled where I haven't been able to find something of interest.
Given that there are compelling aspects to every destination, the decision about where to travel can be based on something else. When travel is the goal, and also the obstacle, how do you decide where to go?
How to Choose a Destination when Travel Is the Goal
There's more than one way to choose a destination when travel itself is the goal. It just requires approaching the question from a different perspective.
- Is there a city within driving distance of your home that you haven't yet explored? You don't necessarily have to travel far to discover something new. There may be something interesting just an hour or so away, as I found out when I visited the Oxford County Cheese Trail. Exploring a new place will look a little different now – for instance, you'll want to wear a mask in stores and any place where you can't easily maintain a physical distance from others – but it's not that difficult to adapt, and it allows us to get out and see something new. Instead of eating in a restaurant, you might pick up some food (or even take it with you) and have a picnic in a park.
- Is there a destination where you could have free accommodation? Does someone in your circle of friends and family have a cottage they are not using? Do you know someone who is away from home who would appreciate a house-sitter? I once stayed in the home of friends while they were off traveling. By booking in advance, I was able to take a train for less than $100 return, and enjoy experiencing life in a town less than two hours away, but a world apart from my life in Canada's largest city. There are other reasons that someone might have a home sitting empty at this time, so it might be worth asking around.
- Have you considered camping? Even people who are not particularly outdoorsy might be eager to get out into nature after being indoors for so long. Me included! There are lots of different styles of camping to suit everyone from beginner to experienced. For the newbie, here is a post to help you prepare for your first time out: First Time Camping Solo: Basic Gear and Packing List. Here is a great (and funny) story from an experienced camper: 10 Lessons Learned from a Solo Camping Trip. Maybe an RV is more your style, for a self-contained road trip. Here is a post to help you weigh the pros and cons of RVs and tents, to see which might suit you best. Solo Camping: Tent or RV? Safety and Relaxation.
- What about a staycation? I have often said that I would enjoy seeing my city as a tourist, but somehow, I've never gotten around to doing it. Obviously, not everything will be open yet, but you can choose the length of your mini-trip based on what you want to see and do. When I looked online, almost every place I checked had clearly updated information about opening hours and any changes to how they are currently operating.
In spite of the current obstacles, by altering our expectations, thinking local, and applying a little creativity to the planning process, it is possible to have a fun and interesting travel experience by making travel the goal.
Have you ever planned a trip where travel was the goal and destination was secondary? Tell us about it below.