Trying to Solve the Travel Puzzle

Like most addictions, a travel addiction can be time-consuming.  Where should I go next?  What is the best plan of attack?  How many places can I squeeze in and still get to see and do everything I want?  How far will my money stretch?  I recently decided I want to take a Spanish class in another country and live with a family for a week.  A sort of mini study abroad. I loved Spain, where I went for study abroad in college, but I want to explore a country I haven’t been to yet.

So I started looking into Ecuador and Peru.  They’re both known for having good language schools, they’re inexpensive, beautiful countries, and they both have lots to see and do.  I keep going back and forth on which is the better option for various reasons, but mostly based on whether I think I’ll have enough time to see Machu Picchu if I pick Peru.  On paper it looks like I have enough time, but I have to take into consideration the strong possibility of altitude sickness.  Since I will need to take things slowly to avoid or get over altitude sickness, I probably don’t have enough time to go to Machu Picchu before starting a class in Cusco, Peru.  So for today anyway, I’m leaning towards Quito, Ecuador.

While trying to make that decision, I’m also trying to strategically plan out my remaining vacation days.  I have 6 days to play with, so I’m planning on taking the Spanish class the week of Labor Day, that way I can save one vacation day.  But I also want to take a trip to Europe at Thanksgiving.  The long holiday weekend is just too tempting, it’s like free time, and it would be even better if I could tack on a vacation day or two.  My top choice for the Thanksgiving trip is Prague, and if I have time for another destination, that would be great, but I haven’t worked it all out yet.  I’m actually trying to plan this trip based on where I can get a direct flight since that means more time spent in Europe.  If I fly to Prague first, which is not a direct flight, I won’t get there until late in the afternoon.  If I fly to London first (to go to Stonehenge) I’ll get there first thing in the morning.  This also means more bouncing around during an already short trip.

I will admit, I’m a bit of a list-ticker, which is why I’m even considering doing Stonehenge and Prague in one trip over Thanksgiving break.  I love crossing off a new country, new city, new continent.  I even have a big map on my wall with hundreds of color-coded pins to show where I’ve been, where I want to go, trips that are already planned, etc.  My friend Amanda also introduced me to the Hillman Wonders of the World and we have sort of a competition going to cross off the gold medals, which are the places on his top 100 list.  So far I’ve been to 24, in case you’re curious.  While there are many places I want to go to that aren’t on the top 100, most of my travel planning does involve this list.  As a result, I am constantly trying to figure out the best way to plan a trip based on crossing off gold medals winners and getting to new countries while still making sure I’m going to places I truly care about seeing.  This is why trying to plan two trips with 6 vacation days and a few holidays can be even more frustrating, because I’m trying to maximize my time while still being able to enjoy my surroundings.  It really feels like trying to fit pieces of a puzzle together, except that there are multiple ways to solve this particular puzzle.  I just don’t know which way looks best yet, but maybe part of the fun for me is in the possibilities.

This is the map hanging on my wall, although you can’t see the different colored pins too well.

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