I decided that I’m traveling this year! It sounds silly, so let me explain: I’m always looking for opportunities to do it, but often in the past I have traveled at times when it felt like all of the stars aligned in order to make it possible. This year, I’m making an effort to see new places, regardless of the stars.

This means a few things—for one, the world is my oyster. Without having to cater to anyone else’s needs or interests, I could literally do anything I want. ANYTHING.

….which opens up that can of worms called decision-making. I love feeling like a badass who’s in charge of her own destiny, but let’s be real. Do I always like making my own decisions? Not so much.

I haven’t really done much traveling since I went to New York City for a weekend in December. I’ve been hiking in the north Georgia mountains a few times and even took a day trip to Asheville, North Carolina, but most of my energy the past few months has gone into focusing and learning at work. I’ve been feeling drained and having a hard time feeling excited about anything. I’m overdue for an adventure but not only do I feel overwhelmed by all my options, I’m tired and don’t want to have to make a decision! I’m exhausted from my great job and overwhelmed by the endless possibilities for adventure—it’s seriously the epitome of first world problems.

So I thought I’d clue you in to what goes through my mind when I’m choosing where to go next. I’ll pretend like I’m doing this to benefit YOU—because I’m giving you a fresh perspective or helping you make a decision—but really, this is for me. I don’t know where to go!

Do Some Basic Budget Research

The first thing you need to know about me is that I always have a running list of possible destinations floating around in my head. For most of these options, I have done at least the bare minimum when it comes to budget research. I’m not talking hard numbers at this point, just a ballpark range for your big-ticket items.

These are the general questions that I’ll find answers for when beginning future trip research:

-Can I drive there, or will I have to fly?

-If I fly, will I have to rent a car when I get there?

-Will I be staying in a hotel, airbnb, campsite, etc.?

-Is there a specific activity or acivities that draw me to this place? If so, how much will that cost me?

-How much time will I want to spend there?

A lot of these questions have changing variables that play a part, so they may have multiple different answers at any given time. For example, if I had the time, I could drive 30 hours each way from Georgia to Colorado…but unfortunately, I don’t really have the time right now to dedicate multiple days on either end of a road trip just for the commute, so flying it is. My brother, on the other hand, was able to find the time to drive all the way to Wyoming and back, making his trip much longer, but also more cost effective.

In most cases, if a place has entered my mind for a potential adventure, I have done at least this much research.

 

How Much Time Do You Have?

For you, finding time to travel may be very simple or may be extremely challenging. The answer to this question is going to look very different for everyone. If you’re a teacher, (or currently in school) you may have a large chunk of time in the summer, but if you work in the corporate world, maybe you can snag time off for a week every now and then.

Personally, I work unconventional hours. I have a few days off every week that don’t always fall on the same days, and get a few 3-day weekends every month. I’ve totally embraced my weekend warrior status, and try and plan my travel around my 3-day weekends! I have the opportunity, then, to drive somewhere close by (usually within a 6- or 7-hour radius), or fly to a destination with an airport nearby, such as Denver, Las Vegas, or New York City. I’ll also have a few weeks off in the upcoming year.

Since my schedule is more rigid, I have more flexibility to make decisions based on budget rather than time.

 

What Mood Are You In?

Are you looking for a city break? Got a craving for a certain type of food? Chasing snow sports? Whatever mood you are in is going to have a direct effect on the type of trip you plan, so think long and hard on this one.

I have been really focused on seeing more of America’s national parks lately. This has actually surprised me a little, because I’ve always really enjoyed city travel. I’ve had an interest in planning trips to include a visit to a national park, and have also been trying to see as much as I can of Georgia’s state parks! Even with this criteria, there is still such a diverse array of choices, which is why I begin with budget and time constraints. Do I want to hike? Ski? Snorkel? Sail? (Spoiler: I only know how to do one of those things.)

If you’re highly stressed, maybe you just need to lay on the beach (or sweat it out in the mountains). Maybe you’re feeling bored or stuck, and could mix things up by indulging in the energy of a big city. Identifying a need in your daily routine and answering it in your travels could help you plan the perfect getaway.

The mood of your trip may also be determined by the company you keep. Be sure to be open about your needs and interests with your travel companions…and if you’re flying solo, more power to you!

When it comes time to actually choose a destination, I usually won’t sit down and take it step-by-step. A loose version of this formula will be swirling around in my gray matter until my heart ultimately makes a decision. And hey, you could follow a similar path to decision-making and end up with a completely different conclusion! Your small budget might be my big budget. Your relaxing week away might include a resort stay, while mine could be a trek through the woods…but that’s the beautiful thing about humanity.

            So tell me—where are you headed next?

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