Travel is now ‘themed’. It is not sufficient to simply set off with one’s bag over one’s shoulder to see what one might see. Is it to be a walking holiday? Luxury? Cultural? Sporting? Sailing? Culinary? Nature? City break? Eco-travel? Voluntourism? Is it a pilgrimage, religious or otherwise? Solo travel or group tour?
My opportunity was that I had time available, but not a huge budget, some household projects having eaten into my available surpluses. Pressures of work and other projects meant I had not done much advance research, so I found myself just a month or so from my proposed departure date still working out what it was that I actually wanted to do.
After exploring a range of options over several weeks (a surprisingly nerve-racking experience, when it’s done on such a short timeframe), I opted against an extended journey across Europe by train due to the costs of travel there in the high season. A number of other places I was interested in visiting (Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam) were excluded as they required visas which I now didn’t have time to acquire prior to departure. I found a very good ‘round-the-world’ airfare which would take me to three continents for a very reasonable price, but again, Europe the high season would be prohibitive, and while I’d like to visit North America again at some point, this is not the time.
In the end I opted to re-visit a part of the world – South East Asia and specifically Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand – that I had visited before, but that I was interested in seeing again. I lived for a short time in Singapore some years ago, and it has always interested me, as well as being a very easy and agreeable jumping-off point for the rest of the region.
The whole history of trade and colonisation is embodied in control of the Straits of Malacca, and the cities of Malacca and George Town in Malaysia had been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list since I’d last visited 14 years previously (I have an interest in heritage, and in particular World Heritage, through my day job). I’d visited Thailand’s southern islands and beaches and had always loved the food, but had not been further north than Bangkok.
So my themes were the cultural heritage of the Straits of Malacca, with a southern Thailand beach break and maybe some further exploration of Thai cuisine and its northern provinces. On a budget.
What is the reason, or reasons, you travel? Do you have a set of themes that you pursue? How do you research your themes and find the destinations that fit them? Let me know in the comments below.