Making Peace with The Traveler’s Dilemma

I have been in a tailspin lately. A downward spiral. Meltdown mode. Call it what you will, I am a hot mess. I feel at war with myself, rent down the middle, and though I have been trying my best to reconcile my personal discord, I have been failing spectacularly.

I have been in a tailspin lately. A downward spiral. Meltdown mode. Call it what you will, I am a hot mess. I feel at war with myself, rent down the middle, and though I have been trying my best to reconcile my personal discord, I have been failing spectacularly. When all I want is to feel whole, instead I feel splintered into parts that just won’t fit. My brain feels like a pressure cooker filled with all sorts of ideas and thoughts simmering away, copulating and expanding. As my mental real estate for new ideas decreases, my unease and anxiety mount. Thoughts ricochet around my skull, looking for escape. I know it’s only a matter of time before they find some sort of release valve, but their exodus is likely to be accompanied by a flood of tears (I’ve been weepy for days) and an emotional explosion that will leave me feeling hollowed out and empty and every-so-slightly catatonic. If I can’t stave off this ever-rising tide of feelings and get my brain back in order, I know it is only a matter of time before this agitation erupts from the soil of my mind once again.

What could possibly have me in such a tizzy? When I tell you, I’m sure you’ll laugh or roll your eyes… either is a perfectly valid response. After all, the thing that has me so worked up is the very definition of a first-world problem and is one every traveler has faced at some point:

Which country should I visit next?

Waiting for a train in Ninh Binh

I would have thought that after nearly two years of continuous travel I would be pretty good at answering that question. After all, I’ve certainly had to make that choice frequently enough. And really, as a traveler, I’m forced to make choices ALL THE TIME. Where to eat and what to order, which attractions to visit, where to sleep, when to step out into traffic, what’s worth a splurge and what isn’t. Choosing which country to visit next is just one in a never-ending list of decisions I’m bombarded with every day, so it really shouldn’t be stressing me out this much. Clearly the obvious answer to the “Which country should I visit next?” question is “Whichever one I want.”

But therein lies the rub: I actually have no idea what I want. Or rather, I do, it’s just, I want a lot of things. It is this that has me so flummoxed and off kilter. Recently my friend and fellow world traveler Brian wrote this very whimsical, but also very wise, post in which he suggested that when you find yourself at a crossroads and your gut is trying to tell you something, go eat a sandwich so you can listen to your heart. This is good advice and to that end, I have been eating many sandwiches (no hardship here in Ho Chi Minh City, I assure you). But what I have discovered following copious sandwich consumption is that it is no easy thing to follow your heart when it seems to be leading you, quite literally, in two different directions.

With no set itinerary and no tickets purchased, Tony & I have a world of choices laid before us, and I find myself paralyzed by all the options; they all appeal in their own way, and I feel any of them would be the start of a glorious adventure. Looking back on our journey thus far, I’ve realized that only rarely have our destination selections been dictated first and foremost by our desires. We haven’t visited anywhere we absolutely had no interest in visiting, but we have generally made our choices based on which places are the most convenient or logical given our current geographical position, or which places we can fly to the most cheaply. I thought using these objective criteria as the basis for our decisions was just us being prudent and sensible, but now I am beginning to realize that I’ve probably just been using them as an excuse so that I can avoid the hard work of figuring out what I really want and honoring those choices.

The many moods of Steph

This realization is really pretty unsettling. Just look at all the mental havoc it has wreaked! I didn’t think that knowing what you wanted was a skill (is it even a skill?) that could grow rusty, but when I think way back to the start of our trip and what I hoped I would get out of it, I remember that I wanted to feel like I had taken back control of my life, to get good and feel good about making choices for myself. I have always prided myself on knowing my own mind, on being opinionated and decisive, but now I realize that over the past few years I’ve been sliding towards passivity and prioritizing the desires of others above my own. Now I find myself wondering whether this is because I actually value other people’s feelings and needs above my own, or whether this has happened simply because they are able to state what they want with certainty and confidence. By kowtowing to others, I don’t have to think about my own needs and happiness.

But I don’t want to live this way—it’s the antithesis of living, really. So, I’ve been sitting with myself, trying to quiet my mind and sift through the cognitive sediment that’s been drifting about to identify the source of all this angst and hone in on what it is I want to do next.

During this trip, we have visited places that we loved but did not get to fully explore and have always planned to return to, but there also remain MANY places we have yet to visit at all. Tony & I have gone back and forth, looked at all the possibilities, and ultimately, we have narrowed it down to two places that stand out, one old, one new: the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

A girl walks next to rice paddies in Bohol, Philippines
Idyllic scenery in the Philippines

Since I haven’t perfected the ability to be in two places at once, a choice must be made. And this is where the dilemma gets complicated.

For those who would like to jump in at this point and say that we should just plan to visit both, here is why, money issues aside, that is not an option: this trip has always been indefinite but not infinite. We always knew it would come to a close, we just didn’t know exactly when. But in the past few weeks, that has changed, and now we do know—we will be returning to North America in July. I’m not ready to talk about what this means for us, though suffice to say things will not be as they have been and we will be heading back without any idea as to when we might be able to return to this part of the world. This both breaks my heart and terrifies me, but more germane to my current conundrum is that this has made us take a hard look at how we want to spend the remaining months we have.

If you have spent any amount of time reading this blog, you know that the Philippines is where we really felt this trip take off for us and it’s the first place we unabashedly loved and knew we would return to time and again. It has some of the world’s best diving, and we left with a list of places we wanted to visit that was longer than the one we had arrived with. Although there is always some inherent risk to returning to places you’ve lost your heart to (what if they’re not as good as you remember?), we feel the chance of this happening in the Philippines is relatively low. Plus, we would plan to seek out new places and would not try to recreate the visit we had previously. As certain as one can be about an uncertain thing, we are confident that we will thoroughly enjoy our time there.

A beach near El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
More idyllic scenery in the Philippines

Still, there is a part of me that is resistant to returning to places we’ve already visited, especially when time is running out and there is so much of the world left to see. I’m the person who can’t eat the same meal more than two days in a row, and is always adding books, movies, and places to her list of things she wants to experience. I’m always wondering if there’s something better around the corner, I just have to make the effort to go find it. I’m a perfectionist and a completionist; I can’t stand to leave things undone.

And so there is Sri Lanka, a place that has been beckoning me for months. It has a culture and food and rich history that are utterly unknown to me, which I find exciting. It also has some diving, though not on the same scale as the Philippines, and it would afford me the chance to participate in the meditation retreat I’ve wanted to do for so long. Sri Lanka is always first out of my mouth when people ask where we haven’t been but would love to go. But this scares me too, because the only consistent thing I’ve found on this trip is that the places I am most excited to visit, the ones I am most certain I will love, end up being the ones I am most underwhelmed or let down by. A huge part of traveling is taking risks, and I realize the only way to know whether I love Sri Lanka or not is to just visit and find out, but still, I lie in bed at night and worry, “What if I don’t love it?” Am I willing to forsake somewhere I love for somewhere I might not?

Wood carvings in Kathmandu

For those of you interested in the science-y side of things, in Psychology this is what is known as an approach-approach conflict. You want both things, and they are each desirable, but you can only have one. It is argued that this type of conflict is the least stressful and most easily resolved compared to other conflicts, because really, whichever you choose, the result is good. I suppose there is some comfort in knowing that I’m not nearly as stressed out as I could be (and in knowing that all those years studying Psychology have allowed me to identify my situation with such precision), but it doesn’t help me want either option less.

The constant tugging between old and new loves makes me jumpy and exhausted all at once. I sit and stare at the wall, my leg jiggling, fingers tapping, because I am never at peace, never still. There is no wrong answer to my conundrum, and yet I am terrified that somehow I’ll still manage to choose the one that isn’t right. If there was money enough and time to choose them both, I would. Both ways is the only way I want it.

But I can’t have it both ways, and I am struggling to accept that. I am, truthfully, struggling to accept a lot of things at the moment, and I suppose I am channeling my energies into this one choice because it is something I can control.

Ho Chi Minh City at night
Ho Chi Minh City at night

We can’t stay in Vietnam forever (if only!), so not choosing either option and just waffling between the two really isn’t viable and is just making me crazy. I know that once I pull the trigger and make a decision, I’ll be happy with whatever option I select. I need to put myself out of my misery. So, which to choose?

I think about our trip so far and what inspired it, the little pieces that have clicked into place along the way, interlocking to form the path that has taken us so far away. I remember how we agonized for weeks about this site and what to name it, how when I came across the Twain quote that would ultimately inspire our name, its words burrowed deep and took root inside me. They gave me courage when I needed it most, because they so perfectly embodied what I wanted this trip to be about. Reading them now, they do the same thing.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

Sri Lanka, you’ve been calling and I’m finally ready to answer. See you in April.

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58 comments Leave a comment

  1. I’m so glad you’re choosing the unknown, although I agree this was something of a win-win! Selfishly I’m looking forward to seeing somewhere that I haven’t seen on the blog — but more than that, you already know you want to go back to the Philippines and I think it makes sense to check out Sri Lanka now and know whether it’s somewhere that goes on your list of places to revisit or not. Have so much fun. 🙂

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 10:50 am
    1. Trisha author

      On the one hand I was telling myself that I couldn’t miss something I had never had, so maybe we should just go back to the Philippines because we do know we love it there so much. But then I though about how if this was the last trip I ever took, I know I’d always regret not visiting Sri Lanka and seeing what it was like. I hope it’s another destination that we just fall in love with, but I guess we’ll see come April!

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:13 pm
  2. I definitely feel you on the traveler’s dilemma! I think we try to avoid it by making rash decisions. Probably not the best way to make plans, but oh well. I was rooting for Sri Lanka while reading your post though, so selfishly I’m glad that’s what you’re going with. I especially can’t wait to hear about the meditation retreat as that’s something I really want to do as well. But great post- I always love your personal and honest reflections like this!

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 11:06 am
    1. Casey @ A Cruising Couple author

      I really hope the dates work out and that I can squeeze a retreat in. Based on how the latter half of this year and even next is looking, I really worry that if I don’t do this retreat before we head back I won’t get the chance to do so any time soon. Just another reason it made sense to make the leap and choose Sri Lanka!

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:15 pm
  3. Echoing above, I was also rooting for Sri Lanka. I actually just posted about Sri Lanka yesterday as it’s somewhere we’re considering for 2014. Your blog might make our decision for us! So many people who have retired go to the Phillipines, so it strikes me as fairly “easy” travel and somewhere you’ll always be able to return.

    But… inquiring minds want to know… stopping travel because you’re prego? Or for another reason? When I read about couples traveling, I always wonder if they’ll keep going when they’re having kids.

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 11:40 am
    1. Carina author

      In some ways the Philippines is easy because everyone speaks English and the people are so nice, but I think in other ways it can be challenging, particularly when you actually refer to getting from place to place. It often involves looooong travel days and not always the nicest modes of transport, though I suppose if you had more money you could shell out for fancier wheels (or more flights). Young or old, it’s never the wrong time to go to the Philippines as far as I’m concerned!

      I’ll talk a little more about why we’re returning home this summer in a later post. I’m still processing, though I’ll point out that I didn’t say we were stopping traveling, just that this trip was coming a close!

      (But, to put your mind at ease, our decision has nothing to do with babies. Unless you mean “fur babies” (i.e., our dogs), in which case, it has everything to do with that.)

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:20 pm
  4. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in this situation – wracked with anxiety about where to go and worrying about making the wrong decision or feeling guilty about travelling back to somewhere we’ve already been. But, as with everything in life, whatever decision you make is the right one for you at that time. Don’t question yourself – just go. And as for Sri Lanka; I went there several years ago and loved it. I’m sure you will too.

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 12:24 pm
    1. Julia author

      I know it was so dumb for me to let myself get so worked up about something where there was no wrong choice, and yet somehow I was convinced that I could still screw it up. For all my love of traveling, I am somewhat risk averse and so it is always something of a push for me to willingly place myself outside of my comfort zone. I really don’t want to be disappointed by SL, so I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your time there so much. I hope our trip follow suit (though, of course if it doesn’t, we can easily fly somewhere else…)!

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:22 pm
  5. Really pleased you’re heading into the unknown, especially if you have a finite amount of time left for this particular trip. The Philippines is an amazing country but you know you love it and can return to it some day, it will be far more exciting to finish the trip with the high of new countries. I cannot wait to hear about it, Sri Lanka is high up on my wish list so especially looking forward to seeing your undoubtedly beautiful photos. Also interested to hear more about what your plans are for a return to North America.. Oh and make sure you eat your own weight in Vietnamese food before you leave 🙂

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 4:39 pm
    1. Maddie author

      Well, I assume it will be more exciting to end this trip with new countries provided we actually like said countries (what if they’re all like China or Cambodia for us?!?), but this issue aside, I do agree with you. 😉

      No need to remind us about eating all the Vietnamese food. We do that pretty much as if every day here might be our last… 🙂

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:24 pm
  6. I’ll tell you what’s funny: As I was going through this post, I came up with all the same arguments, for each place and against each place, that you did, just as you wrote about them. I hope, now that the decision is made, you feel better about it, and I hope that Sri Lanka is all you hope it will be.

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 5:07 pm
    1. Amanda author

      I do feel better now that the decision is made! I always knew I would as this is the way these things always go, but I still get gunshy and have a hard time pulling the trigger. Forcing myself to sit down and write this post actually really helped as it made me collect and organize my thoughts and work through them methodically. As I sifted through all my feelings and all my motivations, it became a little more obvious which direction I needed to go. Blogging triumph!

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:26 pm
  7. Yay!! Sri Lanka won out. It was what I was going to come down here and say and then you decided. Can’t wait to hear all about it. And home in July?! A new adventure must await!

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 5:44 pm
    1. Gillian author

      Knowing you as I do, I’m not surprised that you were pulling for Sri Lanka. After all, what would the old lady on her front porch tell me to do, right? 🙂

      Yes, home some time in July. I’ll talk about this more later, once I’ve had time to process and we’ve had some time to wade through the emotions and logistics of it all, but you’re not wrong that a new adventure is on the horizon. I just don’t fully know what it is yet…

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:29 pm
  8. After 20 years of saying I’d never go back to a place more than twice, I’ve come to learn that you should go wherever you feel most content or interested in. Whether it’s slaving way in a jungle, treking mountains or hanging by the beach, it’s whatever we yearn for at the time. No matter what choice you make, make the most of it and enjoy it still 🙂

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 7:12 pm
    1. Jimmy Dau author

      When we started this trip, we honestly thought we would use it as an opportunity to say we had “seen the world” and to cross a bunch of countries off of our list of places to visit. We both thought once we be enough and we really approached the trip as though we’d never return anywhere. But now, having realized that even small countries have so many secrets and mysteries to uncover, and that when you really love a place, once is never enough, I know there are plenty of places we’ll go to again and again. The truth is, we LOVE Asia and there are only so many countries here, so eventually we’d have to double (or triple) up anyway.

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:31 pm
  9. I haven’t been to either place but was definitely rooting for Sri Lanka as we aim to head there later this year and so am happy you’ll give us an introduction to things (though it would’ve been even cooler if our trips overlapped). Hopefully you will be able to rest at ease with this decision in place!

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 7:26 pm
    1. Emily author

      I think I’ll continue to interleave new with old stories from here on out, so I think we will have content on the blog that will help you when your own time comes to visit Sri Lanka. Would have been lovely if our paths had crossed there, but this just means we’ll have to meet elsewhere in the world! 🙂

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:33 pm
  10. YES. This. This is me right now. I’m so excited to finally be exploring Latin America but I spend half my time wanting to buy a ticket to Chiang Mai, or Saigon, or Marrakech, or Portland, or New Zealand, or Siem Reap, or Slovenia and it’s ridiculous. I know that if I were to leave Central America and go back to somewhere I’ve already visited I’d regret not taking this opportunity to explore somewhere new… but I miss so many places so much! It’s tough.

    I’m excited you decided on Sri Lanka, though! Can’t wait to read about it 🙂

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 8:02 pm
    1. Lauren author

      It’s really hard throwing over places you love for places you might not, right? There truly is so much of the world I want and need to see (heck, we were supposed to have made it through most of Europe by now!), but my heart keeps us anchored here in Asia… but even still I find myself wanting to go back to the places I love most rather than exploring new ones. Like you, however, I realized I really would regret not trying new things and making the most of the time that we have. I know I’ll be back to this part of the world some day (even if I don’t know exactly when), and then I’ll be able to focus my energies on places I know and love well.

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:38 pm
  11. Hey, you can’t go wrong really. What about India?!??! I can’t wait to see where you head next 🙂

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 8:29 pm
    1. Kim author

      Yes, this was definitely a dilemma where there was no real bad choice, which perhaps made it even more difficult, ironically.

      We talked about India and we may still visit briefly before heading home, but the main reason we didn’t really consider it for any length of time is because of the time of year. Somehow I suspect heading to India in late April and being there during the spring/summer is not our best choice, given the heat and monsoons. I’m going to poke around and see if it might be possible for after Sri Lanka, but rest assured, we haven’t forgotten about India!

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:41 pm
  12. Kari George

    Yay!!! I can definitely understand the inner struggle and think you made the right choice! I can’t wait to keep reading. And while I’m sad that your trip is coming to a close in a few months, it does mean that you’ll be closer 🙂 If you want to come back and visit Nashville, you’ve got a place to stay!

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 9:16 pm
    1. Kari George author

      I haven’t yet made the switch to being excited about wrapping up our time in Asia, but being closer to friends and other loved ones is obviously a huge perk that can’t be overstated! We have a whole bunch of ideas/plans swirling in the air for what to do when we’re back, but we definitely hope we’ll stop back through Nashville at some point. When we do, we’ll be sure to have a proper catch up (slumber party? Yes!).

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:44 pm
  13. I too would have been awake at night trying to decide. Now you have decided and all is well. Now you can look forward to planning Sri Lanka. I believe the train trip is great, but then you know that 🙂

    Feb. 13 2014 @ 11:48 pm
    1. budget jan author

      Yes, the hardest part in these situations is definitely making the choice, but once done, everything feels so much lighter. Before making this choice I poked around our Sri Lanka guidebook to get some inspiration, so I’m really excited to start putting together an actual itinerary. And yes, the trains will definitely feature!

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:46 pm
  14. So we finally know where you two are heading next! Good choice, Sri Lanka seems such an interesting country, the only down side to that is that we won’t see each other anytime soon, we are still hoping though. 🙂

    Feb. 14 2014 @ 8:30 am
    1. Franca author

      Well, we likely won’t be jetting home straight after Sri Lanka (we don’t need to be back until July, so that still gives us a few months to play), so who knows? Our paths very well might cross as we make our way back!

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:47 pm
  15. I’m the worst at making decisions, thankfully as we haven’t left Mexico yet, we’ve had very few decisions to make. I’m always in search of the new and unknown, so I always want to go somewhere I’ve never been before. Its great that we have the control to be able to do this, sometimes it is overwhelming though, but ultimately so freeing. Looking forward to hearing about Sri Lanka.

    Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:12 am
    1. Kellie author

      I think our desire to seek out new places has abated a bit simply because we have been traveling for so long. At the start of our trip, I was pretty much always pushing for new places, and even in this case, I pushed harder for Sri Lanka, whereas Tony was pushing harder for the Philippines. I think because we have slowed down our travel pace so much lately and have gotten so comfortable, it’s hard to get excited about the unknown and the possible discomforts it might entail. But I just needed a pow wow with myself so I could remember why it is we do what we do and that sorted me right out!

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 9:50 pm
  16. Steve C

    For my own personal and selfish reason, I’m glad you picked Sri Lanka. I haven’t been there and haven’t read any travel bloggers who have either. I know you’ll do a good job of capturing your travel there in story and pictures. Not that The Philippines wouldn’t have been a good choice, it’s just that you’ve already been there and done that.

    I’m of the opinion that each trip should be a continuous forward motion with no backtracking to places I’ve already been. Note I said “each” trip. Once a traveler, always a traveler. I’ve chosen to save return trips to places I loved, for sharing with my family, (children) that didn’t yet exist when I traveled earlier in my life.

    Steph, although I know you were the one writing this blog, I noted that you almost always used “I” in referring to the one making decisions. Where’s Tony? It always takes two to tango. Also, we sometimes overlook how lucky we are to have such dilemmas. “Oh my, should I get a Lamborghini or a Maserati?” As long term travelers, we forget just how good we have it.

    Feb. 14 2014 @ 1:22 pm
    1. Steve C author

      I respect your “no backtracking” philosophy, especially as Tony & I started off with that mentality as well. But we’ve already broken that rule several times on this trip, most notably with our stops in Thailand and, of course, this extended break here in Vietnam. I think my indecision about the Philippines or Sri Lanka was because I got caught up in the certainty of knowing we’ll be leaving this region and ending our trip soon, but the uncertainty of not knowing when we’ll be able to return for round two.

      If I made it sound that the decision of where to go next was solely in my court, that was simply because of the personal nature of this post and the fact that I was focused on my own turmoil as I can only speak so much for Tony (and truthfully, he doesn’t agonize about things like this). You’re right that it takes two to tango, and of course every major decision on this trip is done as a team, but I tend to be more of a control freak (me?!?) than Tony so he’s generally happy to let me spin my wheels and burrow down the rabbit hole and figure these things out. If I come up with a plan he really doesn’t like, he’ll say so (e.g., we didn’t go to India after Nepal because he really didn’t want to), but otherwise, we have conversations about potential places and then I go to town spinning out plans that he gives feedback on.

      Oh, and I promise you, I never overlook just how lucky we are that this kind of thing generally is the most stressful choice I have had to face over the past two years. Like I said up there in paragraph 2, this is the very definition of a first-world problem! As “problems” go, it’s certainly not a bad one to have.

      Feb. 14 2014 @ 10:00 pm
  17. “A huge part of traveling is taking risks”

    I think you’ve answered your own question there!! Sorry, that sounds a bit harsh, I didn’t mean it *quite* like that!! But I say try somewhere new. Sri Lanka might be your cup of tea, or it might not be -you’ll definitely come away with stories t tell for a lifetime, and it won’t be utterly horrible. I can’t wait to read your blog come April!!!

    In the mean time, I’ve posted some stuff about my trip to Sri Lanka, and there’s more coming. If you’re interested, it’s at these links;

    Feb. 14 2014 @ 10:40 pm
    1. Tim | UrbanDuniya author

      Don’t worry about being harsh, I think you are right—writing this post did help me answer my own question, and let me work through the dilemma that was bothering me in a positive way.

      Thank you so much for drawing my attention to those links on your site; I haven’t started planning our time in SL yet, but when I do, I’m sure they’ll come in handy!

      Feb. 16 2014 @ 9:27 pm
  18. This is always such a gut-wrenching decision and I’m glad you were able to find a solution you are happy and excited about. As expats, our travel is often limited to vacation days and holidays and it’s so hard for me to figure out how to maximize that precious time. When it came down to our last vacation before our time in Shanghai was up, I was in a similar state of panic. There were so many corners of Asia I still wanted to explore! Ultimately we went to Hungary, which probably makes no sense to anyone else, but it was right for us. And that’s all that matters in the end 🙂

    Feb. 15 2014 @ 1:17 pm
    1. Heather author

      Actually, I think I do understand choosing Hungary, oddly enough! Sometimes when I get really fed up about choosing between two fairly similar options, I find myself just wanting to throw in the towel and pick something completely out of left field and totally different. I think the key is, as you said, to just pick whichever thing feels right for you in the moment—that’s all you really can do, and in the end, you can say you were making the best choice you could at that time.

      Feb. 16 2014 @ 9:31 pm
  19. Good choice! The unknown definitely trumps the good and the known. It satisfies the curiosity, prevents the destructions of amazing memories (can often happen when re-visiting a beloved place, as you observed), and, if you really want to go re-visiting places at some point, it helps you build a proper “Places to Re-Visit Before You Die” list : ) Trisha way up there in the comments list is 100% right!

    Separately, let me add that before I read this post I stared at the Annapurna Circuit photo for 5 minutes… What a view!

    Feb. 16 2014 @ 8:14 am
    1. Les @ The Indie Traveller author

      I stared at that APC photo for a while too… mostly because I couldn’t decide if those mountains make me looks no taller than a dwarf or a hobbit… 😉

      We haven’t done a lot of backtracking on this trip, but as I wrote a few posts ago, we’ve actually had a fair bit of luck returning to the places that we have. And our list of places we want to revisit is nearly as long as original one for places to visit at the start of the trip, but yes, I think forward rather than back is the right choice for us right now.

      Feb. 16 2014 @ 9:34 pm
  20. I could really relate to this post, Steph. Don’t have any advice about making it any easier – if you work that out be sure to send me a memo! – but as cliche as it sounds I do know that things have a way of working themselves out with time. Good luck and looking forward to reading about your upcoming adventures 🙂

    Feb. 16 2014 @ 12:15 pm
    1. Jessica - Notes of Nomads author

      Thanks, Jessica! I don’t think any of us travelers have this one worked out just yet, but as everyone has pointed out, it’s certainly not the worst problem to have! And you’re right that these things have a way of working out; we just have to be brave enough to take that keep walking along this road, even if we don’t know what’s the next bend might bring!

      Feb. 16 2014 @ 9:39 pm
  21. Caty

    Delurking after reading from the beginning of your trip! =) I’m so glad you choose Sri Lanka. I’ve been seven times and I fell in love with the country and the people right away. It’s such a beautiful country and it offers so much. You can do the cultural triangle in the middle of the country or head to either of the two coast but since you are going in April I suggest going to the East Coast since thats when the monsoon starts on the West Coast. For diving and snorkeling definitely go to Trinco(malee), the corals there are not as damaged as the ones on the west coast and I really enjoyed it there. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me, I’m more than happy to tell you all about sri lanka. Love, Caty

    Feb. 16 2014 @ 2:35 pm
    1. Caty author

      Hi Caty! Thank you so much for delurking and taking the time to comment. 🙂

      Wow, SEVEN times to Sri Lanka?!? It must really be great, and just reading those words has made me even more excited about this choice. Thank you so much for the suggestions of where to visit and dive—I had done a little poking around and realized the west coast would probably be deluged by monsoons, but that works fine for us since the little I’ve read makes the east coast sound more appealing anyway. If I have any questions (I haven’t done enough research just yet to have any!), I’ll be sure to get in touch.

      Feb. 16 2014 @ 9:41 pm
  22. Oh you made me laugh with the beginning of this post. Thanks!
    And then, when you were saying that it was the first time you had that issue, I thought that it was probably because you were feeling the end of this road was close. And then you confirm my thoughts.
    Looking forward to seeing your posts about Sri Lanka!

    Feb. 17 2014 @ 3:10 am
    1. Claire @ ZigZag On Earth author

      We’ve certainly faced this problem several times on this trip, but it’s never felt more critical/life-ending than at this point and it is precisely because we feel like time is running out so now more than ever, every choice has to count. I suppose it’s a good and bad way to approach things since on the one hand, we should always be living like every choice matters, but on the other hand, living like that can be really stressful! I’m glad I was finally able to find some peace and make a decision!

      Feb. 18 2014 @ 9:41 pm
  23. Yes the countries you have most expectation from don’t usually turn out that great. But i think its really because we all have different tastes. But all in all i am really confused by what you meant by this post. Are you saying you are loving too much of everything and are worried that you will love more of what you will do and you will have too many things to love?

    Feb. 17 2014 @ 7:53 am
    1. Empty Rucksack author

      No, I wasn’t saying that exactly, just that it’s very difficult to choose between things you love and that as a traveler it’s very difficult to decide between returning to places you have really liked before vs going to new places that you may or may not love (but they are new!). I felt torn because we LOVED the Philippines, and I worried that as much as I was intrigued by Sri Lanka, what if we went and I didn’t like it?

      I guess the big dilemma that as travelers, we can only be in on spot at any given time even though my heart is in many different places!

      Feb. 18 2014 @ 9:44 pm
  24. God, what a choice! FWIW I would have made the same call (but you probably already know that).

    Indefinite but not infinite – what a lovely phrase.

    Enjoy this last leg. Whether your return home is prompted by something or not, I wish you guys the best settling in when you go back 🙂

    Feb. 17 2014 @ 9:35 pm
    1. eemusings author

      Thanks for your words of support, not just on this leg, but for future ones as well! The one thing we can definitely say is that life has certainly not been boring these past two years and it looks as though the twists and turns just keep on coming. But at least we feel like there are still choices to be made!

      Indefinite but not infinite… that pretty much sums up life, doesn’t it?

      Feb. 18 2014 @ 9:45 pm
  25. Love that post Steph. I too wouldn’t know what to do if I had to deal with the fact of going back home (although it might face me in September too, depending on things are going to pan out here in South America). I think you made the right choice. If you hadn’t gone to Sri Lanka it would have always nagged you I think. I hope you are going to enjoy your time there.

    Feb. 19 2014 @ 2:31 pm
    1. TammyOnTheMove author

      Yup, I realized that if we had to stop traveling tomorrow, my biggest regret would not be that we didn’t go back to the Philippines (though that would be sad), but that we didn’t get to see so many more places. We know we want to go back to the Philippines one day, but for now, the right choice for us is definitely forward!

      Feb. 20 2014 @ 12:32 am
  26. I know this dilemma well! Sri Lanka is wonderful. It’s the first place I went to on my gap year when I was 18. I spent two months there, falling in love with a little beach town called Hikkaduwa. I hear that particular town has changed a lot now but at the time it was my paradise. The rest of the island is also amazing. There’s so much diversity in landscape in such a tiny place. You’ll be sure to love it.

    Feb. 20 2014 @ 10:00 am
    1. Victoria author

      Thanks for weighing in, Victoria, and I’m so happy to hear you love(d) Sri Lanka so much! I’m just starting to put together a rough itinerary of places I’d like to visit while we are there, but I’m SO EXCITED that we made this choice. It really looks like a beautiful country with so much on offer!

      Feb. 22 2014 @ 10:28 pm
  27. I know exactly what you mean about feeling bad for returning to places you’ve previously visited. By the time we head back to visit the UK in June we will have spent four and a half out of 15 in Thailand. We haven’t even explored much of the country, we just return time and again to the handful of places we love the most and I can’t help feeling that we should be forcing ourselves into new countries instead. We also chose to spend some of our remaining time back in the Philippines because, like you, we loved it so much. In the end we just followed our gut and decided to balance old places with new as much as possible. I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time in Sri Lanka, I can’t wait to hear about it.

    Feb. 21 2014 @ 5:06 am
    1. Amy author

      To our own credit, when we have considered revisiting places on this trip, we’ve always done so with the intention of seeing different parts of the country than we did before (a bit like how you dealt with Laos the second time round) rather than just going back to the same places we already know and love. But I definitely understand that pull too!

      I think that in the end, if you just follow your heart and go to wherever you want most and that is calling to you loudest, that’s the best you can do. No explanations required and no regrets!

      Feb. 22 2014 @ 10:30 pm
  28. hooray!!! What an exciting, yet terrifying, problem to have. Shawn actually pulled out that quote, more or less, when we were deciding whether or not we could “afford” to add extra days to our already expensive motorbike trip. Ultimately, we decided to do it. I’m excited for you to continue your exploring.

    that being said, post-Australia I started exploring options to go back to Thailand before Malaysia instead of Singapore. Tee hee…

    Feb. 24 2014 @ 12:28 am
    1. Carmel author

      I am really glad that you guys decided to do the motorbike trip in Vietnam and that you had such a great time! I’m pretty good at making decisions when I’m in the thick of them and I need to decide RIGHT NOW what we’re going to do, but it’s these near future decisions that really wallop me. I’m still not great at proactively pushing myself out of my comfort zone—and SEA is definitely my comfort zone right now—so deciding to head out of it, knowing we won’t be coming back here for a while was hard. But that Twain quote never leads us astray! (And obviously we’ve purchased our SL tix so that we have a couple of days in Bangkok before we fly out… 😉 ).

      Feb. 25 2014 @ 2:24 am
  29. I don’t think you could have gone wrong with either choice, but I am glad you chose Sri Lanka. I am really looking forward to reading about your experiences and highlights there. My guess is that after you settle in, you will “discover” the real reason you are there.

    Mar. 7 2014 @ 10:52 am
    1. Joanne Joseph author

      Now that the decision is made and we’ve had some time to make peace with the dilemma, we are, as predicted, really excited about this choice. It’s still a ways away yet and there are still a few other adventures to be had in the interim, but I am confident it is the right place for us right now. I’m really looking forward to sharing our experiences there too!

      Mar. 7 2014 @ 9:11 pm

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