Traveling the world is a daunting project to take on, so it means the world to me that readers feel confident enough to reach out and ask me for advice as they plan their own adventures. I LOVE answering travel questions and providing tips, and I spend a ton of time every single day responding to messages on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and in the Angie Away comments.
I do seem to receive some of the same questions over and over again, and since I’m both a professional communicator and a perfectionist, it pains me greatly to admit that there are some that I just can’t answer.
So what are the six travel questions I have the most trouble with? Here goes:
1. What’s your favorite country?
Anytime I’m forced into talking about what I do for a living to a group of strangers (no me gusta), the first question that follows is, “Oh! What’s your favorite country?”
*Pulls hair out* Honestly, I don’t know! I’m not a person who easily picks favorites as it is. I don’t have a favorite color or a favorite animal or a favorite day of the week. Naming a singular best friend, favorite song or favorite season is really an arm-twisting situation for me.
No sooner would I say definitively that Greece is the best, than I’d remember the glorious two weeks I spent in Egypt, change my mind, change it back, and then feel guilty for not saying New Zealand, The Bahamas or Ireland in the first place.
Choosing favorites makes me feel guilty and icky and mean. Every destination has its own special characteristics, and I’d feel like a travel bully if I singled out just one. So please don’t put me on the spot!
2. Where haven’t you been?
This question is a surefire way to make me feel untraveled, because I haven’t seen about 75% of the world. Out of 200ish countries, I’ve been to around 50. Which means I’ve still got more than ¾ of the world to visit and somewhere between zero and about 50 more years to do it.
I haven’t been Afghanistan, Algeria, Albania, Andora, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia or Azerbaijan… and those are just the countries beginning with “A.”
Rest assured, I’m trying to go everywhere… it’s just going to take me some time.
3. I’m going to [insert name of enormous country] for a week. What should I do?
Lots of folks asking this question could be better served by typing it into Google. If it’s a list of top activities you seek, try a guidebook.
If you really want my personalized advice on a specific destination, check this list to see if I’ve been there.
If I have, and if I know you and your travel style, I’ll have an easy enough time pointing you to some resources (a.k.a. all the blog posts I’ve written about the destination here on AngieAway!) and must-sees. If, on the other hand, I don’t know you from Adam’s house cat, I couldn’t possibly begin to know what would be of interest to you on a trip. Or what you can afford. Or your comfort level with adventure activities. Or your hotel preference.
Having traveled through Alaska with my grandparents, with my siblings, with my husband and also solo, I know all too well that different folks prefer different strokes. Some like action and adventure, some prefer organized tours, some fly by the seat of their pants and find fun as they go.
So if you want my personal tips on what to see and do, come at me with a specific question like, “I’m 31, traveling alone for the first time and I’ve got a month in Italy. I’m a foodie and an art history lover. What are the must sees & eats?”
Now that’s a question I can answer! Help me help you!
4. I have high arches/low arches/enormous big toes/stinky feet, etc. What shoes should I wear on my trip if I’m walking between 1 mile and an Ironman per day?
I get it. My feet need a lot of coddling when I travel, and I’ve written about how much I love my Tieks and how boots from The Walking Company changed my life. BUT, I am not a podiatrist or a foot expert or a fashionista.
I know what works for my feet, but I have no way of knowing if the shoes that make me feel like I’m walking on pillows are going to make you want to amputate. By all means, try the ones I suggest, but don’t expect me to know what would work for every foot in every situation.
5. Is [insert name of country] safe? Will I be ok?
How should I know?! Safety is not an easily predictable black-and-white issue, no matter what State Department warnings say or what you might see on the news. Sure, it might be wise to avoid certain countries in times of turmoil, but in most destinations, safety has everything to do with you and the individual decisions you make on a daily basis.
Realistically, who’s to say that you’re “safe” where you are right now? Frankly, I can’t predict if you’ll be run over by a truck, robbed or killed by a natural disaster in your hometown next week. The best advice I can give on safety (which is the same exact advice I’d give to anyone, any day, anywhere – not just travelers) is be aware, don’t overindulge on booze when you’re traveling alone and be incredibly cautious with people you meet.
6. Where should I go?
Like, in the whole world? If I could answer that question, I’d have gone there already and cured this whole wanderlust disease by now.