Good holidays don’t necessarily mean the best deal or the hottest place. In fact, for me, they are likely to mean anything but.
I plan to go in May 2014 and know I want to: volunteer, hike, explore other cultures and/or learn a language. At least part of the trip will be spontaneous, and I plan on a total of four to five weeks of travel (the longest I can stretch the money I’ve allotted). After a lot of research and much thought, I’ve narrowed it down to the following three places.
1) Cusco, Peru and La Paz, Bolivia.
Cusco is a short train ride from Macchu Picchu and is worth a return visit. Ten days of language lessons cost $400 at Fair Play Peru (who give 2/3 of the money to the teacher), and the price includes a couple of cooking and salsa lessons. A room in a hostel costs around $11 a night.
There are numerous places to volunteer in Cusco: La Casa de Haydees, Perucho Organic Farm or Ninos Hotel. I know of the latter firsthand. Every morning, homeless children and mothers with babies filled the courtyard. Breakfasts are free.
In Bolivia, I would do the Takesi Trail, where you walk the beginnings of the Inca empire and follow 43 KM of an ancient, paved road from the Andes to the Amazon. Should this be too daunting – they use mules – I can do any of a number of hikes around the city or venture around Bolivia.
Time: 4 or 5 weeks.
Why is it a finalist? The classes would solidify my Spanish, allow me to volunteer, and give me time to explore Bolivia. My budget is adequate for such a trip.
2) Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Italy.
Naples is Italy’s least expensive city and has a good language school: Central Italiano. Their prices are: 4 weeks – $850 (ouch!), 3 weeks – $683. A room in a shared apartment is $540 for 4 weeks and $460 for 3 weeks. According to priceoftravel.com, Naples costs $99 a day. With the above accommodation, eating in non-touristy spots, their inexpensive rail tickets and knowing a bit of the language, I’m pretty sure I can reduce this to half or two-thirds.
The Amalfi coast is easily accessible. Visits to other parts of Italy would be doable on weekends: Rome (30 trains a day), Florence, maybe even a quick jaunt to Dubrovnik.
Time: 5 weeks.
Concerns: keeping within budget.
Why is it a finalist? I’ve never been to the Southern regions of Italy, but elsewhere, the food is amazing and so are the people. The same is likely true of the area around Naples. The language classes are a plus and access to a kitchen (in the apartment) is very cost-effective.
3) Central/Northern Europe: Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.
This part of Europe still holds a good grip on its cultures and languages. It is inexpensive to travel and safe. I’d land in Prague (Beer Festival May 16th to June 1st) and wander on from there.
No prepared itinerary. Food is apparently awesome and accommodation abundant. A picture of Krakow below.
Time: 5 weeks.
Concerns: no volunteering or language classes planned (although this does not negate opportunities along the way).
Why is it a finalist? Except for a previous visit to Prague, I’ve never been to any of these countries; it’s a brand-new adventure. I’d like to see them before they become Westernized. St-Petersburg might be an option if I end up in Estonia (tourists do not need visas if they stay less than 3 days). Small hikes are abundant.
Since I’m using points to travel, I need to decide within ten days.
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