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Decisions, Decisions: How Do You Decide Where to Travel?

Life is short, and travel opportunities should be seized whenever you can. Pick a place and go see the world.

Such has been the lifelong philosophy of Teresa in our REI Adventures travel department. Judging by her tales of interesting destinations, it's been working out pretty well for her. Take a look at what motivated her choice of destinations over the years:

Teresa on horseback in EcuadorAge 16: Reaching for a Dream

I had never been on an airplane before, but I wanted to participate in a program called Amigos de las Americas. I didn't care where I went. Amigos seemed like a good program (one I could pay for with my babysitting money) and a way for me to do some good. I was sent to the jungles of Ecuador for a month and administered 1,700 tuberculosis vaccines in very remote villages. The experience contributed to who I am today.

Age 19: Fulfilling the Desire to Explore

I knew I should take advantage of Lewis and Clark College's great overseas study programs, so I opted for the New Zealand trip ... which in my geographically challenged mind at the time, was up by Sweden and Norway ... a.k.a Iceland. After I had applied for the trip, I got out the map and thought, "Holy cow, I'm not going to ICELAND. Where in the heck is New Zealand?!" I found it at the opposite end of the map, but when I looked at photos of New Zealand and saw that it too, like Iceland, had cool geography, sheep, green hills and geothermal "stuff". I figured that was going to work out just fine for me... and it did!

Teresa carrying wood in Nepal

Age 20: A Chance to Escape the Reality of College Life

Returning back to the U.S. after 6 months overseas, I had serious "re-entry" issues. Being back on my college campus was much too confining and everyone around me seemed to worry and talk about "really stupid stuff." I checked out the list of overseas study programs for the next year and applied to go to Nepal for 6 months. Why Nepal? Simply because there were a lot of beautiful mountains. This was another life-changing experience.

Age 22: The Price Was Right

A friend contacted me to see if I wanted to get in on a delivery flight of a brand new Air New Zealand 747 that was going direct from Seattle to Auckland. The ticket was open ended for 1 year and allowed stops in Fiji, Rarotonga and Tahiti. $799 round trip. That was a killer deal back then, something I could not pass up. I could only stay in New Zealand for 6 months on my entry visa, so I was forced to buy a ticket to Australia Teresa and two new, local friends in the Cook Islandsand since the cheapest airfare going was to Tasmania (a state of Australia), that is where I went. On day 365 of my delivery flight ticket, I found myself in Tahiti trying to figure out if I could stay longer. I had $40 in my pocket, no credit cards and parents who were happy that I was enjoying myself but had no intention of funding my travels. So, finances dictated my next destination: home. Thus ended the best year of my life.

Age 34: Searching for Someplace Way Off the Beaten Path

A British gal, who I met in Tasmania, wrote me to ask if a friend of hers passing through Seattle could stay with me on his way to Alaska. Of course! One of the policies I have adopted as a result of my travels is that any friend of a friend is welcome to stay at my house. This is the only way I can ever pay them back. So a guy named Daniel Daniel from Dampier, Western Australia, showed up on an Amtrak train. He was an avid adventure traveler and super interesting individual. I had to ask him: "Where is your favorite place to travel?" His answer: the island of Gili Air in Indonesia. That was it for me! My next trip was going to be to find this island of Gili Air. I did just that, and it wasA local boy in Gili Air amazing. It took 20 minutes to walk around the island. All the bungalows had hammocks, and the house staff brought lanterns to your porch every night since there was no electricity. Neighboring travelers would swing in their hammock via lantern-light in a tropical evening breeze. It was a very simple place with no modern conveniences. I loved it and all my daily expenses came to less than what I was spending per day on coffee in Seattle.

Age 40: The Need to Reevaluate My Position in Life

I wanted to go back to the feelings I felt when I was 22, learning tons, meeting new people, visiting old friends and hiking as much as I wanted. So, I decided to go back to New Zealand. Finances would determine how long I could travel but 'where' I went was a bit of a whim. While having dinner with my old friend Gloria from Wellington, she ordered a glass of Brown Brothers shiraz. I ordered the same. It was a fantastic glass of wine. Right then, I decided that when I went to Australia, I was going to go find the Brown Brothers Winery. Along with visiting old friends I made sure the winery was a key destination while in Australia.

Since my travels to Australia nearly a decade ago, I have visited a number of other countries—all prompted by different decisions. Travel has always been a priority in my life. It's no secret how I've ended up in the job I have today.

My next trip? Who knows? I'm always open to suggestions. How do you decide where to travel?

Below: That's me feeding kangaroos on my trip to Australia. 

Posted on at 1:47 PM

Tagged: Ecuador, New Zealand, REI Adventures, Tasmania, Travel, indonesia and nepal

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I've got to add an age group in honor of my mom, a world traveler who will be 88 this February. At that age, she tells me, it is all about fulfilling life-long dreams and traveling to places you never thought you'd get to. We just got back from a Russian river cruise. Lucky for me, my mom hates to travel alone! She fulfilled her dream of seeing St. Petersburg and in the process became captivated by Russia and her people. I guess the lesson here is: Never stop traveling!

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I left North America for the first time at age 42. My destination: New Zealand to visit friends and to see the country. That was 2008. In 2009 it was Germany and Switzerland. In 2010, Peru. But now as I choose a possible "next adventure" I am faced with that exact question, "How/Where do I choose?" But what I've enjoyed so far is hiking, natural wonders, history, and culture. I'm not a big foodie, nor a big shopper, and I don't drink wine - so you won't find me in a big city or on a wine tour. Oddly, though, my next adventure may very well be in the US... where we have amazing places, too!

migrating bird

My first trip out of the country was to Australia when I was 23. I went as part of an exchange program through my work and did a lot of environmental mitigation. The projects took me to places like Bendigo, Grampians National Forest, Bellarine Bayside, down to Tasmania I was able to work in Cataract Gorge and rented a car to drive up to the Bay of Fires, and explored King Solomon and Maracoopa caverns during my two moth stay there. I was able to add a 1 month stop in New Zealand for 150.00 so I did and spent the month travelling the entirety of the North Island checking out the Kauri trees and surfing what was once known as the longest left break in the world.

My next trip was to Alaska working for the Park Service in Denali where I spent six month falling in love with the state that has called me back to explore the Kenai Peninsula and the Wrangell Mountains. I spent two months most recently backpacking up the Root and Kennicott Galciers to Nicolai Plateau and following Dahl sheep for a field study program.

After my first trip to Alaska, I had a little bit of money saved up so I decided to do a trip to the first ticket I found that I could afford. That ended up being a six week long adventure on four of Fiji's 300+ island.... Vanua Levu, Viti Levu, Taveuni, and Coquali. I snorkeled, hiked, met wonderful people, went to a village church, a funeral, saw a bar fight, sang kareoke, and ate my fill of curried pumpkin soup,eel, giant clam and coconut. It was a trip I will never forget.

Currently, I'm planning a trip to Iceland to see the rift zone. It seems like a fitting endeavor for an environmental geologist, don't you think?


yes my name is neal buchanan on july 2nd 2011 my wife and i went to see some friends from brussel, if you ever been there it is a great place to see it, the people are great and the food is good as well. we went to see the north sea from three boader countries which that was awseaome. i would love to travel more in europe somday, i have a lists of places that i have been as well i went to london netherlands, scottland, and ireland. that was the best time of my life


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