Poll: Where Should We Travel Next?

South America and Central America, or Africa and the Middle East? Cast your vote on the right sidebar and help us decide which region to visit first.

Update (January 30, 2009): The poll is now closed. See the results and comments below. For more information regarding our decision, go here.

Good Thing We Haven’t Purchased Any Airline Tickets Yet

If you read our Where We’re Going page, you’ll see that we originally planned to visit the Middle East and Africa in 2009, with Central and South America to follow. But recent conversations suggest that maybe we should consider the Americas first.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on why you voted the way you did and we invite you to help shape our itinerary. Please leave comments and suggestions at the end of this post or send us an email with your suggestions of places to visit and thoughts on people and organizations with whom we should connect.

Map of Africa
Map of Life.

While our style of planning and travel – leaving all options open until the very last minute – may not work for others, it has served us well. For example, we decided to visit China while traveling through Turkmenistan; we inserted Burma into our itinerary on the fly. More recently, we opted to extend our stay in the United States so Audrey can carry a flag for Peace Corps in the 2009 Presidential Inauguration Parade.

We’ll keep you posted on what we decide.

A Note of Thanks
We sincerely appreciate your comments and support. As a small token of thanks, we will send a small 2009 wall calendar made from handmade Nepalese paper to three randomly selected commenters on this post.

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  1. says

    While I’m not one to curtail traveling due to political events, I do think that the Middle East and Africa seem pretty “hot” at the moment. Of course, both are large regions and have plenty of peaceful places, but it seems to me that perhaps going later in the Obama administration might be more advisable. Central and South America seem like better bets at the moment. Have you thought about Australia and New Zealand instead? 😉 Sun, sand, surf…safe! (Can you tell I’ve become a fuddy-duddy parental type?!?)

  2. says

    I’d go to the Middle East, then Africa if I were you… that way I can get to South America first.

    P.S. If you randomly select me as a winner you can hand deliver the prize and save money on postage. 😉

  3. chris says

    The prudent choice when considering the political climates in Africa and the M.E. would be South and Central America. Furthermore, I personally would like to get down there but that may not be feasible for me next year so I would love to follow your adventures! :) Having lived in Prague in the mid 90’s I enjoyed your Central Europe posts, especially the Christmas markets, our favorites were Prague, Salzburg, Vienna and Nurnberg. Also enjoyed the China journeys, last year adopted one of our daughters from Datong and it is great to see and hear other perspectives on China.
    Wish we could travel like you two!!

  4. Gordie says

    I say you should hit Central and South America next; I’d love to see photos of any Incan/Aztec/Mayan locations you might come across. Happy new year!

  5. says

    I voted Central/South America maybe just because a teacher friend of mine is in Peru right now and just a few days ago I told her to check out your website and youtube page for “inspiration” on photos and videos. After I did that, I silently wondered if and when you two would go to Central/South America because I’d be excited about your photos, videos and blogs about that colorful and very large region of the world! Happy 2009~!

  6. says

    Hey, I voted for Africa, here’s why: Serengeti, safari, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Lion’s, Hippo’s, Giraffe’s, Ngorongoro Crater…. there’s so much more… and I haven’t even mentioned the Dead Sea, Petra, Luxor, diving in the Red Sea, ….too much.. too much!

  7. says

    Oh and if we want to talk about safety, lets talk kidnapping: Here are the top 5 countries: 1. Mexico, 2. Brazil, 3. Columbia, 4. Venezuela, …. Africa doesn’t even appear until number six with Nigeria! Hey.. don’t go to Nigeria.

  8. Pete De Ritter says

    I’ll cast my vote for Central America. My daughter and I spent some time in Southern Mexico and it was wonderful. We flew into Villa Hermosa, Tabasco. There are some fantastic Olmec stone sculptures there. The Olmec lived in the area prior to the Mayans. While in Villa Hermosa we got to attend a Quince anos for my daughter’s 15 year old friend.
    We spent most of our time in Ocosingo, Chiapas a small market town where the people were wonderful. We visited some small villages where the people spoke Tzeltal which is a Mayan dialect. Listening to a Tzeltal choir is like hearing the angels sing.
    San Cristobal de las Casas was a beautiful town in the highlands with a huge open air market. We ate in a great restaurant in the oldest continuously operating hotel in the western hemisphere. The Santo Domingo Cathedral was completed in 1560. Aqua Azul is a cascade with bright blue water. Palenque a Mayan ruins from the late period was well worth seeing. We traveled through Bonampak the reserve set aside for the Lacondon people.
    We ate tasty food cooked over open fires in cook shacks in remote villages, saw mule trains, thatched roof houses, and waterfalls in the mountains.
    There was a fairly large military presence in Chiapas because of the Zapatistas, but the soldiers were courteous and friendly although it helps to have someone fluent in Spanish at some of the check points in the boondocks.
    You can see a few of the photos I took at the following site.

  9. says

    Thanks Audrey for your comment on my blog a few months back. I’ve been following your wonderful site every since.

    So it looks like Central and South America is next for you? Well, we’re in Buenos Aires now and heading to Salta province for possible work in a developing community. I’m not sure how long we’ll be there, but if you head south first, perhaps our paths will cross.

    Enjoy the inauguration! We’ll most probably be far from radio, tv or internet at that point, so will have to catch up when we return.

    All good things,

  10. Julie Hall says

    I vote for the Central and South America choice. Only because you have lived in Africa before. Although I am sure you would love to go back. Just be careful in the Middle East. Wait until Greg gets deployed again and you can meet him over there! haha

    Going to TiVo the parade in hopes of seeing you!


  11. says

    Middle East & Africa – it’s a lot more off the tourist trail, and I’ve read some fantastic things about both areas recently. Syria is right at the top of my list of places I want to visit, it really sounds utterly incredible. Turkey, Jordan too, everyone I know (and I know quite a few) love them both.

    On the Africa side, I’ve heard nothing but positives too – Mozambique, Mali, Senegal, Morocco, South Africa all sound like real highlights to me, and all the people I know who’ve been once have returned to Africa again and again.

  12. Kolisa Larue says

    Our vote is for the Americas, mainly for safety reasons. Give Obama and Hillary a year to try and calm things down in the Middle East before you point your feet in that direction (how’s that for optimism?!). Of course, we will look forward to the stories and images from all of these places, but your safety must also be a consideration. How TOTALLY cool that you get to participate in the inauguration — your timing is impeccable!

    Happy New Year to both of you as well. And yes, let’s all pray for peace!

    Kolisa (and Olivier) Larue

  13. Sarah R-G says

    South Africa – the Cape – one of the best and most beautiful places in the world! And go in Aug/Sep (spring) so you can go see the wild flowers. You won’t regret it. S

  14. Olivier says

    Hey ya!
    I don’t think many french met in China wrote on your website… then I do it!
    For myself, living nearby africa, I’ll invite you to visit this beautiful continent.
    Why? I don’t know. I could say: ok africa it’s not safe bla bla bla but where is it safe??? and: may be if you travel in africa it will change your way of thinking and seeing because this place is so different. But after what you have seen (I don’t know if in my liftime I’ll have the opportunity to see the same) I think both will be good in your journay.
    My recommendation is africa because if I was in your shoes it’s where I’ll go!

    PS: if I win you will have to visit us in Reunion Island or in Paris: you choose!

    Happy new year and all my best!

  15. Kelly Draschtak says

    I would echo much of the sentiment already expressed, and strongly suggest you hit Central and South America first…Hubby and I (and baby Sophia since I was 4 months pregnant at the time) were in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, (and briefly in Uruguay and Paraguay) in 2008 and fell in love with everything! Would have loved to have had more time to spend exploring off the proverbial beaten path, but will just have to live vicariously through you…
    Also, I feel much as a previous person wrote, that holding off on the Middle East would be better after Obama has a bit of time to improve the US´ image abroad again and until hopefully things are a bit more settled (no pressure, Mr. President-elect! 😉 Granted, there are many parts of the region that would likely be quiet and safe (e.g. we were in Egypt and Jordan last year), but simply for the sake of efficiency, why not wait until you have more places to be able to go, rather than being limited on your ability to travel freely?!
    Best of luck with whatever you decide, and your loyal readers cannot wait for updates…

  16. Blaz Miklavic says

    If u ask me, Latin America is the answer. That is where I would go in ur shoes. U can, thogh, make a loop arround and stop on Guam too … 😉

    Take care!

  17. Thai Bry says

    I vote for S.A. because i would like to know more about those regions as well and you guys seem to be very thorough in your searching. Also i think it just would be easier, not that this is really a factor for you two. You know you will get to africa eventually anyway!

  18. Gulzhan says

    Hi Audrey, Dan
    I voted for South America after having read previous comments, though first I thought of Africa, as it’s beautiful. We really don’t have enough information about South America and for safety reasons too. Enjoy your journey!

  19. Jan says

    America… for a plenty of reasons already mentioned here. To mention another one, not very “profound” but delicious: the food. No tex-mex or other latin-like food sold outside. If you go to Peru, visit the Segundo Muelle in Lima and try a cebiche, tiradito or anything they have, is divine!

  20. Lenka Tranter says

    Hi Dan and Audrey! I also wish you all the best in 2009! Especially great and safe travelling experiences! I vote for Africa.. it is close to my heart as I grew up there.. safe travels wherever you go! And make sure you plan a small side trip to Europe this year as well – especially to Bratislava :) Looking forward to your experiences from the Inagural parade – very exciting!! xx

  21. Deirdre Spelman says

    I would like to see you do Central and South America and then perhaps a trip to Australia and New Zealand. I think doing the Americas would open new doors and adventures and a way to look at how we all fit together. Also the opportunity to see the rainforest, ecological impact, Inca and Aztec influences, cultural influences etc. would give you so many areas to explore.

  22. says

    Hmmmm. Both good choices for different reasons. Nadia and I faced a similar dilemma when deciding between SE Asia and S. America. We decided to leave S. America for another time as it easier to visit for short durations than SE Asia or Africa. So, my vote is for Africa because it offers so many unique experiences and if you have the time, go for it!

  23. Lukas Novotny says

    Hi Dan
    go to South America to explore this continent – Copacabana beach has definitelly plenty to offer. I voted for South America as I believe it is more attractive for us Europeans :)
    Have fun!

  24. Marilena Angeleanu says

    My dears, I am so, so, so envy! You are travelling and enjoying life! I would like to do it also but, unfortunately….

    Go to Americas! You can have all you want: culture (Inca, Maya, Aztec, etc.), beaches – ones of the most wonderful beaches, fun (Rio Carnival) adventure (jungle, Latin temperament all over :) And last but not least – coca leaves……:)

    Do not go to Middle East just now. As you are more adventurous than the ordinary tourists is not advisable.

    Have a safe trip – wherever you will decide to go.

  25. says

    I vote Central America/South America. Partly because I’m in Central America (and love it) and partly because the temperature right now is pretty darn nice down here.

  26. says

    I’m with the rest of this crew — go to the Americas!

    Exploring isolated ruins, snorkeling protected reefs, swinging through orchid-filled rainforests, photographing fascinating animals, sunning on remote islands, experiencing peace in formerly violent regions, seeing how oil wealth affects Venezuela, cruising the Amazon with a local guide, joining the community of Brazil’s vast beaches, sipping yerba mate, seeing massive cattle ranches, New World versions of Europe, the plains of Patagonia, taking drives through spectacular wine country, gaping wide-eyed at phosphorescent bays and massive waterfalls, and possibly taking a sail to the end of the Earth. All with pretty darn temperate climes, to boot.

    Africa and the Middle East will wait…I say give the world a little more time to create some safety there for everyone.

  27. says

    Hi, Dan and Audrey, from home in Tucson.

    That’s a tough question! I’m not going to vote. Instead, here are some thoughts.

    SAFETY: If that’s your most important factor, I’ll bet you can choose safe places on either continent… you’re savvy travelers who can gather lots of info and figure out how to keep yourselves safe. For instance, in Colombia, there are definite no-go places and others that are fine if you fly in (and bypass dangerous parts).

    SURPRISES: Partly because I grew up in the southwest US, I feel more of a connection to the Americas, and you might, too… which would mean that, if you want to go someplace less familiar, parts of Africa could be the right choice! On the other hand, Spanish is such a useful language in the US that, if you’re planning to spend much time here in the future, studying Spanish could serve you well. (If Bolivia and Ecuador are calm when you go, you might think about studying there, though — at least as a followup to Guatemala. Learning some Quechua will help you in Andean regions where Spanish isn’t spoken much.)

    GETTING AROUND: I haven’t spent much time in Africa, but my impression is that the remote parts can be really hard to reach. I’ve spent a year or so in Central and South America, and it seems easier to reach remote places: if there’s not a bus (which isn’t likely), you can get most places with help from locals.

    VARIETY: I’d guess that South and Central America have more consistent variety in terrain, overall, than Africa and the Middle East. Far southern SA has much more in the way of sub-(Ant)arctic terrain than South Africa. The jungle areas in central SA spread over huge areas (even though there are lots of deforested patches). All through the Americas, you can quickly move from high mountainous areas to steamy lowlands as well as to ocean shores. (Yes, Africa and the Middle East have all of those zones too… just not as close and as constant.) On the other hand, I suspect that it’s easier to find a lot of different cultures, alive and vibrant, in Africa than in the Americas.


    – Ecuador coast, at a beautiful and cheap “eco-resort”: http://photomondiale.com/tours/ecuador_2007/2_playa_escondida.html

    – Ollantaytambo, Peru, in the altiplano: http://photomondiale.com/tours/ppb/03_ollantaytambo.html

    – Northern Peru coast, with fabulous pre-Inca ruins and cheap beach living… for instance, http://photomondiale.com/tours/ppb/16_chan_chan.html and http://photomondiale.com/tours/ppb/12_santa_rosa_beach.html

    – Easter Island, a very remote and magical place that’s worth the effort to visit: http://photomondiale.com/tours/2003rtw/25_rano_raraku/

    – Far southern Chile, with gorgeous scenery (no photos online; I can send you some…)


    – Egyptian sites like Dendara (see the end of http://photomondiale.com/tours/2003rtw/09_luxor_east_bank/ … I have lots more photos)

    – The Drakensberg mountains in South Africa: http://photomondiale.com/tours/2003rtw/15_drakensberg/

    I hope that helps!

  28. Sirje Ehrenpreis says

    I suggest Central and South America- so I can get to know these areas as well when reading your writings. Good luck!

  29. says

    I vote for Central and South America because I believe it’s somewhat safer, easier to travel around and since it’s my least travelled region, I’d love to learn more and experience it all through your eyes. Have a great journey!

  30. says

    We’ve been pretty silent on this end, waiting until the poll closed and all the comments came in before responding. We have loved getting your thoughts and advice here. Thank you.

    Just to let you know, we have tallied up the results from the poll, emails and comments and have the final results, calendar winners, and our decision on where to go next right here: http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2009/01/africa-south-america-poll-results/

    Thanks again and please continue to send ideas and suggestions our way!

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