You have 28 days and $15k. Go!
January 24, 2012 7:52 PM   Subscribe

You have 28 days (in one chunk of time) and $15,000 in cash. You can go anywhere in the world, as long as it's not in the United States (for more than 24 hours while in transit) or a US territory.

This is going to be a fairly open ended question, and there are no right or wrong answers. Answers can be from your own experience, of course, or just fun things that you have thought about or heard about.
I may be in this very situation in mid 2012 and while i have a few ideas (like visiting Japan again) nothing is set in stone and I'm always interested in hearing what others think.

You aren't really a huge tourist type that wants to see the 7 wonders of the world, but want to go somewhere interesting and reasonably safe. You don't have to spend the entire $15,000. You're single, have no kids, and aren't bringing anybody with you.

Multiple destinations are OK. Where would you go and why? What would you do?
posted by drstein to Travel & Transportation (43 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Antarctic Cruise. 100% worth it HOWEVER I hope your days off are in Dec 2012. Additionally, while you're down there really explore Patagonia and Perito Moreno.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:05 PM on January 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Switzerland would be pretty high on my list, because it's awesome -- beautiful and restful.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:05 PM on January 24, 2012

I'd buy a Eurorail Global Pass for 1 month and bum around the 23 countries that gives you access to, stopping wherever looks interesting, crashing in hostels, and generally hoboing around. I'd probably spend some extra money to do the same around Britain for a few days on said journey.

Wouldn't nail it down too much because I really enjoy playing it by ear and doing whatever looks interesting.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:08 PM on January 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

I came in to say round the world trip (destinations TBD), but I like the Antarctica suggestion. Check G Adventures for some ideas. Another option is a kick-ass African safari.
posted by cabingirl at 8:09 PM on January 24, 2012

I would love to take a train ride across China, stopping in villages and cities along the way to explore. Just 20 years ago, China was a closed economy with no McDonalds where foreigners were not free to travel at will and were constantly monitored as they moved about. Now it's a country in the midst of an excruciatingly slow revolution that seems to be spinning toward freedom. It's geographically, ethnically and architecturally diverse and interesting. A country of extremes of wealth and poverty, ancient origins and a passion for the new, pop-up skyscrapers and ancient ceramics, rampant plagiarism and great poetry.

I lived there in the early 1990s, when strangers at the Great Wall of China stopped photographing the wall so they could have their pictures taken with the white girl and oceans of bicycles flowed through the streets of Beijing. Everything I've read about its massive transformation makes me want to return to China early and often to gain first-hand experience of its changes. (A similar impulse inspired my trip to Glacier National Park, to see the glaciers while they lasted.)
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:11 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd go somewhere a little difficult or remote which can't be done justice in a seven day vacation.

Southern Mexico/Cuba
South Africa
Seeing the absolute SHIT out of Italy

Or - I'd do a "backpacking through X" sort of trip, for example:
Russia to Beijing via the Trans-Siberian Railroad
Trekking in Nepal
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
A good chunk of the Camino de Santiago in Spain (you can't actually complete it in 28 days, alas)

Or or or - I'd pick one amazing city it would be cool to live in for a month, no expenses spared:
St. Petersberg
Hong Kong
Buenos Aires

And if for some reason none of that stuff floats your boat and you just want to be a tourist, you could blow the $15K on a shorter trip, like maybe a safari in Kenya or a cruise to Antarctica. (actually I'm not sure $15K would cover a whole trip to Antarctica, but you should price this out if it intrigues.)
posted by Sara C. at 8:14 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like Antarctica as a suggestion, but mid-winter might be brutal. The polar opposite? Take the midsummer Hurtigruten, which is 12 days, there and back. Perhaps spend some time between there and back.

Or a great railway journey: Trans-Siberian, trans-China, trans-India.
posted by holgate at 8:14 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

A good chunk of the Camino de Santiago in Spain (you can't actually complete it in 28 days, alas)

If you're fit, it's doable if you start along the French Way in Pamplona instead of St. Jean Pied de Port, but that means skipping the Pyrenees. July is peak Camino season, though, as people try to arrive in Santiago on the feast day.
posted by holgate at 8:23 PM on January 24, 2012

The decadence of Berlin. It's no longer the days of the Weimar, but still no less thrilling.
posted by Ardiril at 8:24 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would visit the coral atolls of the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific (the Maldives, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa, parts of the Seychelles and French Polynesia, etc). Fascinating landforms.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:24 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you're in reasonably fit shape and don't mind physical exertion, I'd do the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. This is on my bucket list.

goddamn I am jealous of you right now. but in a good way! you lucky cool person!
posted by zennish at 8:25 PM on January 24, 2012

If you thirst for a good combination of adventure and sophistication, I'd spend a week or so in Vienna (see the philharmonic, all the beautiful Hapsburg era palaces and zoo, plus whatever else cultural thing on earth strikes your fancy- and don't forget the wine trail!), then train it/fly down to Budapest, spend a week (maybe five days) there, and then head down to Dubrovnik (pretty, eh?) for some relaxing beach and beautiful scenery.

None of those places are too touristy in that there's no place to slip quietly into authenticity if you want that, but all of them are touristy enough for you to be comfortable and entertained. Budapest and Dubrovnik are cheap (compared to, say, Paris), and you'll travel well in Eastern Europe on your budget.
posted by libertypie at 8:28 PM on January 24, 2012

Given that much time, I'd take my touring bike and pick a country. Countries/routes depend how fit you are, or how much you like biking in the mountains.

I did this a few years ago biking from Budapest to Prague via Vienna, and am dreaming of a similar vacation to Spain. England would be an obvious easy choice, and anywhere in western Europe would probably be pretty easy logistically. You really get to see the countryside and towns, not just the typical tourist highlights. I did the trip with a friend, but we probably traveled independently about half the time. As an early-20's female who didn't even speak the local languages I never felt unsafe. It doesn't have to be hugely physically demanding - pick a route that follows a river, and plan to stop at any reasonably-sided town on your route. When you're tired, stop for a day and enjoy the local cafes.

Alternatively, fly to Argentina, buy a motorcycle, and ride from Rio Gallegos to the Bolivian border. Stop and explore anything that looks interesting.
posted by Metasyntactic at 8:29 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ah! Berlin! I hadn't really thought about that as a destination, but I can see that it's rather popular. Interesting. *starts looking at stuff*

One other thing I forgot to mention.. I can't accumulate a bunch of stuff. What I arrive (wherever) with is what I'll leave with. There are reasons for it I can't go into. :-)
posted by drstein at 8:29 PM on January 24, 2012

Ice Hotel

I don't know where or what - but if I had the time and money, I'd want to accomplish something significant for someone less fortunate (helping building homes, feeding the hungry, taking care of orphaned children, etc.)
posted by Sassyfras at 8:33 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can't accumulate a bunch of stuff but have $15K to blow anywhere in the world?

I have never in my life heard a better excuse to eat at all the 3-Michelin-Starred restaurants in France.


Round trip flight to Paris (from NYC): $700

Four weeks in a Paris apartment, via : $3000

Four weekend car rentals in France: Let's say $200/weekend? = $800

That leaves you $10,500 to eat your way through France.
posted by Sara C. at 8:38 PM on January 24, 2012 [13 favorites]

If you're in reasonably fit shape and don't mind physical exertion, I'd do the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.

But not in monsoon season, which is smack bang in the middle of the year.
posted by holgate at 8:39 PM on January 24, 2012

If you planned a route that includes London, Paris, Amsterdam and The Hague, you could see 12 of the 32 known Vermeer paintings that are currently viewable by the public. There are 6 more spread across Germany (Berlin, Dresden, Branschweig and Frankfurt) and one each in Vienna, Edinburgh and Dublin, if you really wanted to get fired up about it.

I like the idea of having a quest serve as the propelling force in a trip like this, though of course it's as much an excuse to see all the wonderful things in between. You could do something similar around the settings of Shakespeare's plays, or the birthplaces of your favorite musicians/authors, or the world's (or a continent's) largest domes, or the world's 30 ancient Egyptian obelisks still standing, etc.....

Otherwise, if it were me? The Galapagos, Easter Island and one other in French Polynesia. Or the Himalayas.

Can't wait to hear what you end up deciding/doing.
posted by argonauta at 8:42 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @sassyfras: I've actually spent a lot of my own time doing charity work, and will have plenty of time after to continue to do so. This will be a once in a lifetime thing. :-)

@argonauta: It'll be in mid 2012 (probably late summer/early fall) so the question will probably be closed by then, but i'll do my best to update.

All of these are good answers. I'm definitely interested more in Prague and Berlin too!
posted by drstein at 8:49 PM on January 24, 2012

I would fly to England, where a buddy has a motorcycle garaged that I am welcome to borrow at any time. I would hop on said motorcycle, do a week in the UK, and the take a ferry to France and spend the remaining 3 weeks riding around Europe as whim carried me.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:56 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

@sassyfras: I've actually spent a lot of my own time doing charity work, and will have plenty of time after to continue to do so. This will be a once in a lifetime thing. :-)

You have 28 days (in one chunk of time) and $15,000 in cash.

I was talking about myself anyway.
Continuing on . . . I'd totally hang out at Loch Ness and see if I could catch glimpse of Nessie. No joke, I'd do that.

I'd also love to go on a horseback riding adventure. Or some Indiana Jones-ish type adventure . . . searching for treasures and whatnot. Oooh, perhaps look for Noah's Ark!
posted by Sassyfras at 8:56 PM on January 24, 2012

Transatlantic cruise, then go all over Europe.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:59 PM on January 24, 2012

28 days and $15K? Greenland and Iceland, baby.
Take the Hurtigruten MV Fram from Reykjavik on a slow small-group cruise to the west coast of Greenland, stop in the many colorful towns and sites, photograph the massive icebergs then return from Kangerlussuaq to Copenhagen back to Reykjavik, then drive around Iceland (away from the Ring Road, please) for the remaining 14 days.
That was me in 2010 (different dollars though) and might be again this summer.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:14 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like the idea of a quest; perhaps pick two antipodes and visit them both -- either China & Argentina/Uruguay or Spain/New Zealand.

With that kind of big budget, I'd buy a round-the-world ticket (RTW) for the airline alliance of my choice, and then spend the 28 days giving myself as much culture shock as humanly possible; go from Switzerland to Timbuktu to Istanbul to Singapore or something.

The last trip I took was roughly a month; I intended to go from Venice to Athens, but really only got as far as Tirana, Albania. But it was well under $15K.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:35 PM on January 24, 2012

posted by zia at 10:24 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

There are lots of great possibilities, but I'd suggest that whatever you do, take your time. With that much money, sure, you could be jetting off here and there and everywhere. You could put a lot of stamps on your passport and impress your friends. But I think your time would be better spent really getting to know a place. Stay in each country for at least a week. Don't spend too much time in transit. Couchsurf and get to know the locals and the things they like to do, and the places they like to go. Make friends. Take pictures of yourself having fun instead of just "Here's me in front of [xyz tourist attraction]. Be a part of where you go, instead of apart from it.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 11:03 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think spend a week in a different region of the world would provide very interesting contrasts.. say Belize (or somewhere in Central America.. but Belize is personal favorite), India or China, Africa and then end in Europe. (Of course, depends on where you've been before.. I'd go to totally new places.. Russia, New Zealand and Fiji are high on my list, but anyway..)

A week would be enough to emerse yourself in the local life, as buckaroo rightly suggests, but I think seeing the vastly differing cultures and ways of life so close together would be wildly eye opening.
posted by rich at 5:16 AM on January 25, 2012

Consider joining an expedition. They tend to have a clear purpose and they will often provide you with access to places and experiences which would not be open to tourists. Examples of organisations that you could consider include Earthwatch.

Otherwise - Svalbard perhaps.
posted by rongorongo at 6:55 AM on January 25, 2012

I'd go with the "I" countries. Iceland, Ireland, Italy, India. Maybe through Israel in there.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:05 AM on January 25, 2012

Budapest to Prague via Vienna...

These would be my 3 cities. I recently did this (but with only about $7K for 2 people for 3 weeks) and it was the greatest thing I've ever done.
posted by coolguymichael at 7:37 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

One of my favorite things in Berlin was the Pergamon museum, so named for the giant Pergamon Altar inside. I'd spend two weeks in Berlin and include this museum, then head to Istanbul for another two weeks. While there, I would take a day trip to visit the actual ruins of the Ancient Greek city of Pergamon as well as another to see the ruins of Troy. You could stop for a few days somewhere along the way like Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, etc.

Couchsurfing and/or hostels? If they sound like fun to you, by all means use them. But if you like your privacy, do not feel bad about staying in a hotel and keeping to yourself. People relax in different ways and for some, the constant presence of strangers is not conducive to chilling out.
posted by soelo at 10:20 AM on January 25, 2012

If I had that kind of money, I would be, at the very least, opting for private rooms in the hostels or reserving apartments. I'd probably be pretty tempted to snag a boutique hotel here and there. Especially if roughing it on a month-long expedition isn't your style. If your trip is ultimately going to be a week each in four European cities, why not treat yourself a little?
posted by Sara C. at 11:08 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hire a campervan and travel around Australia and/or New Zealand

Go on and "help out" on an Archaeological dig, or one of those holidays where you go take notes in some far off location for a scientific study and pretend I'm Indiana Jones for a month.

Go and maroon myself on some tropic island for a month and get myself set to living on Island time. Eat fish I'd caught off a tropical beach, drink a cold bear and watch the sun set under a coconut tree. Or bum around Fiji for a month.

Get a train pass and travel around Europe and do a museum & art gallery crawl seeing every major piece of artwork I can think of.

Hire a canal boat and travel through Europe on it, stopping only to eat delicious food.

These are all the holidays I've dreamed of taking.
posted by wwax at 1:08 PM on January 25, 2012

Go see Australia and New Zealand.

Walk across England.

Travel around Europe, reading 18th & 19th Century novels and visiting their settings. Make sure to do a book with your pictures. If you choose carefully, you can probbaly stick the Project Gutenberg etext in there with links to your own photos
posted by wenestvedt at 1:20 PM on January 25, 2012

In your position, I'd buy an Interrail ticket (or is it Eurrail if you're not from Europe?) and travel through the continent by train with a backpack, swapping hostels for comfortable hotels. I went to Amsterdam last week and took the train to Utrecht, and it made me wish that I could just spend a few weeks hopping around and eating delicious local cheeses. You can get to Paris on the Eurostar from London for about £59 right now, and then you can do what you like. Personally I'd be spending a few days in Utrecht (I really really liked it but was only there for the day) pretending that I actually lived there, then head to Krakow, Budapest, Porto, Berlin and all the other amazing-sounding cities I'm yet to visit. I'd probably end up spending some of that budget on new camera lenses first, though. I don't know why, but the thought of taking a train from Paris to Berlin or Rome to Zurich makes me feel like I'm in a spy novel.

We are going to Estonia, Finland and Sweden later this year, two of which are expensive countries (we shan't be eating out much) but easy to get between by boat and sounding nice just to wander round for a while. I'd be keen to travel round Scandinavia (including Greenland and Iceland), Switzerland or Japan, all of which are currently too expensive for my budget.
posted by mippy at 3:50 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, one place I'd really like to go to is Lundy Island during puffin season - there or the Orkneys/Shetlands. It's actually more expensive to go there for someone living in London than it is to fly to New York, though, if you can't drive.
posted by mippy at 3:51 PM on January 25, 2012

I'd choose one country that I find particularly fascinating and spend the entire month immersing myself in it. Do a full week in the greatest city, spend some time meandering around the countryside, find the best local food and drink, make a point of giving myself full days to do nothing but wander.

I'm really not sure where I'd do this, exactly, but the short list probably includes Italy, France, Turkey and China.
posted by breakin' the law at 4:01 PM on January 25, 2012

Also: I'd probably go for a mix of accommodations. Some couchsurfing and hostels, some quiet hotels and bed and breakfasts. Probably more of the former in cities and more of the latter in the country.
posted by breakin' the law at 4:03 PM on January 25, 2012

Personally, I'd go on an alternately serious and relaxing birding trip, probably at least one week via a bird touring company of some sort, in Indonesia/Australia.
Some of that money would be pre-spent on bird guides for the area as well as a better pair of binoculars. Taking pictures is awesome, but unless you're a professional, it's better just to experience the nature that won't wait for you to fiddle with your camera settings due to sudden lighting change.

After about 28 days and a low estimate of about 1000 birds added to my life list, I'd ride that nerdy-naturalist's collector's high for the rest of the year.

....................damn it, now I'm planning this out for a "someday" :-D
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:17 PM on January 25, 2012

Great Britain and Ireland. I spent 11 days in England and Scotland (Scotland was only an overnight train trip plus a night there) and it wasn't nearly enough time.
posted by deborah at 6:03 PM on January 25, 2012

I'd do the entire country of South Africa. 28 days is enough to see Cape Town, the Garden Route, Durban, dive at Aliwal Shoal (you can learn there - I did!), the Drakensbergs, Swaziland/Lesotho, Pretoria, Jo'burg, the Karoo, could even do Vic Falls (although I'd avoid zim for moral reasons).

It's amazing at any time of year. And you can splash out on adventures - game reserves, scuba, surfing, shark cage, bungee, etc.

I've been three times and it always beats Europe, Central America and the Middle East for me. Can't speak to Oz/NZ but i'd love to go there too.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:13 PM on January 25, 2012

Man. with $15,000 I would fly to Japan, fly up to Hokkaido, rent a car and drive around the place, being sure to go to onsens. I would then take a flight or ferry to Vladivostok, and would then head to Kamchatka to go see brown bears and a live volcano.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:14 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: FYI, I'm still reading this. I've been looking at a lot of ideas, including the Star Alliance (I'm a US Airways member) "Round the World Fare" too.

Japan & Germany are topping the list. I used to live in Japan, and love it there.

I'm actually starting the trip in the Middle East.
posted by drstein at 4:12 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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