Whether you choose Africa, Cuba, Ecuador or Vietnam, Simon Calder provides a guide to vacation spots that could change your point of view without costing the earth

RATHER than trying to change the world, let travelling the world change you. The Independent offers the chance to broaden the mind, extend horizons and enhance your life. Here are 10 ways to spend pounds 1,000 on a trip to the four corners - and one way to spend pounds 30,000 across the seven seas.

1. A trip to New Zealand, the most distant country from the UK, costs well under pounds 1,000. Swap a dismal autumn in Britain for spring in the South Island. For pounds 828 in November, Quest Worldwide (081-547 3322) will sell you a round-the-world ticket pivoting on Auckland, with stopovers in Bombay, Singapore, Melbourne, Los Angeles and New York.

2. Much of the world will look almost the same this time next year, but Cuba, on the edge of economic collapse, is bound to change. Show your solidarity and/or a clean pair of Lycra shorts to Fidel Castro by joining the Progressive Tours cycle ride across the Caribbean's largest island (1,100 miles from end to end). The pedalling starts on November 26 and lasts for two weeks. Call 071-262 1676 to sign up, but be warned that places are in short supply. The price of pounds 938 includes all meals, hotels and mechanical assistance - an invaluable asset given the decrepit state of Cuban roads.

3. 'You can take a man out of Africa, but you can't take Africa out of a man.' However hackneyed that expression, few journeys are as life-changing as a trek in Africa. For ten pounds less than a grand, Explore Worldwide (0252 319448) offers a 16-day safari travelling with a small group in Kenya. The trek takes in the Samburu nature reserve, the Rift Valley lakes and the Masai Mara Game Reserve, with some days spent hiking with the Masai people.

4. Disney fans could stitch together a trip taking in the original Disneyland in California, the massive Walt Disney World in Florida and less-than-excessively-profitable EuroDisney. Major Travel (071-485 7017) can sell you a ticket from London, Manchester or Glasgow out to Los Angeles, across to Orlando and back to the UK for pounds 352. Major also offers a side trip to Paris on British Midland for pounds 92; the bus from the airport to EuroDisney is pounds 9 each way.

Even with admission fees (about pounds 100 for all three) and spending as much on souvenirs as Disney would like, you should have enough left for a day at Parc Asterix, near EuroDisney, where the multiple corkscrew rollercoaster will change your stomach forever.

5. You can't hope to reach Japan's Disney on the same trip as the USA, but you could combine EuroDisney with a trip to the Far East's economic powerhouse. The Japan Travel Centre (071-287 0838) can fix you up with a flight to Tokyo or Nagoya via Paris for pounds 682, and a further pounds 291 buys a two-week rail pass. Assuming you stay in ryokans (cheap bed-and-breakfasts) and don't acquire a taste for sake, you may be able to eke out your spending money for a fortnight of guaranteed fascination.

6. Bid farewell to a nationalised British Rail by taking four pals from London to Inverness and back in First Class. Taking the same trip in a cab hailed in Trafalgar Square, you would need to ditch one person to comply with the law, and - allowing for a few hold-ups en route - the meter should click over to pounds 990.00 as you reach Inverness. You will have to hitch-hike home.

7. Indo-China has been largely off-limits for years, but now Vietnam and Cambodia are opening up to the first independent travellers. The region reveals an extraordinary range of landscapes and cultures, and an astonishing spirit among the people. Regent Holidays (0272 211711) offers an eight-day trip to Vietnam for just a shade short of pounds 1,000; you can use the spare for the bus trip to Phnom Penh - the full- day ride costs pounds 3 each way, including the ferry across the Mekong.

8. A shopping trip to Hong Kong doesn't have to begin at Heathrow airport; it could start at Victoria station. The China Travel Service (071-836 9911) sells the Big Red Train Ride from Moscow to Hong Kong for pounds 400. Combine this with a pounds 179 London-Moscow ticket from British Rail International (071-834 2345), and a cheap flight home from the colony, and you should have pounds 32 spare to spend in the markets of Kowloon; any more than this, and you exceed the UK customs limit.

9. Canada's eastern fringes are the country's best-kept secret. All the maritime provinces share a beguiling naivety, most touchingly displayed on Prince Edward Island. The setting for Anne of Green Gables is soon to be linked to the rest of Canada - and the rest of the century - by a new bridge. Enjoy the last days of its charmed and secluded life. A pair of romantics can fly with Air Canada (081-759 2636) to the island's delightful capital, Charlottetown, for a total of pounds 958 return; a candlelit dinner for two at The Gainsford, an unprepossessing but fine restaurant, should neatly soak up the remaining cash.

10. The optimum way to dispose of pounds 1,000 is on a curving course around South America. From London you can fly to Caracas and Bogota - exhilarating high-altitude capitals that vie with each other for the highest crime rate and the friendliest people. Then Quito in Ecuador, a colonial treasure poised on the Equator. Lima's considerable attractions are free of crowds due to its undeserved reputation for attacks on tourists. La Paz is the world's highest capital, wedged in a cleft in the Bolivian Altiplano nearly three miles above sea level. Finally, Asuncion lies at the back end of a very distant beyond - the Paraguayan capital is the epitome of Graham Greene-land; he researched The Honorary Consul there.

The air fare for this crescent of cities, taking in six countries, should be pounds 1,012, but South American Experience (071-976 5511) has agreed to round the fare down, for Independent readers, to pounds 1,000.

THE BIG ONE: At the end of the month, Gloucester is the unlikely starting point for the voyage of a lifetime. The Soren Larsen, a wooden brigantine, begins a cruise to New Zealand, via the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, and the South Pacific. Passengers are encouraged to participate in sailing the vessel as she covers half the globe. The full fare should be pounds 17,000, but the organisers (0452 812162) say a pair of Independent readers can make the trip for pounds 30,000. You will be put on the waiting list for the Tonga-to-Tahiti sector, but it could be a pleasant wait.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments