As someone who is constantly traveling, for fun and for my business, deciding where to go next and where I want to go in the future can be a difficult task. There currently 195 countries on this planet and since I really do want to travel (almost) everywhere, narrowing down a few options based on how long I have, the season, and price is seemingly impossible, especially at first. And it is not only for me. As a professional travel consultant, it is my job to help my clients choose a destination. Where to begin? Thankfully the world is filled with resources to inspire us travelers, and with the internet, there are always new travel stories and photos being uploaded, providing travelers with constant inspiration and information. When planning a new trip for myself (or my clients), I rely on the following sources, some more heavily than others.
Instagram: Since I am so into aesthetics, colors, and beautiful landscapes, I often find travel inspiration from photographs. Lately Instagram has been my #1 online source for this. Following almost nothing but travel feeds, I constantly drool over random places that have never crossed my mind as “I want to go there!” My weekend in Porto, Portugal was 100% Insta inspired, and it did not disappoint. The other awesome thing about Instagram is following all of the feeds for a specific destination once I have made a travel decision and booked a trip. Then, after the trip, I have not only my own photos as memories, but everyone else’s too! Having photos from Spain randomly pop up in my Insta feed when I am thousands of miles away always makes me smile.
Travel guidebooks: One of my favorite lazy day activities is to peruse independent bookshops. Not surprisingly, you can most always find me in the travel section. I tend to do a lot of my initial destination research at a bookshop, before I commit to a specific location. Although I don’t use them while I am traveling, the Eyewitness Travel guides, which are photo-heavy, are really fun to browse. Because I dream in visuals, photos are more helpful for choosing a place to go, which is why Lonely Planet is not my first choice when looking for inspiration. However, once I commit to a place and go deep in the planning, I turn to my trusty Lonely Planet (which I often carry on the road with me). But for my initial browsing and making decisions, nothing beats those travel guides that show you everything. And an independent bookshop is the best place to thumb through them (just make sure you also purchase whichever guidebook you will be using from an independent bookshop; help keep them in business!)
Travel writing books: Many moons ago, I read a book called Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi. At the time, she was the youngest person to sail around the world, solo. While the sailing parts were interesting but sometimes a little too technical for me, I found her travels to be fascinating. She wrote with such great detail about exotic and faraway lands that I too dreamed of seeing. One of the countries included in her journey was Sri Lanka. Reading her tales of Sri Lankan rail journeys, the architecture, and the friendly people on the tear shaped island just to the south of India sparked something in me. It took several decades, but I finally visited Sri Lanka myself and fell madly in love with the country. It was that book that first got the Sri Lanka travel inspiration ball rolling.
Newspaper travel sections: In the days before the internet, everyone got the Sunday paper. And all of the major publications had travel sections. Families would spend lazy Sundays together reading the paper. As a child and teenager, every Sunday morning, I was first to tear the paper apart looking for that golden travel section. As my family read the morning paper together, I’d read the travel section cover to cover, planning (in my head, anyway) our dream vacations. Back in the days, this was the best way to get updated airfare information. These days, the Sunday paper is almost extinct, but thankfully most major newspapers continue to have an online travel section. And thanks to social media and the internet, reading not just the local paper’s travel sections is fairly easy.
Travel agents: Yes, we are a dying breed. But we are not dead yet. Before I started working as a travel agent myself, I’d often find myself in various travel offices looking through the brochures. Nowadays, most agencies have an online presence, but there are still some mom and pop storefront locations (especially in Europe, Asia, and Latin America). And browsing the brochures is still a fun activity for me, and has lead to some decision making. Since this is my line of work, I feel very at home at a brick and mortar travel agency, and understand the wealth of information that can be gained from visiting one.
Television: While I do not watch a lot of television, when I do, it is usually (surprise!) travel related. One of my favorite guilty pleasures is The Amazing Race. That show is extremely superficial, but, despite the pettiness of the competition, I will admit that they do a fairly good job at capturing the beauty of the countries that they visit. While I was tied down with a broken foot and couldn’t travel, I binged watched all 20+ seasons on the internet. In fact, to this day I often look up specific episodes of that show when I am needing a little information or inspiration myself. Other television programs, such as Rick Steves, Anthony Bourdain, and Lonely Planet’s (now defunct) Globe Trekker series have all inspired my travels in various ways as well.
Other travel blogs: As a travel blogger myself, I read other travel blogs for inspiration, not only for my own writing but my own travels as well. Often times, travel blogs are my first line of Google research as they provide a wealth of information from varying perspectives. Travel bloggers are also really good at getting off the beaten path, and I am constantly looking for less traveled destinations to explore myself. Furthermore, travel bloggers often have a niche market, which is perfect for travelers with different needs and interests (in fact, I reference travel blogs to help my personal travel clients who might not be into the same travel style that I am). The internet is saturated with such blogs, and there are always new ones popping up. That means that the travel inspiration coming from them is never-ending.
Those are some places where I start to plan my next (or subsequent) adventures. And when I am on the road, I often look back at the original source(s) that brought me to where I am. It is always fun to look back to the very beginnings of trip planning.
Next time you can’t choose a destination, you might want to pull in some outside help too. And I can always assist you with choosing a destination based on your individual needs and budget, as this is what I do professionally. Please reach out to me for a personalized travel consultation and we can go from there. No matter where your next adventure takes you, I hope it is a memorable one!
My name is Karen & travel is not only my passion but also my profession.