Most people long to travel but haven't given much thought to where they want to go or what they would like to experience. Preferences often include Paris, New York or Hawaii. When I ask why, I usually hear Paris because "it seems so romantic" or "I've always wanted to go". New York may elicit a response about being a vibrant city and the desire to feel the energy of it. And Hawaii is a top beach destination for its undeniable beauty and exoticism.
These are all wonderful places. But certainly not the only places to consider. If romance is what you want, what could be more romantic than walking the streets in Vieux-Montréal and eating at one of the best foodie cities in the world? What about a private rice boat through the backwaters of Kerala (India)?
And if you want a vibrant city, Ho Chi Minh is where it's at. I triple dog dare you to cross the street by yourself. And how fun it is to sit on an upturned crate and drink bia hoi (the daily beer) for just cents. Beer so cheap that the whole outdoor bar buys everyone else rounds.
If it's a beach you are after, there is no prettier sand than the Emerald Coast in Florida. But for something more exotic, Thailand's islands are not to be missed. Mountains, clear water, beautiful sand, shallow waters and the best food and friendliest people you'll ever meet. And once airfare is removed, your costs are extremely low.
So how do you find these places aside from word of mouth? Spend time thinking about your travel goals. Learn about geography. Culture. History. Your Interests.
This may sound too time-consuming of an activity. You don't have time for that, you need a vacation not more work to do, right? I get it. But I also promise that spending some time thinking and researching will create richer trips throughout your travel life.
I love atlases. I love them so much that an atlas is the only book that is allowed to permanently reside on my coffee table. Get one and explore which countries line the equator. These destinations will have good temperatures all year long (though you will have to account for rainy seasons). As you move further away from the equator, you have to think about your direction and the temperatures. Santa delivers in board shorts in Australia, people.
What makes you happy: mountains, water, forests, glaciers? I like all of these things but I'm usually yearning for one over the other. An atlas can help you quickly narrow your focus.
Culture and Language
I have lived in Texas for over 25 years, and I have many friends that are originally from Mexico. But I've learned more about the country in the past year because I started learning to speak Spanish. Once I started to learn the language, I started noticing more things when I was at restaurants and stores, reading menus and labels. The more that I learned, the more I started to ask my friends questions and I went to the library and got several books about Mexico. I realized that so many of the handicrafts that I enjoy at El Mercado in San Antonio and from other favorite stores comes from the Oaxaca region. And the Netflix special, 'Taco Chronicles', has added Mexico City to my travel list because I want to try al pastor tacos from the street vendors and taquerias that specialize in these little packets of pork nirvana.
Want to understand more about hygge? Read up on Denmark and this aspirational lifestyle. You'll have even more proof that travel makes life better.
Books and History
Do you love Cajun food? Learn the history of Louisiana and about the Creole, French and American history that influenced the food, architecture, and spirit of this vibrant state. A trip to Baton Rouge and New Orleans will be that much more meaningful.
If fiction is more of your thing, enjoy literature settings and glean what you can about a place without reading a reference book. Anne Rice may get you more excited for New Orleans over Frommers or Lonely Planet.
Finding places to travel can be passive, you don't have to actively seek out a place. As you build your list of places to travel, keep it somewhere handy. I keep a list in my Notes app on my phone because it's quick and readily accessible. I then transfer that periodically to a spreadsheet that can store more information.
We will talk more in a future article about how to manage that travel list. With these tips, however, you'll have a great travel list in no time.
What are your favorite sources of travel inspiration?