Magazine articles, blogs, TV shows, even apps: all make regular claims to help inspire us to choose our next holiday destination. Some of these must work for there to be enough advertising money floating around to keep so many people in business.
But so much of what is out there doesn’t inspire me at all. That’s probably as it should be. After all, we’re not all inspired by the same sources, and those things that make me want to book a flight somewhere immediately will be dismissed as fluffy nonsense by others.
With that in mind I thought I’d look at those things that do help influence where we travel and those that leave us cold. My own list is featured here, but feel free to add your own examples of what it is that provides your travel inspiration.
Things that work for me
1. Good books that feature a particular location
The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk sold me on Central Asia by bringing the region to life with tales of adventure, danger and of the incredible architecture.
2. Images of impressive landmarks
A couple of images of the Roman site at Merida in Spain led me to radically change the course of a recent trip. Unusual photos of famous landmarks, especially those taken at night for some reason, seem to work particularly well for me.
3. Inspiring guide book entries
Guide books are only useful for me once the trip is booked, but can have a great influence on our itinerary in a particular city or region. Descriptions of churches, temples, museums that make them sound exceptional (or even better, bizarre) work wonders.
4. Personal anecdotes
Stories from friends who have been somewhere. This can go both ways (some stories I hear and think “I’ll cross that place off my list'”) but there have been quite a few that have inspired us to make a sudden change our plans.
5. Descriptions of delicious (and good value) food
Tell me about a sumptuous three course meal that cost you (or your hosts) a fortune and I’m lost. Describe that cosy little cafe with the to-die-for chocolate brownies and I’ll be getting out my highlighter pen and building my enitre schedule around a visit there.
Things that don’t work for me
1. A luxury extravanganza
If you’re writing or telling me gushingly about staying in a $700 suite in a posh hotel, I’m very happy for you. But it doesn’t make me interested even in staying in the lowly basic rooms in the said hotel. You’ve painted a picture to me of someone else’s world, not mine.
2. Celebrity chefs
When people tell me about going to this restaurant in London owned by Gordon Ramsay, or that place in Paris run by (insert name of famous and pretentious French chef), I tune out immediately. I see a world of pompous staff, small portions and an extortionate bill to round off the night. I know it’s very uncultured of me, but when I think back to my best meals they all shared the virtues of quantity, quality and value for money.
3. Sandy white beaches
White sandy beaches will entice many folks to cross the world with little more than their swimwear, their suntan lotion and a good book but it doesn’t work for me. With my beach tolerance limited to a couple of hours at a push, a place that sells sea and sand as its main draw is never going to top my list.
4. Party/drinking stories
These come up increasingly in the blogging world but have always existed in the personal anecdotes people share with friends. When someone comes back from holiday what’s the main story they bore their friends with? Is it wandering through the old city or seeing a spectacular sunset or tropical storm? Or is it meeting the delightful Brian and Joyce from Wolverhampton, getting trashed on cheap ouzo and throwing the sunbeds into the pool at 3am? I’m as much for a good night out as the next person, but would avoid like the plague anywhere that is considered a ‘party destination’.
5. Pictures or stories of people doing things
When people describe how much they enjoyed their bungee jump from an Alpine hut or their story-telling workshop in India I’m pleased that they’ve clearly had a good time. Will it make me want to visit those locations? If I had no desire to go to those places before, these stories are hardly going to inspire me as they tell me nothing about the place itself. Someone else’s adventures are just that; they don’t help me to know what I would find of interest there.