Where I Find Travel Inspiration


Just like a lot of people who enjoy traveling, I have a bucket list. Though I’d love to explore the world, the fact of the matter is that there’s an awful lot of world to see. Naturally, though, there are a few places that float to the top when it comes to deciding where I want to travel next.

Some people may be surprised to find that I don’t personally draw a lot of my travel ideas from online travel resources, but there are plenty of sites out there interested in helping people choose that perfect somewhere.

So where does my travel inspiration come from? How do I decide where to travel? Here are five ways I find ideas for where I want to go next:

1. Music – If you know anything about me, then you know that it is very odd that music inspires some of my travels. The truth is that I know nothing about music, and I’m terribly out of touch regarding what is mainstream and what the hip, underground music is at any given period of time.

But if you want to talk about an eclectic collection of music from around the world, then I’ve got it. My love of Celtic and Irish-inspired music have pushed Ireland to the top of my list of places to go. Seriously, does anyone else have the entire collection of albums by Clannad, not to mention several Celtic Christmas and other similarly Irish-inspired albums?

I’ve had a hankering for the Silk Road ever since I happened to run into the Silk Road Festival in Washington, DC, in 2001, where I had the chance to see Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble perform. The haunting sounds of the festival have piqued my interest in the likes of Tajikistan and Mongolia ever since.

Over the years, I’ve managed to amass several CDs from the Rough Guide Music and Putumayo World Music collections, and my afternoon play list now includes local tunes from the Balkans, jazz from Africa, Peruvian flutes and didgeridoos from Australia. Every time I pop one in, I instantly want to pack my bags.

2. Pictures – The energy and vibrancy captured by good travel photography definitely gets me excited. I love pictures of natural settings and minimal people as well as bustling markets stacked with a rainbow of products. I also love photos of events—the Olympics, Carnival, the Fringe Festival—though the idea of actually dealing with the logistics of finding a place to stay and park so I can enjoy them can be daunting.

There’s something about the perfect photo of an isolated beach with the popping oranges and pinks of a sunset that really appeals to me. Or those vertigo-inducing, brilliantly green pictures of Machu Picchu that don’t appear to have any people in them; I’ve been there, and somehow all of my pictures ended up with people in them plus it was foggy and rainy.

I know Stonehenge is surrounded by a highway and I’m aware that there’s not much on Easter Island besides moai, but I still want to go there because photographs draw me to to those destinations.

3. Similar Trips – If I’ve enjoyed one particular destination, I know that chances are high that I’m going to like another similar destinations. It’s almost always a sure bet that I’m going to find something I like about a U.S. national park just because of the nature of the destination. Sure, not everything lives up to its hype (even though I love popular parks like Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain, I couldn’t find it in my heart to fall in love with Yosemite), but there’s a sense of familiarity that really makes it easier to enjoy a new place faster.

I thoroughly enjoyed Switzerland, for example, so my desire to visit nearby France, Germany and Austria has greatly increased. I liked Honduras a lot, and my husband and I are toying with future trips to Guatemala and other Central American countries as a result. I fell in love with Australia while I was there, and, as a result, I’d like to check out New Zealand.

4. Research – When I was in middle school, I had to write a report on Cyprus, and I’ve been interested in visiting it ever since. Because I was so into Cyprus, I chose another island—Malta—for another report. I nearly visited the country while I was in college but didn’t quite make it. Nonetheless, both are high on my list of places I’ve got to visit.

In my daily work, I frequently get to do research on places with which I’m not familiar. As I dig into the history and culture and begin to put together the bits and pieces that make a place special, my interest grows. For this reason, Morocco is one of my top choices for places to travel right now.

5. Books – I’ve mentioned before that I royally suck when it comes to trip planning so I’m not big on reading guidebooks for inspiration. I do enjoy books like Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel (read a review here), primarily for the pictures and interesting geographical tidbits, but I’m even more of a fan of fiction or narrative writing that puts me in a place with character.

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible has me intrigued by the Congo, and I absolutely love the imagery Paul Theroux painted in The Mosquito Coast. Well-written narratives have also left me with the desire not to visit certain places. Though I love Peter Hessler’s writing, it’s because of the honesty of it that I’m in no rush to get to China.

Do you need help choosing your next destination? Here are eight ways to figure out where to travel.

Note: There are affiliate links in this post.

10 Responses to “Where I Find Travel Inspiration”

  1. Slava

    Joanna,

    you might also recommend my site for travel inspiration. It’s generally a collection of beautiful destinations around the World, most of which are quite obscure. Currently there are about 600 destinations, probably none of them come even close in general popularity to Stonehenge. 🙂 Give it a try http://tripideas.org/ (hint: each inner page has lots of links to other random pages)

    Reply
  2. Jill

    Sometimes a certain type of travel feature really steers interest in a specific locale. For some people it’s regional cooking, or outdoor activities. But for me – I’m a huge museum fan – especially in the “arts”. If there isn’t an art museum, or art/craft galleries to visit I’m disappointed. I’ve been wanting to visit the Victoria & Albert Museum in England for years – someday I’ll get there! Could have happily spent my entire trip in Italy just in the museums.

    Reply
  3. Katie Pickard Fawcett

    The Folk Life Festival in DC changes every year with celebrations of different countries/cultures, but the Silk Road exhibit was definitely memorable. I also love Celtic music and the various collections of Putumayo world music. Do you have Cairo to Casablanca? If not, be sure to pick that one up, especially if you’re interested in Morocco.
    I also loved Switzerland and I loved France, too. Wasn’t wild about Germany and Austria though did enjoy a boat trip down the Rhine to see the medieval castles…. I always enjoy your posts. Check out Rita Goldman Gelman’s books — Tales of a Female Nomad and Female Nomad and Friends. Also a book edited by Mary Morris called Maiden Voyages: Writings of Women Travelers (lots of wonderful essays here from around the world — all by women travelers, many of whom have gone solo). Enjoy!

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Hi Katie!

      I honestly have to say that I didn’t realize the Folk Life Festival had a different theme everything year, though now that you say that, it makes sense. I just happened to stumble across the Silk Road one, which, to this day, has been one of the best events I’ve ever attended.

      I haven’t listed to Cairo to Casablanca ~ will definitely have to find that one! I’m a huge fan of Rita Goldman and recommend her books to everyone, but I’ll definitely have to check out Mary Morris’ book. Thanks for the suggestions!

      Reply
  4. Abbie

    I love these ideas – especially the suggestions to get inspiration from pictures and research – two things I could see myself using 🙂

    Reply
  5. Amiee

    I love this JoAnna! I also use food as travel inspiration and that is why I will sadly never make it to Scotland – haggis no way, oh but I would consider visiting for the BEER.

    I hear you on Morocco – let’s go!

    Reply
  6. Jools Stone

    Right with you, music conjures up travel very vividly for me, probably even more so than good travel books. Oh and I’ve heard about these funny little things called travel blogs, must get around to checking a few of those out one day too! 😉 Oh and only the other day i was looking for some info on Mongolian music and now found some thanks to this post!

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Definitely check out the Silk Road music with YoYo Ma ~ So inspiring!

      Reply
  7. Sandy

    What an interesting post! I love nature so I am always interested in places of natural beauty. I am currently getting ready for a trip to New Zealand (dream destination really!). I also love discovering new cultures which I try to find out about through real stories (books, blogs, documentaries etc..) first before choosing my next destination. Happy travelling!

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      How exciting that you’ll be heading to New Zealand soon! I’ve always wanted to visit that country. Have fun on your trip!

      Reply

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