Travel inspiration – where does it come from?
Still round the corner, there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.J. R. R. Tolkein
I am often asked where we get our inspiration from when deciding where to travel next. What makes us choose one destination over another, when there are so many places we could go?
The answer is mixed – friends of course (especially my wonderful group of Virtual Tourist friends); blogs and other online articles; magazines (the excellent Wanderlust in particular); travel shows like Destinations (an annual event in London); TV documentaries; and our own past experiences.
Going back in time, my desire to travel was inspired I think by reading childhood encyclopaedias, by stories read to us at school and by early adventures abroad on school trips to France and Canada.
Here for Patti’s Lens Artists Challenge this week is a selection of just a few of the adventures we’ve had, and what inspired us to go.
I’ve written extensively about our North Korea trip already. It was inspired primarily by my friend Albert’s blog and to a lesser extent by Michael Palin’s TV series about his visit.
When I first read Albert’s account of his own visit we weren’t really in a position to travel there, as with elderly and infirm parents I couldn’t risk being so cut off from home. But when we watched Palin’s series a couple of years later we remembered how intrigued we had been and decided that now was the time to go!
We went to New Mexico after I saw photos of the White Sands National Monument on a friend’s Virtual Tourist page and started to investigate the region. I realised that the state was packed with interesting sights and beautiful landscapes, and so a road trip was born.
I saw Botswana as the ultimate wildlife holiday destination, based in part on articles I’d read in Wanderlust and online. And of course, anyone who has been glued to David Attenborough’s documentaries over the years knows that Africa in general is one of the places to go for wildlife!
Our trip to Rapa Nui, aka Easter Island, was perhaps more surprisingly also inspired by David Attenborough. He made a fascinating film about the Bird Man culture there, The Lost Gods of Easter Island. I had always wanted to see the huge moai, but learning about the Bird Man was the final push I needed to propose that we visit the island.
We went to Cuba because people were saying that we should go before Fidel Castro died, as after that everything would change there. We visited in 2005; Castro died six years later in 2011. Ten years on, as far as I can tell, very little has changed!
I went to Gubbio at the invitation of a Virtual Tourist friend, Ingrid, who had discovered the town while studying Italian there. While there I attended the wonderful Palio della Balestra, the festival of the crossbow fighters. I also fell in love with this beautiful hill-top town, and with the landscapes of Marche and Umbria. And I have been back two more times since!
This was another Virtual Tourist discovery, as I joined a group of friends travelling on there after our big meeting in Krakow in 2010. We travelled by train, an adventure in itself, and explored the city together with a Ukrainian member Victor who has since become a firm friend. Similarly, Virtual Tourist meetings have inspired me to visit many places that hadn’t been on my radar, such as Sibiu in Romania and Riga in Latvia: places I loved and may never have discovered had it not been for those meetings.
We went to Iceland in 2012 to see the Northern Lights, inspired by a friend who told us that it was a great Aurora season. We didn’t see the lights on that occasion (I’m sure they were up there but it was always cloudy at night). But I fell in love with the Icelandic landscape and was very happy to return a few years later for a Virtual Tourist meeting there.
China and Japan
Maybe our strongest inspiration for travelling however, is simply to go where we have not been before, and the more different the better. It was this sort of thinking that took us to Japan, to North Korea, to Antarctica (in my featured photo) and, many years ago, to China.
Travel inspiration is always just around the corner, and as soon as we are able to travel more freely again, I am sure something will inspire us to pack our bags and head for somewhere new.
I am not surprised that bug has bitten you good and proper. I am sure travel has enriched your life in many ways you never thought. Nice to see you in a photo too! Especially enjoyed that lovely photograph of the kyoto temple and of course, more view of Iceland!
Thank you Amanda 😊 Yes, I definitely have that bug! Those are VERY old photos of me BTW!!
Great blog-very very informative alongwith great photographs !Thanks for sharing, Sarah !
Thanks – glad you liked it!
My pleasure 🙏🏾
This is lovely and just the way to do it. I wish you much more of that, places where you haven’t been yet. Funnily enough, the only place you mention that I have visited is Sibiu.
Thank you Manja 😊 Yes, it’s a bit surprising that Sibiu is the one place we have in common! I really liked it there – did you?
I did! It was the first place I visited in Romania. But I remember also stray dogs and that didn’t sit well.
I don’t remember a major issue with stray dogs, I have to say. When were you there? My visit was in 2012 I think.
Oh, it was before 2000. My (Slovenian) friend studied Romanian language and literature in Bucharest and had major issues with stray dogs. He had to bribe the pack leader to be allowed to pass. I visited him twice and there were many but not menacing.
Long before me then. Maybe they’d taken some action about the stray dogs by the time of my visit!
Avon By Alyssa Rose
Ty for posting 😊
Avon By Alyssa Rose
Thank you 🙂
I also love Palin’s quote. And I love that nearly every time you describe a place, you say ‘I fell in love with’ something about it.
I have never had a ‘bad’ traveling trip, each adventure has been a joyful adrenaline boost.
My travel bucket list is so long, I can’t imagine ever finishing it. Still, I keep adding more places. Reasons to travel to each place – I just want to explore any place because every place has a unique story that I know I want to hear. ❤
Thanks so much Rose 🙂 I think that Palin quote speaks to all of us who love travelling! Like you I can’t identify any ‘bad’ trips, although some were inevitably more special than others. And my list keeps growing too, which is especially frustrating at the moment as I’m unable to tick anywhere off it !
Wonderful subject you’ve chosen for this blog, Sarah. In the forward of my own blog I say every passport stamp tells a story. The places and photos you feature in this blog certainly do the same, and at least one place we’ve seen together! I see we both mention Michael Palin’s quote as well. Great photos!
Thanks so much Sylvia 😊 Yes, Iceland together and hopefully many more in the future!
Wow. Great photos, all. I particularly like the White Sands and the opening photo of water, snow, and clouds. Excellent.
Thank you John 🙂 The White Sands were amazing – to see and to photograph (although like snow a bit of a challenge to expose correctly). The top photo was taken in Antarctica.
Really nice places you have visited. Some places are difficult to access and the photo and information from your trip is great for next generation documentary
Thank you, I’m happy you think so!
This was an interesting more personal look at your process and inspiration. Thank you!
Thank you Ruth, I’m glad you found this of interest 🙂
Fabulous shots, Sarah, and I particularly love those Icelandic ones that look so inviting. I’d love to walk in some more wild and wooded places, and I’d give my eye teeth to go and see the Northern Lights one day. As you can probably imagine, my inspiration comes mostly from medieval history and architecture, and as such I’ve been inspired to go and tour the French Norman and Plantagenet castles over there one day. 😀
Thank you Alli – Iceland is stunning and if you’re looking for wild places it’s the perfect destination, although they have no woods (and very few trees). And of course the lights are by no means guaranteed. We did manage to see them the following year near Tromso and that seems to be the best bet – there are plenty of tours led by guides who know just where to go to find them each night!
Sounds like a plan… I remember hearing that they call the lights ‘The Tricky Lady’ as they’re so unpredictable.
What a beautiful andinspiring post. These photos are remarkable, tell wonderful stories of your travels. I’m inspired, Sarah. 🙂
Thanks so much Amy, I’m very happy you feel inspired by my post 😍
Oh, the Places We See
Love your last quote which definitely applies to me. And your post is filled with inspiring places to visit. The only ones we have in common are New Mexico and China, and I could return to either one. So lovely. But, as you’ve noted, there are so many destinations that many of the ones we’ve seen are going to be one and done only. Thanks for your continued inspiration.
Thank you 😀 An interesting pair for us to have in common! Often when I look back on a trip I think ‘I’d like to go there again’. But then I worry that it won’t be as good the second time around and will spoil the memories, plus, there are still so many places left to see! So we rarely go back, unless we have a compelling reason to do so 🙂
Someone once asked me how I decided on the trips that I took with my grandchildren. And I couldn’t really answer it – it was different for each child. The first one it was Ireland because his mother identified as Irish (even though only one of her grandparents was Irish and the rest were German) and because I wanted to go there. I don’t think I asked him where he wanted to go. The second one I had decided on a cruise because the trip I took with the first one was devoid of kids his age. I wanted to take him to the Galapagos because I’d always wanted to go there but his parents wanted him to be certified in SCUBA before he went, and then I suggested the Baltic s because that was his father’s heritage but his mother said they wanted to go there themselves, so we did the Med, starting in Spain because he was taking Spanish. Then I wanted to take the third one to Italy and the Vatican because she is Catholic, but we would be going in June and I thought that would be too hot for me, so instead we did the Baltic.
I know how my mother picked the trips she went on with my children – at least I know two of them. She was offered the chance to go on a group tour. One was an American Iris Society tour of Australia and the other was a tour of medical doctors to China. It was after my dad died and she didn’t want to go anywhere she had been with him right away because there would be too many memories. But I’m not sure why she decided to take my son to Kenya.
Yes, I guess having a connection to a place is another source of inspiration, like our visits to Arpino because my mother in law’s family came from there 🙂
What a good idea for a post…a “why did we go there?” theme…nice one. Like the Palin quote at the end too.
The Palin is one of my favourite travel quotes, because I 100% agree with it! I was ‘inspired’ for this post by the LAC theme, so I guess that’s a double dose of inspiration 😉
I. J. Khanewala
I learnt something. Lviv is the proper way to write Lvov.
Lviv is the Ukrainian spelling, Lvov the Russian – and you can guess which the Ukrainians (most of them at least) prefer at the moment!
Great destinations you have visited. The pandemic’s halt to travel must be as hard to take for you as it has been for me. Is the featured photo Iceland?
Yes, it’s been tough not to be able to travel, but I know that’s by far not the worst thing that has happened to people during the pandemic and I’m lucky to have all these travel memories ‘in the bank’ 😀 The featured photo was taken in Antarctica in 2003.
Wonderful inspiration and trip ideas, Sarah! I’ll check out Virtual Tourist. I haven’t used David Attenborough as a source yet, but that’s a great idea. I’m just wondering (as we all are) when we can pack our bags again. We were able to go to Canada, where we’re staying now with our son. Where to next? I’m not sure. In the meantime, we’ll wait and dream of new places.
Thanks so much Patti. Unfortunately Virtual Tourist the website was closed down in 2017 by Trip Advisor, who had bought it out from the original owners a few years previously 😪 But as a community many of us have stayed together, mainly using Facebook (with all its imperfections) as a means of staying in touch. We can’t meet at present but there’s still plenty of interaction online and via Zoom, and I’m planning to get together with some UK-based friends next month 🙂
Too bad that it was bought and effectively disbanded. That’s wonderful you’ve stayed in touch with others who have inspired you!
Isn’t it funny how some places call you back? You have a number of repeat visits here, and many to make me envious, Sarah. I’m back in the UK next week. Not quite the pinnacle of my dreams, but I have good reasons. Enjoy the rest of summer!
For me the places that call me back most are Italy and Paris, and we’re thinking of taking the plunge and returning to the latter for our anniversary weekend next month. It looks do-able at present but things have a bad habit of changing at short notice right now. As you have good reasons to come, I’m pleased for you that you’re able to come back to the UK – to stay or for a visit?
A 2 week visit to family and friends. I haven’t seen my daughter for almost 2 years. So many people to catch up with, I shall be dizzy, but happy!
How wonderful – I’m very happy for you! That’s the best sort of dizziness 🤩
I am sure you will! Lots of inspiration your way!
Indeed – thanks Ann-Christine 🙂
So many places, the “To go”-list seems to be neverending..:) As usual, very beautiful photos!! 🙂
I know Henna – that’s the problem with taking your travel inspiration from so many sources, you’re always adding to that list! And of course at the moment we’re not able to tick anywhere off it, so the problem is worse than ever! Thanks for the nice words about the photos 🙂
With this post, you’ll inspire many others to visit too!
You’ve mentioned Virtual Tourist before Sarah and I admit to not being familiar with it. I always thougth it was a virtual group, but it looks like you also meet in person?
Thanks Sandy – I would like to think that my travel posts have that effect on at least a few readers 😀
Virtual Tourist started as an online community, back in the relatively early days of the internet, but it evolved to include in-person meetings, large and small. I told the full story in an earlier post: https://www.toonsarah-travels.blog/precious-moments-at-virtual-tourist-euromeets/. Joining that group is for sure the single most significant thing I’ve done, in terms of travel inspiration!
Just like I’ve said … you’ve travelled to so many different places around our globe! Beautiful photo’s and looking forward when you’re getting back on the road again 😁.
Thank you 🙂 It goes without saying that I’m looking forward to that too 😀
You keep right on travelling – when it becomes a ‘thing’ again. But report back here please, when you’re back.
Thanks Margaret – there’s no danger that I won’t do either of those things, you can count on it!!