If you’re anything like me, travel isn’t just something you do but a way of life. The enjoyment I get out of researching, planning and generally letting others inspire me to travel is often on a par with the trips I end up taking.
I read travel magazines, follow fellow globe-trotters on social media and become totally absorbed in books about real-life explorers: brave people who give it all up and go out there alone. Gaining travel inspiration becomes an activity in itself. Whether I’m sitting on my sofa or walking the Great Wall, I’m always thinking about the next adventure. In January I trawled the best environment for a trip-planner junkie: London’s Travel Shows.
Quite sensibly, January through February is the annual diary date for these events. While the idea of leaving the UK for sunnier climbs at this time of year is appealing, it’s not all together practical. At the start of the year I usually have zero annual leave and I’m cash strapped following too much Christmas indulgence. Therefore I’m more than happy to spend my final winter weekends dreaming about the year ahead: its distant shores and their potential adventures.
At The Adventure Travel Show, record-breaking explorers give talks on their life and how anyone can follow in their footsteps; bespoke tour operators provide consultations on planned journeys and a dedicated travel clinic even offers jabs for future trips. At The Destinations Show people take part in expert photography sessions, meet their favourite travel authors and sample food and dance from around the globe. During the Telegraph’s Outdoors Show, you can really get stuck in, with a climbing wall, triathlon try-outs and a scuba diving taster session.
There are of course, the big sells. The companies at these events are trying to sell a product and I left each time with bursting bags of brochures. Tour specialists have their benefits, however even for the independent traveller that I’ve gradually become, there’s a wealth of information that can feed my planning exercises.
After three weekends of travel shows, the following highlights temporarily scratched my itchy feet:
At the Adventure Travel Show, Dave Cornthwaite, who broke records skateboarding across Australia, told us to Say Yes More. Dave has since written several books about his adventures, is in the middle of Expedition 1000 and has also started the Say Yes More initiative that aims to get people off their sofas to explore this wonderful world we live in. From this year, it will also be funding several young people on their very first adventures.
I’ve subscribed to Wanderlust magazine since 2009. The monthly print is also supported by a great website where budding writers, bloggers and photographers can show their wares, learn crucial tips and engage in travel chat forums.
Every year at The Destinations Show, Wanderlust also exhibit the best travel photos of the year, which are submitted by readers and selected by an expert-judging panel. I always choose to re-subscribe at The Destinations Show as you get a free book and often, a discount!
Travel Writers & Presenters
I’m not really one for celebrities, but became totally star-struck last year when I was lucky enough to meet Simon Reeve. This year, I saw Simon again (from a further distance!) being interviewed on his latest endeavour: The Caribbean. Due to be aired later this year, this travel programme will show us the gritty side of the world-famous resort islands. Book signings take place after the travel discussion and are the perfect opportunity to meet your travel heroes.
Chris Stewart, the once-drummer in band; Genesis, moved to southern Spain almost thirty years ago. Now one of my favourite travel authors, I’ve read three of his books on expat farming life in the Alpujarra Mountains and bought the fourth; The Last Days of The Bus Club, after hearing him speak at The Destinations Show.
If the motivational speeches, globetrotting celebs and countless free literature aren’t enough, the shows also offer tasters of the countries themselves. Traditional dancers perform on stages throughout the venues and café areas offer everything from Vietnamese pork to French wine tasting. The Telegraph Outdoors Show takes things to another level, with indoor climbing walls, photography sessions and swimming pools where you can test out the life of a scuba diver.