How I Choose Travel Destinations For the Year

January 14, 2016   22 Comments »

It’s a beautiful thing when you have complete control of your life and you don’t have to commute to work and report to an office every day. In fact, I’ve been living this location-independent life for so long now that I forget how fortunate I am.

I can never take this gift of motion and freedom for granted. The ability to choose where I want to go and what I want to do is a beautiful thing, which I realize most people don’t have. As I look out at a mostly empty calendar for 2016, my heart flutters with the possibilities of travel destinations. Even after 9 years and 65 countries, there are still so many travel ideas floating in my head, things I want to do, and places I want to go that I can’t fit them all into a year.

How I Choose Travel Destinations

In order to not get paralyzed by the infinite choices of this big, beautiful globe, I narrow down my options. My process of how I choose where to go and what to do is very disjointed – it’s a combination of work and pure desire – and often it’s hard to find balance with that.

If I go somewhere for work, you can bet it’s somewhere I want to go as I don’t write about places I’m not interested in. If I’m going somewhere for pleasure, I normally start with a general area – like Mexico — and general time of year – this winter. I start building ideas from there. I research things I like to do, contact tour companies, and see what starts to pan out. I consider about 4 or 5 of these ‘general area’ ideas and start to think about how I can connect them. Some go on the back burner due to location and money, but some keep coming up as priorities in my mind.

travel destinations

The hard part is keeping in mind that I have little commitments like family or conferences that I need to ensure I get to during the year; those take precedence and I often put those on the calendar first and then build around them. This year I already have a July family birthday celebration in Colorado, a March conference in LA, a May conference in Minneapolis, and a training workshop in Philly in June. I’m also supposed to have another Niece Project in the works this year – but that schedule is up to my niece.

However, to tap into my initial travel ideas or choose travel destinations, I tend to utilize a bunch of different inspirations. For 2016, these are the places I’ve put on my travel destinations wish list so far and how they got there.

Sometimes I choose where to travel to because it’s remote and a place where few people go or know about


Typically Australia and New Zealand are on everyone’s travel wish list, however I’ve had my eye on the island of Tasmania, which is actually nestled between the two popular countries. Tasmania is a part of Australia, but very few people in the Northern hemisphere know of it or could place it on a map; which is exactly why it excites me. Plus, Tasmania is a haven for one of my favorite things in the world – hiking. There are endless multi-day hiking trips that will test your ability and bring you closer to nature; and I’d like to do every one of them!

travel destinations Tasmania

Photo by David Bettany | Western Arthurs Traverse, 2002

2016 Outlook: This is a bit of a long shot for 2016, however if I find myself in the southern hemisphere, I’ll make sure I get there this time! My hiking boots are ready to take on Tasmania!

Sometimes I choose where to travel to based on a picture I’ve seen that I must go see in person and shoot it myself


I have a love of photographing trees, and I’ve had my eye on the baobab trees found in Madagascar for quite some time now. The baobab trees there are up to 800 years old, 100 feet tall, and 36 feet in diameter! Every time I see photos of these giants it reminds me I desperately want to get there to shoot my own photos.

choose travel destinations Madegascar

Photo by Talia Friedman for National Geographic

2016 Outlook: This is a bit of a long shot for 2016, but if I find myself near Africa this year I’ll try to fit it in. I’m also still hoping that one of my remaining nieces will choose Madagascar as their Niece Project destination, as it’s been discussed in the past; however I have no control over the final decision!

Sometimes I choose where to travel to because it’s on the way to something else


I’m not sure why, but I’ve always pushed Mexico to the back of the line when looking to mark off places I’ve never been before. However, this winter is all about Mexico for me, and I can hardly wait. I’ll be heading to this cute tiny home near Oaxaca to explore, hang out with friends, and write. But to get to Oaxaca, I must fly through Mexico City, and I’ve heard so many good things about Mexico City, I’ve finally decided to stop and check it out. It’s known for its amazing food scene and I intend to eat my way through the city on my way to Oaxaca! If anyone has any Mexico City tips, send them my way!

choose travel destinations Mexico City

Mexico City at night – Image by Pete Heck

2016 Outlook: This is happening barring issues with airfare. I head to Mexico in mid-January.

Sometimes I choose where to travel to because I have friends there


Nine years ago I took a cooking class in Italy and met a fellow American student, Tina. I left Italy to keep traveling and Tina stayed – and boy did she stay. She now lives in Campania and is a food writer. I can hardly stand to look at her Facebook updates as they make me so hungry! Tina and I have remained friends and more than once she has invited me out to spend some time at her home in Campania and eat her food. Of course I want to make this happen, and so does my stomach!

choose travel destinations by food

Image by Tina Ciccia

2016 Outlook: If I make it to Europe, I’ll make a stop in Italy for sure, even if it’s just for a few days to eat!

Sometimes I choose where to travel to for pure adventure


This is a little known Mediterranean country that has it all in the world of adventure: rafting, cycling, canyoning, hiking, paragliding, sailing, and kayaking. I’ve never been to this part of the world before and it’s about time I see the Balkans. I’ve been hearing about it as an adventure destination for a few years now and want to go check it out myself as an alternative to more expensive places in Europe for adventure.

travel destinations albania

Image by Rob Hogeslag

2016 Outlook: I’m waiting to hear back about an opportunity to go to Albania and Macedonia in May. If it comes through – I’m there. I suppose I have a 50% chance it will happen – fingers crossed!

Sometimes I choose where to travel to because I’m curious about the culture and people there


Any city that has a former mayor who dresses in drag, sauces that go with every type of food, naked hot springs, and 80% of the population believing in elves is a city I want to visit! I’m always fascinated with cultures that live at the extremes, and Reykjavik is the perfect extreme culture to explore! However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that the best part of going to Reykjavik is that it’s the gateway to Iceland. Ever since I saw the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty I’ve had an Iceland road trip on my list. Last year I transited through Reykjavik and it was painful for me to not stay and explore. This year that needs to change!

travel destinations

Image via Rough Guides

2016 Outlook: I give this a 50% chance. I really want to go, but have to figure out how/where it fits into the year’s schedule. Luckily with Iceland Air, stopovers from Europe are easy to plan.

Sometimes I choose where to travel to because it’s therapeutic


The last couple of years on the road have had their challenges, and I realize more than ever that taking time for myself is necessary for me to recharge. One of my favorite ways to do that is to walk – really long distances. 2016 is the time for me to take on some more long distance walking; my mind and body needs it. I am trying to decide between two different hikes, and right now I’m not sure which one will win out. I’ll either do the full 136 mile Camino de Ronda in Costa Brava Spain or I’ll do another leg of the Camino de Santiago through Portugal (380 miles).

choose travel destinations

Time to think…

2016 Outlook: I’m pretty confident I will make this happen. It’s something I’ve needed to do for a while now. Walking is great therapy and it’s a perfect pace for photography!

Sometimes I choose where to travel to because I want to learn something


I’m happiest when I’m experiencing and learning new things. For the last 3 years I’ve been taking one-day surfing lessons all over the world. Since I’ll be in Mexico this winter, I decided I should finally try to attend a week long surf camp and get serious about this new sport that I sort of love.

surfing travel destinations

I have a long ways to go before I surf like this…but I have to start somewhere!

2016 Outlook: I’m 50% sure this will happen. I have an extra 2 weeks in Mexico and looking for a surf camp that I can attend!

Sometimes I choose where to travel to because I have unfinished business there


I fell in love with Alaska last August; and I don’t fall in love easily. I spent three weeks in the state exploring, photographing it, and meeting some amazing people. Many times when I go to a place, I leave it with a list of things I want to go back and do. With Alaska, I left with a big list: bear watching, volcano hiking, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and multi day hikes in Wrangel St. Elias National Park. Yes, Alaska is the coolest state in the US.

travel destinations Alaska

Ross Glacier – I want more time here!

2016 Outlook: There’s a conference in Alaska this September that I have my eye on. If I decide to go to the conference, then you can be sure I’ll go early and start to do some of those remaining things on my list. Right now there’s a 60% chance that I’ll head back there!

Sometimes I choose where to travel to because work takes me there


I’ll be speaking at and attending a Women’s Travel Conference in LA this March. I’m looking forward to spending extra time to see friends in LA, but this also gives me the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do – a road trip up the coast of California. I love road trips, and I’ve explored very little of the southern California coast so this year it’s going to happen! Who wants to come with me?

travel destinations california road trip

Highway 1 California

2016 Outlook: The outlook is good for this, just trying to wrap up details for a trip in the second half of March!

And sometimes I listen to experts to get travel ideas

Every year, Rough Guides authors and editors travel all over the world in pursuit of the best destinations and experiences. After much discussion, they’ve put together their annual list of places that you need to place at the top of your travel wish list. These are Rough Guides’ best countries, cities, and regions to visit in 2016  – and you’ll find many of them on my personal travel list above! Great minds think alike!

I may not get to all of these places this year, in fact I’m sure this list may change substantially as things come up, but this is how it all starts and how my travel ideas originate.


This post was sponsored by Rough Guides, however all opinions here are my own.

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