Camels, Mascots, and The Kama Sutra
Don’t worry, it’s not some strange ménage à trois, just the the 13th Annual Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show that just happened to feature humpbacks, furry mascots, and a book labeled as the “Kama Sutra of Travel Fun.”
I stopped by the recent travel show and was able to ask some of the best travel experts what’s hot and what’s not in travel destinations this year. Special guests included, CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg, Rick Steves (my unofficial mentor), Phil Keoghan, host of The Amazing Race, and Patricia Schultz, who swears that you need to visit at least 1001 places before you die (from the book, “1001 Places to See Before You Die”).
I can usually find my next adventure without attending a travel show. I hate it when company sales reps try to sell me an expensive trip to an island only Google Earth can find or sell me a swampland timeshare in the Antarctic. Instead, I welcome the inspirational boost from speakers and tourism boards who know how to "sell" me by illustrating how much valued experience is in the journey itself.
Rick Steves, a travel rock star, is the one speaker I never miss. He is the host of Rick Steves’ Europe and Travel with Rick Steves, and his book, “Europe Through the Back Door” is a must for all European Travel. Mr. Steves also happened to personally call it the “Kama Sutra of Travel Fun” which I thoroughly believe as I have used his series of books in my travels. The travel tips, suggestions, and itineraries have given me an indescribable amount of memorable experiences that I have shared with family and friends and is what brought about the germination of this blog. In March, I will talk a little bit more about Rick Steves and his idea of "travel as a political act" and why, during this time of uncertainty, The Time to Travel is Now.
Other speakers talked about subjects ranging from packing and travel technology, to maximizing credit card reward points and what to do if disaster strikes while traveling and top chefs presented live cooking demonstrations that featured cuisines from around the world.
Lonely Planet, another travel book company that is close to my heart, released their 2018 edition of Best in Travel, where they spotlight 50 different locals. Their top destination? Chile. Due to a number of airlines now coming into Chile with airport expansion, major improvements in national parks, and a massive conservation effort, many are finding the South American country the one to watch. Chile is also the best place to watch the stars as well; the country has most of the world's observatories. Once I wade through my pile of brochures, I’ll offer my own top destinations on my next post. I use many of these top lists as just further research for my own list. Lonely Planet and websites like TripAdvisor have their reasons why a certain destination is the one to go to but you need more than one list so you can research and compare on your own, then make your own list. Did I mention? I like lists!
Big time sponsors of the event like Japan and South Korea made sure to bring more mascots than the College Basketball’s March Madness Tournament, but the real mascots of the show were real life camels presented by JoDon Farms, an animal rescue facility that takes in all manner of rescued animals. I did silently question why the camel ride experience was awkwardly placed by the concession stand; the smell of “manure” turning me off to what might have been a perfectly tasty but overpriced turkey club.
A major takeaway from this year’s event was that people wanted experiences and adventure; not to fill their bag with useless materialistic trinkets on overcrowded bus tours where you knew more than the tour guide.
Taking a train across countries among chickens and villagers or staying at uncomfortable hotels with unpredictable plumbing in a small town might just show you know how the other half lives; not to mention a new found appreciation for your Sleep Number mattress or talking toilet.
As I walked around the convention hall, I was attacked by phrases like “spin the wheel” or “sign our guest list so you can win a free trip"; trips that you really are going to pay for in some undesirable fashion or another. But then I was greeted by Yolanda Figueroa from the Puerto Rico Tourism Board who invited me to visit Puerto Rico, a country that unfortunately still suffers from hurricane destruction but is “still open for business”. While we enjoyed our conversation, we were interrupted by a little old lady who didn’t know that the island country was part of the United States and inferred that their recent struggles were their fault. Ms. Figueroa and I looked at each other and just smiled; I at least wanted to give the uninformed woman a good thumping.
I continued on and started to realize that tourism boards were the way to go and avoided most of the “salespersons” of value. The men and women from their countries' tourism boards seemed to have a better handle on what their countries had to offer.
All in all, my trip to the LA Travel Show was very inspirational. Now I just have to sift through my 15 pounds of brochures. In conclusion, here are my major takeaways:
The journey to a destination is half the fun.
Check out Tourism Boards for the latest up to date information.
Keep camels away from the food.
Rick Steves and the Kama Sutra of Travel, 'nuff said.
Lonely Planet makes the planet not so lonely.
Be kind to your mascots, they're dying under that mask.
Get to know your geography people and start mapping your bucket lists.
Visit https://travelshows.com for an upcoming travel show in your area.
Up next: My top 10 of 2018