My Life Travel

Travel Update: WTM 2017, future travel plans + winning my first ever Travel Blog Award

November 7, 2017

I’m sat writing this post on a bed covered with travel catalogues, city maps and activity agendas for destinations around the world. I’ve got one leg spread across Tokyo and a bum cheek in Barcelona.

I have literally just returned home from a hectic – but totally inspiring – 90 minute visit to the 2017 World Travel Market at the London Excel, and I felt the urge to open my laptop and write about it as soon as I got home.

I’ve missed this world-famous event over the past three years due to travel commitments, so this year I immediately scooped up the opportunity to grab a press pass and get a taste of what the WTM has to offer. I charged my camera, grabbed my business cards, threw on my Panama hat (even though it’s November’) and I was off.

I knew it would be big, but jeez, the WTM is almost overwhelmingly big. It takes up the entire space at the Excel, each continent getting its own zone, which is then divided up into its countries and cities. This event is like a global meet up for literally everyone in the Travel industry. There are tour operators and travel sites trying to sign up hotels, hotels trying to sell packages to the agencies and agencies selling packages to potential new B2B clients.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t until I arrived at the excel that I realised I had no idea what my WTM objective was. I’d packed my business cards and I’d updated my media kit and printed off a few copies in the hope of finding brands and operators who work with bloggers … however, it was only when I got there and saw just how big this thing was that I realised I needed more of a specific plan.

Let’s be honest, a lot of bloggers will turn up to this kind of event waving business cards and media kits in people’s faces hoping it will bag them free flights to New York or an all expenses paid trip to Dubai – and some of them might well get that – but not me. Most of my travel blogging is either budget based or backpacking stories. So rocking up to a Luxury Travel stand to try and work with a 5 star resort on the other side of the world, doesn’t make sense for me.

Instead, I quickly opened the notes app on my phone and wrote a list of the countries I know I want to try and visit next year. I then hunted down the stands and areas for these destinations to find out more. Obviously I passed other countries on the way, took an interest and spoke to a representative (Taiwan being one that wasn’t on my list, but now may well be) but my key objective was to find out information and take advice on the places I plan to go. If they worked with bloggers then it was a brucey bonus and we’d swap details, if not, that’s fine too and I’d take whatever information they could give me.

As I walked through the manic hustle and bustle of this international event, seeing people dressed up in native costumes, samples of local delicacies being given out, huge giant posters of beautiful landscapes plastered on walls; I realised how out of touch I felt from traveling and the travel industry as a whole. There was once a time where all I could think about was where I was going next and how I was going to get there. But not recently.

Whilst 2017 has been a much more successful year for me mentally, emotionally and especially career wise, it’s been a crappy old year for my passport. I’ve had four trips, two of which were work trips and the other two were centred around my marathons (first being Paris and more recently Dublin). I felt like I’d been a truly crappy travel blogger this year.

So when I found out I had been nominated for the 2017 Best Travel Blog Award by Dotcomgiftship, I actually felt a bit guilty and like I didn’t deserve that nomination. I was up against some amazing other bloggers, including TheTravelHack, who I’ve followed and admired for years, and I felt like I didn’t deserve to be nominated next to her. It was only after I read the kind words DCGS wrote about me and the South America content I produced earlier this year (especially this piece) that I allowed myself to feel proud.

It was only last week that I received the news that I actually won the public vote! I was genuinely astounded (I have to say a wee little Thank you to Dotcomgiftshop for nominating me and recognising my work and thanks to all those that voted). Receiving this award triggered something in me. I realised how much of my South American story I still had to tell.

And I realised how much I want to tell stories of more adventures, one’s I’ve not yet taken.

Which brings me back to the WTM. More importantly, my chosen destinations. These are the countries and cities I want to explore in 2018:

Catalonia (Barcelona)
I am planning to run the 2018 Barcelona Marathon which takes place in early March. Two reasons, the first is: I want to run my third marathon within a year of me running my first which was April this year. The second is, I’ve never actually been to Barcelona and would love to go, it looks like a beautiful city. I love Spanish food and wine and I am still planning to learn/improve my Spanish language skills and this gives me the perfect excuse. Also, a little advice for anyone who loves traveling and running – running a city marathon is honestly one of the best ways to sight-see, as I discovered in Paris. You pass 26.2 miles of both new and historical sites in one day.

Japan (Tokyo)
The most expensive trips are the ones I put off the most. As I mentioned before, I’m more of a budget traveller, mostly because I’m rubbish with money and a terrible saver (this is why I’m 31 and don’t own anything!) but also because I like to believe we don’t need to be rich in the bank to be rich in life, I should be allowed to have just as much fun as the Rich and famous.

So for 2018 – and yes, I know I sound like a broken record – I want to travel to Japan. Even if it ends up that I can only afford to go to Tokyo for a few days, that will suit me. I just need to get myself over there and soak up that Japanese culture and eat some super fresh Sushi at 7am in the fish market. I can’t go another year dreaming about it. It’s time to stop dreaming and start doing.

Iceland
I was supposed to go to Iceland a few years ago and it didn’t happen. I’ll get round to it, I thought. And then, of course, I didn’t.

I’m obsessed by the idea of swimming in the blue lagoon, of seeing the Northern lights and of sampling some Icelandic chocolate – Iceland Air had some at their stand today and I genuinely nearly robbed the bowl, the chocolate was some of the best I’ve ever tasted … and I’ve tasted a lot of chocolate. Hopefully 2018 will be the year that I drag my butt to freeze itself off in the beautiful country of Iceland.

Canada & America (New York)
This destination/s is a little tricky. I am going to apply for the New York marathon for 2018, which takes place in November. If I get in, I will obviously be booking myself flights to the big apple and making one hell of a trip out of it. And since I’d be going that way, it would make sense to combine this trip with a holiday to Toronto, Canada, since that’s also somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a while. This one all comes down to whether or not I get into the NYC Marathon, which like many of the marathons I want to do, is hard to get into, but fingers crossed. Failing that, I will probably choose a marathon much closer to home.

I’ll be doing other trips throughout 2018, I have a Wedding in Wales and a hen do in Europe and I’d like to do some festivals and maybe some UK camping and hiking trips too.

I’ve recently realised – or rather finally admitted – that living in London, as fun as it sometimes is, is costing me a lot. Like, a lot. Especially as a single person (seriously, I didn’t struggle like this when I lived with my ex – it’s like I’m paying to be single, like some sort of punishment for not being in a relationship!) Rent here is so expensive, as are the tube costs, food and everything else you need to survive this addictive city. And all the money I spend on simply existing, is money I could spend on Living!

So, with that in mind, I am currently looking into making a few changes in order to be able to travel a lot more throughout the year 2018. I miss running around with a rucksack on my back and a map in my hand. This needs to be a regular thing again, so changes need to be made.

Whose with me?
Any of you guys saving for a big trip next year? Got big 2018 travel plans? I’d love to know in the comments below.

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