Have Tag, Will Travel

You might think that someone who has traveled the world, especially as host of a Travel Channel show, would have a laundry list of pointers. But Samantha Brown distilled everything down to what she called her “two pillars” of travel advice: Go for a walk and create a daily ritual.

That’s not what I expected to hear at her “Travel Smart” seminar during the Travel and Adventure Show earlier this month at San Diego Convention Center. But, when the hour was up, I realized that those two simple tips hit precisely on why go-go-go folks like me tend to miss the “relax” part of what vacationing is about.

By going for a walk, Samantha meant that tourists should walk down side streets. By all means, she said, hit a city’s iconic square, monument, cathedral, ruins, etc.; then leave it and make time to discover its people and current culture. And, she said, creating a daily ritual (hers is having coffee at the same café each morning) gives your brain a break from decision-making so that you can “be in the place” where you are.

In addition to what I consider great advice, I picked up at the travel show a tote bag, pens, mints, a “Welcome to the Santa Maria Valley” fiberboard coaster (now on my office desk under my coffee mug), a palm tree-shaped bottle opener from the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, a holographic bookmark from the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau, and lots and lots of brochures and flyers.

When my friend and I got back to my apartment, we sorted through all the literature to see where our inclinations had taken us and what we might want to research further.

Cruises, safaris, and vacation membership clubs were well represented at the show — no revelation there. What did surprise me was the shortage of tables promoting Europe — as if France, Italy, Germany and other prime destinations had fallen off the face of the Earth. I took reassurance that the continent had not entirely disappeared from the world map by the presence of booths representing Spain, Israel and Croatia.

As for domestic locales, other than Louisiana and the Florida Keys, western states seemed more inclined to woo a West Coast crowd than cities and states beyond most travelers’ acceptable driving distance.

One of the booths on the convention center floor came from as far away as San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood: Index Urban, a store selling luggage and an array of travel accessories. Just for stopping by the travel show booth, the retailer offered a free, customized luggage tag if you visited the store.

So the next day, my friend and I went to Index Urban and selected designs to be embossed/printed with our monograms. As you can see from the above photo, I chose the word “Adventure,” thinking about Samantha Brown’s talk. (My friend also purchased a wallet with RFID-blocking protection, which is especially valuable when one travels and will be in crowds with lots of strangers, some of whom one can suspect of lacking certain ethics.)

Now that I have a luggage tag that reads “Adventure,” I feel even more compelled to plan a trip that requires me to pack a bag. On my checklist will be this: Purchase carbon offsets from The Good Traveler, as discussed by San Diego International Airport Authority board chair Robert Gleason in San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles’ January issue (“Traveling Light,” Dialogue).