Go Where Your Passions Take You

by Gray Cargill on December 5, 2012

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I love getting emails from readers, even though sometimes, I’m at a loss for how to respond to them. Sometimes I get emails asking what it’s like to travel solo to a place I’ve never been to. I feel bad that I can’t help those people, though I usually try to steer them toward another blogger that I know has been to that place. (So keep those emails coming, I’ll point you in the right direction if I can!)

Then, there are the emails asking: “Where should I go? What’s a good solo travel destination?” Wow, that is such a big question. I’m hesitant to cite specific destinations to someone I don’t know very well. Because the truth is, almost any destination is a good solo travel destination. It just depends on where you want to go.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the reason some people don’t travel is because they can’t decide where they want to go. Does that describe you? Maybe you have a desire to travel, but it’s a big world out there and you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you have a long travel bucket list but can’t prioritize it. That happens to me sometimes, too. Too many choices can be paralyzing. My fallback position every time I have trouble deciding where I want to go is to follow my passion. It hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

By “passion” I don’t just mean your passion for travel. That’s a given. I mean the other passions in your life, whether it’s gardening or music or sports. If you’re having trouble deciding where to go, or if travel has lost some of its lustre and you just can’t work up any motivation to go anywhere, it’s time to get back to basics, to get back to who you are.


What are you passionate about?

My first big solo trip was to England in the 1990s. I was an English major in college, and my favorite authors were usually English authors. So when I saw that the University where I work was offering a 3-week summer course in England called “Shakespeare on the Page and Stage”, it was a match made in heaven. I signed up.

I didn’t know anybody on that trip, because I wasn’t a student at the time. I was older than the traditional students, and younger than the non-trads on the trip. But the subject matter was my passion, and the trip was one I’ll never forget. We went to see eight or nine performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company and visited sites important to Shakespeare in Stratford-Upon-Avon. During my free time, I visited the former home of John Keats and took a literary walking tour through London that included the home where Virginia Woolf lived. In other words, I followed my passion.

Star Trek Experience

Years later, when I decided to visit Las Vegas, two things convinced me this desert city historically known for gambling, the mob, and girlie shows was finally for me: I was a huge fan of CBS’s forensic show, CSI, and The Star Trek Experience opened in Las Vegas. I am a die-hard, lifelong Trekkie. How could I not go? Ten years and multiple trips to Las Vegas later, I’m such a fan of the city I have a blog about it.

Visiting New Orleans was a no-brainer: I love jazz, food, and cemeteries. I’m also a history, architecture, and photography nut. Many of my recent travel destinations have been chosen because I know those cities have amazing history and architecture that I wanted to see and photograph—Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Florence. And the list goes on.

Look around you, and you’ll see that others prioritize their travel the same way. Jodi Ettenberg follows her stomach around the world, as a passionate foodie. Janice Waugh loves films and has traveled to Utah to volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival. Jeremy Branham created the College Football Travel Tour for himself, where he traveled around the country to experience college football games in a variety of cities.


So if you’re having trouble deciding where you want to go, think about how you can combine travel with the non-travel passions in your life. If you love gardening, you might travel to Amsterdam to see their tulips or visit some of the amazing palace gardens around Europe. Do you love the ballet? A trip to Chicago could be planned around attendance at a performance by the Joffrey Ballet. If you’re a sci-fi or comic book fan, you could visit San Diego around the annual Comic Con. If you’re into genealogy, why not plan a trip to the home of your ancestors and get to know your own cultural background firsthand?

The only limits to where you can go are your own passions and imagination. If you already have a list of destinations, try narrowing your focus by asking which ones offer you the opportunity to pursue your passions? If you don’t already have a list of known destinations for that interest of yours, a little Google searching of keywords should do the trick. The important thing is not to let an overabundance of choices or a lack of focus paralyze you and prevent you from going anywhere.

What are your passionate hobbies and interests outside of travel? How have you incorporated them into your trips?

Christine | GrrrlTraveler December 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

Awesome post and really refreshing! For the longest time, my passions for volleyball, dance, art (throughout different periods of my life) were things that directed my travel, just as it governed my life at the time. It gave my travels a wonderful feeling of purpose and direction.

Only in the past few years have a gone a route of following my curiosity, intuition or spontaineity…. winging-it. It’s a way I’m still adjusting to and I miss having that guided sense of purpose to my itinerary. I sometimes, feel a naked without it, but it teaches me that perhaps, we don’t always know what the purpose or meaning of our life and choices are until we arrive at them.

Gray December 27, 2012 at 9:20 am

I think curiosity for the unknown can be as much of a passion as anything else, Christine. The volleyball piques my curiosity: Where did you go for volleyball?

Tracy Antonioli December 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I love this post, because this is HOW I became a traveler (and a solo traveler); I simply followed my passions and, well, sometimes they took me away from home. I started with music, spending long weekends states away at jam band festivals (yes, I was one of THOSE people!) Then it was educational pursuits–a summer on Martha’s Vineyard in a grad course, a writing conference in North Carolina, one in Vermont. A convention in Orlando. I was traveling without really intending to travel, and doing it alone was really the only way. And now it has just become part of who I am.

Gray December 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Wonderful story, Tracy! You started out as an “accidental traveler” and look what it’s blossomed into!

Tracy Antonioli December 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I like your optimism. I often think about it as ‘an addiction, out of control’! But I guess if you’re going to be addicted to something, ‘the world’ isn’t a bad choice.

Gray December 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Definitely not! An addiction is bad when it damages your life and hurts people around you. A healthy attitude towards traveling and seeing the world doesn’t do that.

Lisa @chickybus December 9, 2012 at 10:51 am

I love this post! Makes so much sense. I sometimes decide where I want to go because I feel a certain passion for the language and think it would be great to learn it in a country where it’s the native language.

I also choose a destination after seeing a photo or video of it and getting a special feeling about it. Or maybe I meet someone from there and become intrigued about it. But I think your idea–that of connecting a non-travel passion to a place where that can be explored–is a fantastic one!

Gray December 9, 2012 at 11:21 am

I think following your linguistic passions are a great idea, too, Lisa! Language can really come to life when you’re learning it in context and seeing its place in the culture.

Kirstin December 7, 2012 at 5:46 am

I adore tulips! The last couple of times we’ve been to Europe I’ve tried to go to http://www.keukenhof.nl/. Unfortunately they are usually open mid-march to mid-may and we usually travel in june/july. On my last trip I was flying solo to Morocco and decided to avoid their hottest weather, and what do you know – Keukenhof was going to be open. I was so excited to finally make it to Keukenhof – too excited – it was a huge let down. I arrived just over one week before they shut and it seemed like half the flower beds were empty or well past their prime.

Gray December 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Oh, bummer, Kirstin! Yeah, that’s the down side of high expectations. Sometimes, reality is a bit a let-down. But I wouldn’t give up on the dream. Now you know–go earlier, when they’re at their peak.

Jeff @ GoTravelzing December 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Since one of my main passions is travel I do not think that I need another reason to go somewhere. I have gone places to see things that I am interested in but usually traveling to travel is enough for me. The problem that I have is making the decision of where to go next.

Gray December 5, 2012 at 7:55 pm

And that’s where those other passions come in, Jeff. They help you decide where to go next. Some people don’t have trouble deciding where to go next, but when you do, it’s nice to have a way to winnow down a list that includes the entire world. 🙂

BarbC December 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Hi Gray,
Your message today is the best advice you could have given to any traveler – solo or not. I hate it when people ask me what place I like best of all my travels because I like something about them all. I will say that, when they have more of the things I enjoy the most, I am the happiest. And like you, I return to the places where my favorite passions are.

Santa Fe in the summer is always a repeat as I love the opera and I am an artist so I get a double treat there. I love Vegas for its quirky antique stores (yes, I am a collector). I love the festivals in all the European countries. The stalls along the Seine will always be an enticement for me. My Scottish roots keep calling for me to return to Edinburgh. Buenos Aires with the wonderful sound of tango music and the little houses for the dead in the cemetery will continue to haunt me until I return there.

Like everything about life, traveling will always be a joyful adventure when we follow our passions.

Thanks again for such a great message.

Gray December 5, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Thank you, Barb. You’re right, it’s a good philosophy for the rest of life, too. And wow, now you’ve made me want to go to Buenos Aires!

James Townsend December 5, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I have a passion for baseball, and was thinking of doing a baseball tour. About half a dozen companies throughout the United States run tours of four to ten days, seeing a major league game in every stadium in a particular region (East Coast, Cooperstown, Midwest, West Coast, Southeast). Only problem is the “singlism” (Bella DePaulo’s word for discrimination based on the fact of being uncoupled) practiced by the travel industry in the form of the single supplement. While I struck a trip off my bucket list in June, 2012 with a four-day, three-night bus tour of Cape Cod, I paid an extra $53.33 a night over the per-person, double-occupancy rate to sleep in a king-size bed.

Gray December 5, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Have you thought about doing it on your own, James, instead of with a tour? You could probably save money by choosing your own accommodations and the freedom of taking the trip at your own pace might be a lot better, too.

James Townsend December 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm


Thanks for the suggestion but I take tours largely because I’m unable to drive a car.


Gray December 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Had I read your comment on the other post first, I’d have gotten that. Sorry. I sympathize about the single supplements. I drive, but I don’t rent cars when I travel, I rely on public transport. Still, if you’re planning a multi-city trip in the US, it becomes logistically a bit more difficult and expensive. If only we had high-speed trains all over the country…or even cheap airlines.

Caro December 9, 2012 at 5:21 am

Good on you for hitting up the bucket list!
However – hotel rooms are generally priced by the room, so if two people share the room, the per-person rate is less. It’s not discrimination, but it is definitely disappointing advertising, and can be very discouraging to people who are looking at package holidays and never get the “low price” being advertised.

For the record I travel solo, and often. I make my hotel bookings on sites like Booking.com, Expedia or Agoda because they don’t mislead me on a low price, they just tell me the room rate and that’s that. For tours, I like companies such as G Adventures because they’ll match you in a room with someone else for the tour.

Gray December 9, 2012 at 9:42 am

I think that is one of my biggest travel pet peeves, Caro–when packages are advertised at a certain rate, but only put it in the fine print that the price is based on “per person, double occupancy”. That’s just not right. And don’t even get me started on how hotels advertise rates that don’t include the resort fees. A person has the right to know upfront exactly how much the stay is going to cost them. It’s frustrating when you’re trying to price hotels.

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures December 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm

What a brilliant suggestion!!! I completely agree.

Gray December 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Thanks, Andi!

Harvin December 5, 2012 at 9:58 am

My co-workers give me a hard time for only visiting dead peoples’ homes–particularly authors–but I love taking literary-themed trips and they’re all very doable. I don’t have a huge budget, so free cemeteries, low-cost house tours and complimentary trips to library archives to view my favorite authors’ works make for manageable trips. During my last trip to Concord, MA, I tried canoeing on the Sudbury and Concord rivers like Thoreau, Emerson and Daniel Chester French once did. I loved it! Now I’m considering an outdoors-themed trip closer to home so I can try out this new passion.

Gray December 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Oooh, I love the idea of following in the footsteps of Emerson and Thoreau! What a great idea, Harvin!

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