Admittedly, I had never seen any of Samantha Brown’s shows on The Travel Channel before this weekend (I tend to stick with Netflix).  My mom, on the other hand, has been a huge fan for years.

Samantha Brown

Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown at this year’s show

So I kind of just came along for the ride when she whisked me over to the “Travel Stage” where Brown was to speak at this weekend’s San Diego Travel and Adventure Show. Actually, I’d never been to one of those either.

Wow, was I glad that I went to the show! And I was even more happy that my mom insisted that we all sit for Brown’s presentation instead of wandering aimlessly in the immense San Diego Convention Center, dodging timeshare salespeople and signing up for raffles.

Brown’s talk was a  “potpourri” of travel gems. Here is the main gist of what I gleaned from my furiously-scrawled notes during her Sunday afternoon talk.

The Research Says…

Brown started off with some pretty convincing research about how important travel really is. According to experts, travel experiences are the #1 memory that kids (i.e.  this means you too, since you use to be one) have that will stay with them throughout their lifetime.

Brown also said that 429 million unpaid vacation days go unused in the United States a year.

Wait. Hold up a minute….Did I just write “429 PAID unused vacation days?” Are you kidding me?vacation days samantha brown

If anyone wants to donate those vacation days, I have a few 9-5 friends who could really use them! Better yet, do us ALL a favor and get out of the office and out of town every once in a while on your employers dime, for crying out loud!

She also said that travel is good for your brain; all that newness helps create healthy brain synapse firings. Likewise, if you don’t at least take SOME time off each year, you guessed it, you get stupid. For more info on this, visit ProjectTimeOff.

So basically, travel makes you smarter and live a richer, more vibrant life! No surprise there!

The Two Pillars of Travel

Then Brown got to the stuff that really got my pen moving. She talked about what she called “the two pillars of travel.” I loved this because they were so simple, they cost nothing, and they just make common sense.

china San Diego Travel show

China Department of Tourism at this year’s show.

Pillar One is to TAKE A WALK. Literally, wherever you happen to be, set out on your own with “no maps” and “no apps” (her words there) in a direction that just looks interesting for an hour and see where it leads you. She says that this one pillar, which she follows as much as she can in her own travels, has given her some of the richest travel experiences of her life.

A side tip to this is to check out the main events…the large squares, the famous markets…of a particular destination, but then veer off to the side streets a little. These will often be less crowded and more filled with the real cultural experience you were probably looking for in the first place. And stuff will be cheaper there.

Samantha Brown walkPillar Two is to CREATE A RITUAL. That is, do one thing the same every day. She says that she chooses a local coffee shop or eatery near her hotel (not a chain, but a local place) to have her morning coffee every day, especially if she is going to be somewhere for more than three days. She says that this act has a couple of advantages. First of all, it gives you something familiar to kind of anchor all the new experiences you will be having throughout the rest of your day when you are traveling. Second, after a while, you inevitably meet local people who can give you the inside scoop about your destination.

Awesome! I think I will just blatantly copy her coffee shop idea since I LOVE coffee and I love the idea of mixing my favorite brew with meeting some local folks and also….I LOVE COFFEE! (Did I mention I love coffee?).

Also, for a writer who does most of her creative work in the a.m., the morning coffee shop experience can be an evenritual juicier travel gem, since conversations in other languages are the most fun thing ever to eavesdrop in on.

I really appreciate both of these bits of advice since they allow a person to unplug from the world of deadlines, schedules and noise and to JUST BE in this amazing and once-in-a-lifetime experience we call travel.

Come to think of it, why couldn’t you take these two pillars and use them in your day to day life? Sounds like retreat material to me!

PS Samantha Brown has a Twitter campaign going on she told us about as well. Check out #traveltips101 and follow her on Twitter for daily bits of travel wisdom! She is a girl who has been on the road more than 200 days out of the year for the last 15 years. You bet she has some nuggets to share with y’all!


What is your favorite Samantha Brown show or segment? Share them in the Comments section below!