Have you traveled to a destination and just instantly felt a connection to the place?
On the other side of the coin — have you visited a place that you just couldn’t connect with? You simply didn’t feel like you belonged there?
Me too on that one.
So what is it about a travel destination that makes us connect with it?
What aspects of travel — tangible and intangible — help us, as travelers, to make that “travel connection?”
I have some theories that I’d like to share.
I’m a firm believer in having good accommodation.
This means different things to different people.
But most of you know what you want and expect from your hotel or B&B.
Some folks say, “I’m hardly going to be in my room. So as long as I have a bed and a shower and it’s clean, I’m good.”
I don’t 100% believe this.
And I pointed that out in my new series, Charming Places.
I actually believe good accommodation can make your experience in that location much better.
Or if the accommodation is lacking in some way, then I think it can affect your “travel connection.”
For me having a clean, safe place is a no-brainer.
If I don’t have these then I’m probably not going to connect to that destination.
But there’s more to it than that.
If I have a really warm, friendly and helpful host this really helps me to connect to the destination.
To have that person who listens to you, is interested in you and is eager to help you enjoy your time in that place is invaluable.
It’s one of my key ingredients in making that travel connection.
Obviously things like the location of your B&B are beneficial too.
It’s great if you’re close to the things you want to do.
And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how much I love having a few creature comforts — comfy bed, fluffy towels and lots of light in my room and a room with a view of sorts.
So don’t neglect your home away from home.
There’s no doubt that the people you meet in your destination can make or break that travel connection.
And often this starts with a taxi driver or your guesthouse staff.
Then it works its way into folks working in the shops or at a site you are visiting.
Or maybe a guide giving you a tour.
And then it leads into the restaurant or pub you eat at.
This “people” aspect often includes other travelers who, just like you, are looking to connect to the place they are visiting.
For me it’s definitely about the people.
The people are crucial to me making a travel connection.
I fell in love with Turkey because of the people.
Sure it’s a gorgeous country with beautiful natural scenery and a rich history.
But it was ultimately the people with their kind hearts that made me fall in love with this country.
I’ve had incredible hosts at B&B’s and agriturimi that have made me feel like family.
I’ve had bus drivers make me laugh as I waited on my bus at the station.
And I’ve had waiters give me free drinks just because I was kind and made conversation with them.
I connected to all of these places.
My B&B owners in Gairloch, Scotland made my stay there so memorable.
The connection I made to that area is still with me today.
And I could give everyone in the town of Dunfanaghy and surrounding areas a hug as they made my 2 weeks there incredibly special.
I know that was one of the main reasons I connected with Donegal so much — it was the people!
You don’t even have to speak the same language to make these connections.
I once had a vineyard owner give me a tour — in Italian!
It was a very small family-run vineyard.
And I felt such a connection with this winery.
I didn’t understand most of what he said.
But I grasped his passion for what he did.
And how much he wanted to share that with me.
This is what made me connect to him and his vineyard in Tuscany.
I never made a connection in Milan.
I only stayed one night.
The hotel staff was pleasant, but not friendly.
I didn’t get warm fuzzy feelings from them.
So Milan and I aren’t really simpatico.
And that’s okay.
You aren’t going to make that travel connection every time.
Being a person who loves the outdoors and who swoons over mountain peaks and hidden beaches, I tend to connect more with destinations where I am immersed in nature.
Other folks might be more smitten with the hustle and bustle of a city — surrounded by buildings and people on the move.
For me I don’t always connect with cities.
I didn’t really connect with London.
And I didn’t connect so much with Edinburgh.
For me I think that second one was the result of being so absorbed by the Scottish landscape, that the hustle and bustle of the city simply overpowered me.
It was going from one environment to another — two extremes — that overwhelmed me.
So the connection didn’t happen.
But I have definitely made the travel connection with cities like Paris and Florence.
So you just never know.
Maybe this has happened to you too — there’s something about the space around you that you simply can’t connect with.
It may have nothing to do with the people.
And it might have everything to do with what you are surrounded by.
Some of us connect more in small villages versus big cities.
Some of us connect more with old, historic places versus modern ones.
I think it’s important to know where some of your “happy places” are.
Then you’ll better know where to travel to in order to make that travel connection.
Not that you shouldn’t try something new.
But be sure you include those happy places too.
Food — and drink — can help us connect with a destination.
Some people travel FOR food.
So it’s the purpose of their travel.
For me I don’t travel FOR food.
But I will seek out a good meal in certain places.
And it has helped me make that connection to a town or region.
I remember having an incredible meal at Taverna del Grappolo Blu in Montalcino, Italy back in 2008.
And trying loads of Brunello wines in the town at the wine shops.
I loved the food and I loved the wine.
So when I went back in 2014 I had a late lunch at the same taverna and had another delicious meal.
And I tasted more Brunello wines at the wine shops.
I think Montalcino is a nice enough hill town in Tuscany.
It’s probably not my favorite but it’s still lovely.
But I connected with it thanks to the food and certainly the Brunello wines that the town is famous for.
Your travel attitude
I truly believe that attitude — in both travel and in life — is 90% of making that connection.
You may start off with things going badly.
The taxi driver didn’t help you with your luggage.
The hotel couldn’t find your reservation (but they did after an hour of looking).
You spent €8 on a slice of pizza only to find out there was a better place 2 doors down that only charges €3.50.
You get the idea.
Sometimes bad things happen.
But things that add up.
And this can make you NOT connect to a place.
You may be ready to leave an hour after you’ve arrived.
I remember traveling in Turkey with my friend, Deb.
We had just left Bozburun and our stay at Karia Bel — a surprise find that we both loved.
It was an amazing place that both of us — me in particular — connected with.
Then we went to Gelemis near Patara Beach.
We arrived to a somewhat curt owner.
And our room was far simpler than at Karia Bel.
It was fine — clean with a rather small bathroom.
I recall that Deb and I looked at each other and we could tell that the other was a bit disappointed.
I worried that our stay — and our connection — would be a bust.
But we both have good attitudes and tend to be people who make the best of a situation.
And you know what?
We had a wonderful time.
We met other travelers.
And we loved the owner and his wife — and their staff.
We connected to Gelemis and definitely to Patara Beach.
And we connected to the area in general with the ruins and the other nearby towns.
So having a positive attitude can help make that travel connection.
Even when it seems that things aren’t going in your favor.
So what about you?
What is it that helps you connect to a destination?
How do you make that travel connection?
Drop your comments below.
I’d love to hear them.