Copy and Photos by Susan Farewell

Contrary to all the sadness and turmoil we see around us day after day on media outlets and social media platforms, the world remains full of wonder and beauty.

If you haven’t seen giraffes silently munching tree tops in the Serengeti, if you haven’t heard ice calving off a glacier, and if you haven’t had the joy of finding your way around a city where nobody speaks English—you’ve got lots of traveling ahead of you.

Now’s a good time to focus on where you really want to go once we’re all able to travel freely again. Take this time to put together a wish list, a well-thought out, realistic wish list of where you want to travel—whether with your family, your partner, your friends or solo.

A magical thing happens when we write our dreams and goals down. They often come to fruition.

Here’s how to put together a meaningful list:

First things, first: Identify the time of year you can travel.

This is critical, as it narrows down the options. For example, Patagonia is a wilderness paradise—but keep in mind that in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are opposite, making it a winter wonderland during our summer months. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are intensely interesting trips, but the summer months (July and August especially) can mean oppressive heat and biblical rains.

In addition to climates, it’s necessary to take into consideration worldwide events. While you may want to go to Japan during cherry blossom season, important to know that it’s an extremely busy time of year there. Still worth going, however be prepared to plan very far in advance in order to get the accommodations, restaurant reservations and services you want.

Tap into what attracts you about a place and then look further.

Over the years, we are all exposed to travel ads and promotions. Often places and sites become embedded in our minds, imposing themselves like barnacles on our mental list of where we want to go. How many people do you know went to Paris with the dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower? Talk to them after the trip and you’ll learn the real highlight of their trip was not even in Paris. It was the simple meal of poulet fermier rôti frites (roast chicken with fries) they had at a candlelit brasserie in Provence.

My rule of thumb is if it’s the first image that comes to mind when a place is mentioned, I look for something else. The “something else” can be in the same country, another country, even another continent. It’s all about drilling down and identifying what is it that attracted you to the image. What desire did it tap into? If it is all about the romance in Paris, you may very well find it there, but there is a very good chance you will also find it in places you never expected.

Shed all “We have to see…” thoughts.

After brainstorming with one client about where to vacation, we agreed Greece was a perfect choice for her family. No sooner did we choose Greece though, before a long list of “have to sees” populated her thoughts. “We have to visit the Acropolis of course, and we can’t go to Greece without seeing Mykonos and Santorini. And someone mentioned Paros and Samos, and…”. The list goes on.

Our immediate reaction: Unless you are on a chartered boat, don’t do it. Greece should be savored slowly, spending siesta hours lingering over frappés in outdoor waterfront cafes. To rush off to inter-island ferries or flights is to miss the very essence of Greek time.

It’s important to acknowledge what it is about a place that you feel an obligation to see, then learn more about it and whittle it down to what’s manageable in one trip. If you love the country that much, make it a priority to return.

Allow yourselves to dream but be realistic.

When putting together a travel wish list, weed out the places that are “pie in the sky” for you and your family or other travel companions. You may fantasize about driving around New Zealand, but with three kids under 10, it may not be the best time to make this journey.

Think also about the physical challenges and whether the whole family is on the same page as to exactly how active they want to be. While you may want to try via ferrata in the Dolomites, your spouse and kids may be thinking more along the lines of boats and beaches on the Amalfi Coast.

Of course, you have to consider your budgetary constraints. While you may want your kids to see the world, can you afford the African safari while you have twins in college?

Make the list.

Once you’ve thought about the above and kicked ideas around with your family or other traveling companions, commit it to writing. Make a list of at least 5-6 travel destinations or experiences to aim for. Be specific as possible (Visit Argentina’s wine country, charter a yacht in Croatia, do a flying safari in Botswana). Your wish list is not cast in concrete and can change from one moment to the next. By writing it down, you are taking steps towards turning your travel dreams into reality.

Make it real.

Tops on the list should be the trip you want and most likely can do first.

While there are all sorts of uncertainties because of Covid-19, you will be traveling again. So, get a jump start on the planning now while you have some time. If you’re able to pinpoint the dates that can work, even better. Once you have dates on the calendar, your journey begins.

Your next step is to seek the guidance of a travel professional who can design the trip you’re seeking, find you the best value, and lead you to places you may have heard about. Keep in mind that because of Covid, many destinations have more generous cancel/change policies should your trip dates have to move.

Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC, a Connecticut-based travel design firm. Contact her by calling 203-247-2317 or email here.