Hi everyone! How is the first month of 2020 coming to an end already? I wrapped up the last weekend of January at the New York Times Travel Show, and would like to talk about this amazing experience in today’s blog post.
The New York Times Travel Show is a three-day trade show held at the Javits Center in Manhattan. The numbers from last year are outstanding: There were 747 booths and over 35,000 attendees. This year, the travel show was held from Friday, January 24 to Sunday, January 26. It is the largest travel trade show in North America. Friday is only open for members of the press and people in the travel industry. Saturday and Sunday are open for consumers. It’s $20 for a one-day ticket, $25 for a two-day ticket, and children under 18 are free.
The travel show includes exhibitor booths. Tourism organizations from all over the world, ranging from New Hampshire’s Lakes and Mountains to Curacao, participate. Representatives answer any of your questions about their destinations and you’ll get brochures/travel guides/maps to take home. But that’s not all that this travel show offers. This show is an experience. You can take in a performance from one of the cultural stage events: There’s entertainment from South African Tourism, the Brazilian Tourist Board, and Tokyo Tourism. There’s also the Taste of the World events: There’s Delicious Tips from the Greek National Tourism Organization, Savor Pure Grenada, and The Pride of Puerto Rico. You can also attend travel seminars, go to a book signing, visit the Family Travel Pavilion, and apply for a passport. You have so many options, and needless to say, you’ll be busy. And did I mention all the cool brochures and free stuff you can get?
I went to the travel show on Saturday and had an absolute blast. Take a look below to see my day of visiting the tourism booths, seeing dances from Rwanda and Azerbaijan, and tasting Turkish food.
I wanted to make the most of the day, so I came at 10 for the opening and stayed until the show’s closing time at 6. I got my tickets online, and I received my travel badge in the mail because I registered before January 15th. Upon coming into the Javits Center, I took out my travel badge with my name on it and put it on the super cool yellow United Arab Emirates lanyard (That was already a new souvenir). There was also a gigantic, green bag that said The New York Times Travel show on one side and Visit Greece on the other side. Inside the bag, we got a Dubai city guide, a Visit Guadeloupe bucket hat, and brochures from places like Dayton, Ohio. I also picked up The New York Times Travel Show guide that listed all the participating destinations and the times for the performances, tastings, and travel seminars.
While the participating destinations were not listed on the travel show website, the times for the performances, tastings, and travel seminars were listed in advance. I wrote down where I was interested in going, and also wrote down the potential states/countries I was interested in learning more about. I didn’t stick to this plan 100%. I came up to any booth that looked nice and learned more about the cool destinations.
My first stop was the United States Pavilion. The first state I saw was Maine, and I immediately came up because I’ve been to DownEast Maine and was now interested in the Maine Highlands. I got guides and learned more about Mt. Katahdin, Baxter State Park, and Moosehead Lake.
My next stop was the Granite State: New Hampshire’s Lakes and Mountains, Portsmouth, and Mount Washington. They blew me away. At the travel show, I was most impressed with New Hampshire, the Florida Keys, and Costa Rica. The people were just so friendly and knew so much and were so patient and answered all my questions. It was unbelieveable.
At New Hampshire, the lovely man gave me a green bag that said New Hampshire’s Lakes and Mountains with guides, maps, and a pen. I learned that North Conway is the center of all outdoor recreation and then some: The beautiful mountain town offers skiing, kayaking, and cute bookstores. I’ve actually been wanting to visit North Conway for a while, as I saw ski-jumping practice in summer 2017 in Lake Placid. Many of the athletes were from North Conway, as the area does extremely well in hockey and ski-jumping at both the state/national title. New Hampshire is the only state that allows high school ski jumping. The Mount Washington man said that it was actually funny that I knew that because his son started ski-jumping. Plus, New Hampshire continues to be ranked as one of the best states to live in and has no general sales tax. I’m obsessed with their state motto: Live free or die. Although this seems to be taken literally because I think you don’t need to wear a seat belt in the state if you’re above 18 years old?
I also talked with the lovely ladies from Portsmouth, and they told me that there’s actually a bus that takes you from New York City to Portsmouth, which I didn’t know. Visiting Portsmouth sounds like a great weekend trip to me! And the lovely Mount Washington people circled all the best ski resorts not far away from North Conway for me on a Ski NH map and answered all my questions on attractions, best places to visit, and advice for first-timers. I also learned more about Lake Winnipesaukee. I’m writing this right now with my trusty New Hampshire’s Lakes and Mountains pen and I’m going to use the New Hampshire water bottle koozie because, well, it says Live free and that’s how I’m trying to live. Also, Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors and lives in New Hampshire and bases her books in New England and there’s a big French-Canadian influence in the state, so maybe that explains my fascination with New Hampshire.
I then visited the North Carolina booth because that state has everything, from beaches to mountain towns. I’d love to visit the Outer Banks, Asheville, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I was given a bag and a North Carolina travel guide.
I then went to Discover Gloucester. Gloucester is a fishing town in Massachusett’s Cape Ann. I read The Perfect Storm, a fantastic book that chronicles how fishermen onboard the Andrea Gail passed away in the 1991 Perfect Storm. There’s still a memorial in the town for fishermen lost at sea. I got a guide, a Discover Gloucester sticker with the fishermen memorial (I put the sticker on my notebook for my American Short Story class), and fishing bookmarks.
I also stopped by Salem, and the representative said it’s best to visit in September (It gets super packed in October). The MBTA commuter rail can get you to Salem from Boston. Salem is an extremely walkable city.
I even visited our state neighbors in New Jersey. We talked about the best beaches, restaurant recommendations in these seaside towns, and the best attractions. I got county guides, pens, a Seaside Heights koozie, and a beach-themed stress ball.
I then noticed that Florida had a whole aisle dedicated to their tourism organizations. I honestly wasn’t expecting to visit the Florida booths. I seem to think of myself as someone who would rather live near a mountain or a lake and vacation on the beach. I can’t picture myself living in a tropical climate all-year round. I realize I should have been more open, as the man from the Florida Keys was absolutely phenomenal. I learned more about its four regions and Hemingway’s home. I couldn’t believe how crystal-clear and beautiful the water is. I was given 2 stunning Florida Keys calendars, brochures, stickers, and a Florida Key Lime pie recipe. Like I said, this guy was so phenomenal, passionate, and knowledgeable.
Then I paid a visit to Miami, where I got a Miami bag, luggage tag, and city guide. I also learned more about the Emerald Coast near the Alabama border, and got an Emerald Coast koozie. I became super interested in visiting St. Petersburg/Clearwater after visiting Naples and seeing the Gulf of Mexico, so I stopped by their booth. They gave each visitor a bag filled with St. Petersburg/Clearwater brochures, a beach button, and a reusable plastic straw (Okay, this reusable straw was my favorite. St. Petersburg/Clearwater, you’re doing amazing).
I then went to the very impressive Alaska booth. They told me about Anchorage, Denali National Park, the park helicopter rides, and the scenic railroad that stops in Seward, Anchorage, and Denali. They also gave me a coupon for a helicopter ride, which I thought was hilarious.
I adore our neighbors up north, so I just had to stop by the Newfoundland and Labrador booth. Canadian nice really is a thing. I learned more about St. John’s, and I got Newfoundland and Labrador bookmarks and postcards.
At this point, I was at the travel show for two hours. I went to the travel seminar with Sebastian Modak. Modak was the New York Times 52 Places Traveler in 2019, visiting a new location every week.
Modak was inspiring and funny, providing all the lessons he learned along the way. Here are the key takeaways:
1. Be ready to throw your plans out the window
2. Trust strangers
3. Solo travel can be lonely, but sometimes being alone can be pretty great.
4. Find your own threshold for risk
5. Some things really are out of your control
6. Embrace the “low season”
7. Death to the “bucket list”- Everywhere has something that will blow you away even though you never thought it would.
8. Look for a story and act like a journalist.
After this seminar was over, I went to one of the cultural stages. Rwanda was performing, and they did not disappoint.
I then paid a visit to Costa Rica. This place was incredible. The man circled all the best places to visit, explaining that there are direct flights from JFK and Newark to Juan Santamaria International Airport. He also wrote down the four major parts to visit in Costa Rica, including Manuel Antonio National Park. This park looks like something out of a dream. All the recreational opportunities-horseback riding, swimming in the beach, and hiking-look incredible. The representative even wrote down all the answers to my questions on the map, and said Costa Rica is a very friendly nation. I just love their pura vida mentality too. Their booth was so cute. You can send a Costa Rica postcard to yourself, and there was a whiteboard asking three questions: What makes you feel it? What gives you peace? What keeps you going? You can take a marker and write down your responses. Costa Rica has become my dream now.
After that, it was time to make my way down to the Europe Pavilion. I visited Poland, where I was greeted with a welcoming hello and the friendly woman answered my questions on Zakopane (The Tatra Mountains in both the winter and summer look so nice. My dream is to see Lake Morskie Oko in Tatra National Park ) and handed me a guide. I know I’d like to visit Warsaw, Krakow, and Zakopane, but I also realized that there are so many other places worth visiting too: I can’t forget about Wroclaw, Gdansk, Białystok, Torun, Łódź, Lublin, and Poznan. I also picked up brochures on Thebes, Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, and Thessaloniki from the Greece booth.
I stopped by the Baltic table and learned that it is best to spend 3 days in each city: Vilnius in Lithuania, Riga in Latvia, and Tallinn in Estonia. There is a bus route that connects you to each city. I also got a nature tourism map of Lithuania that highlighted the country’s national and state parks (Birzai Regional Park looks so cool). I also stopped by Belarus’s impressive booth. The woman was even dressed in ethnic clothing! She gave me a map and listed all the awesome things to do in Minsk. She also told me about Belarus’s national parks and circled them on the map too. That’s what was so amazing about the travel show for me: I learned new things about each country and realized how impressive their nature is. Now I really, really, want to visit Belovezhskaya Pushha National Park. The very friendly woman also gave me an eco-tourism guide to Belarus (I really want to kayak and hike in Belarus now), a postcard of Mir Castle, and a postcard of the 2021 IIHF World Championship happening in both Belarus and Latvia. Eastern European countries are such underrated places. Their natural landscapes look incredible. I want to visit them all!
Then I stopped by the Georgia booth (The country, not the state LOL) and got a guide to Georgia. Once again, I can’t believe how beautiful the nature is in every country and can’t believe we live in such an earth. These places are just too nice.
At this point, I went to another cultural stage event. Children performed Azerbaijani dances, and wow. It was so cool seeing a Caucasus dance. I’d really love to visit the Caucasus and Central Asian countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. So many places to see! I can only imagine how stunning Baku, Tashkent, and Almaty are.
After this performance, I made my way over to the Asia Pavilion. Russia was represented by Svoya Tropa, and the women dressed in the traditional headdresses- kokoshniks-explained their Trans-Siberian Railway packages. I would absolutely love to take this train from Moscow to Vladivostok, or even end the train ride in Mongolia. This sounds like the voyage of a lifetime.
Then, I stopped at the Mongolia booth right next to Russia. These people were so welcoming. They explained what to see and do in Ulaanbaatar and the Gobi Dessert. I also looked at the packages and going horseback riding in the steppes and meeting the nomadic tribes sounds like an epic journey that I would love to take. Mongolia seems to be a beautiful hidden gem! They gave me brochures and Mongolia bookmarks. I also stopped by the Uzbekistan booth where they were dressed in ethnic clothing and learned more about Tashkent.
At this point in the show, I had two filled bags and was learning so much information. Time to rest my feet and eat? I think yes. I left for the food court to get a good old burger and fries to refuel. After that, I went downstairs to the Travel Writing and Photography in 2020: Perspectives From Three Experts seminar. I know I keep saying that every aspect of this travel show was incredible, and this seminar was no exception. Max Hartshorne, an editor for GoNOMAD.com; Paul Shoul, a travel photographer for GoNOMAD.com; and Erik Trinidad, a video producer, led the seminar. The seminar was broken down into three parts: travel writing, photography, and videography. I took down notes because they were all so helpful. Here are the key takeaways for travel writing:
- Where have you been? A travel story starts where you just came back from or even in your own backyard.
- Give an elevator pitch about your story in four minutes.
- Show, don’t just tell. Make the story useful to a future traveler.
- Where are we? Write the location in the first or second sentence.
- Let yourself go. Sometimes you just have to write it out. Take great notes when you’re traveling too.
- What changed in you? Travel changes you. A lesson learned is a big theme in travel writing. This component is a must for every story. You travel to learn a lesson, so share your attitudes or opinions that changed as a result of your trip.
- Shoot, shoot, shoot. Your camera is your best friend.
- Share details: the colors, smells, and how you feel. Be detail-oriented and use descriptive words,
- Use sites like PicMonkey and Grammerly.
- Write down quotes from people you meet.
- Be a reporter and use exact locations.
- Use simple language and write the way you talk.
- Narrow your focus: Be specific and don’t try to cover everything.
- Read Bill Bryson and Rachel Friedman.
- Create a blog- It’s great practice and establishes your identity.
- Avoid clichés.
- Submit- There are 34 travel magazines and websites that accept submissions.
Onward to the photography portion of the seminar! I absolutely loved it when Shoul said, “Part of being a photographer is being a student of life.” He showed us several of his photographs. The two biggest takeaways I got from his presentation were the following: Stop trying to take snapshots and instead tell a story, and travel can be anywhere (Start in your own city!)
Onward to the video production portion of the seminar! We learned how to shoot video on our own phones, and Trinidad even walked through how to do it on his iPhone. Here are the lessons I learned during this portion:
- Keeping a blog is an exercise for the mind.
- A video can capture a sequence of events or actions. There can be a beginning, middle, and end.
- Speech and music provide more emotion.
- Shoot horizontally.
- Filmora is a great Android app for video-editing.
- Collect footage for editing.
- Make an “assembly edit.”
- Trim the fat.
- “Kill your darlings” (Haha, this is a phrase I have heard countless times in my journalism classes). If the clip doesn’t support the main story, you can cut it out.
- You don’t need to be linear.
- Music contributes to an emotional moment.
- Embrace restrictions.
- Emulsio is a fantastic app that stabilizes shaky video clips.
All right, at this point it was five o’clock. I’m not going to lie, I was starting to feel tired after all that happened and was just blown away by the caliber of the show and all the welcoming people I met along the way. But I wanted to go to one last event! It was a taste event, and there was a five o’clock event called A Taste of Turkish Airlines. I took my seat, and two Turkish chefs prepared food on the podium while explaining Turkish cuisine and taking questions from the audience. Turkish Airlines flight attendants were also in the audience and were taking any questions. Within minutes, the smell from the food they were making was so good. Here are some of the notes I took about Turkish food:
- You can’t go wrong with a Turkish salad.
- Pomegranates are one of Turkey’s biggest exports.
- They use a lot of olive oil in Turkey.
- Turkish red pepper flake and dried mint are really good.
- Turkey is well-known for seasonal produce.
- Most dishes don’t have peel from tomatoes.
I sincerely forgot the name of the first dish that we got to try. That’s a fault on my part but enjoy the following photo of it in the meantime before I wolfed it down:
The chefs also made ezme, a salad filled with tomatoes and hot peppers. My taste buds were having a party when I tried it. There were left overs at the conclusion of the event, and everyone rushed to get some more. Turkey sounds amazing. I must see the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
Okay, okay, I know I said I was going to stop after this event. But there were still fifteen minutes left of this travel show before it closed at six. So, you bet your bottom dollar I went to another booth. I decided to go to the I LOVE NY Pavilion. I took a “What type of traveler are you?” quiz and got an aquaphile/culture vulture. That’s true- I love being near the water, but I also love art museums. In exchange, I got an I LOVE NY pop socket and New York sticker! I also stopped by the Westchester County booth, where the two very helpful women gave me a guide.
And that was a wrap! I felt like my arms were going to fall off and my legs were going to give in once six o’clock hit. But it was such a productive and eventful day, and I left the Javits Center feeling so content (And trying to carry two packed bags with all the guides and goodies). If I didn’t have school on Monday, I would have returned on Sunday just to attend the travel seminars and see the cultural stages events. There were so many interesting travel seminars all happening at the same time about how to pack, eco-tourism, Italian destinations, and French destinations.
I learned a lot at this show. I was super impressed with the USA Pavilion. I didn’t realize just how ginormous this country is and I still have so much to see! I was also blown away by Eastern Europe, the Caucasus countries, and Central Asia. This part of the world doesn’t get talked about enough! I wish more people knew more about this region’s beauty. I also learned we live in a pretty amazing world and that the world truly is our oyster.
The places that had the biggest impression on me were New Hampshire, the Florida Keys, Costa Rica, and Mongolia.
I would love to come back next year and hopefully go on Friday as a travel blogger! How cool would that be? Next year, I’d love to go to more travel seminars.
Thank you so much for reading about my experience. I hope you get inspired too! If you’ve read this far, you’re absolutely amazing.
With so much love,
P.S.- Here’s a direct list of all the wonderful places I checked out!
– New Hampshire’s Lake and Mountains/ Portsmouth/Mount Washington
– North Carolina
– Gloucester, Massachusetts
– Salem, Massachusetts
– Jersey Shore, New Jersey
– Miami, Florida
– The Florida Keys
– Emerald Coast, Florida
– St. Petersburg/ Clearwater, Florida
– Anchorage/Denali National Park, Alaska
– Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
– Costa Rica
– I LOVE NY & Westchester County