Recently I spent some time at the Destinations Show in London - I hadn't been to the London version of the show before having previously only done Birmingham. In lots of ways it's a seriously dangerous place for me to be - my enthusiasm for trips almost inevitably bubbles over learning about new destinations and contemplating revisiting places I've been too before, and I can feel the credit card twitching in my pocket.
There were a few companies (and places) I expected to see represented and others I didn't expect to see there. I probably do need to apologise to the nPower employee who tried to engage me in a extended conversation about my domestic energy provider - but really, what where nPower doing there? I was much more interested to find out about trips by jeep up the Karakorum Highway or heading across Central Asia on horseback than to contemplate gas and electricity. And no, I really don't know what I pay for my electricity each month.
In the "missing" category I was hoping to see the folks from Discover the World again, and the RMS St Helena - and I was hoping that the Falklands Islands Tourist Board would be there to back up the heavy advertising they've been doing in the UK.
The region that surprised me most (by the scale of the presence) was South America - and particularly Colombia. I was still picturing drug barons - but I was quite taken by the slogan "The Only Risk is That You'll Want to Stay".
Like lots of people - e.g. Wanderlust - I felt a need to put together a list of 10 new/reinvigorated travel ideas from wandering round the show (so in no particular order).
1. Eagle Festival in Mongolia
Thought the scenary looked fantastic - and Mongolia definitely fits into my pattern of heading off to places that most other folks don't want to go to. I'm pretty keen to try and get to the Altai Eagle festival - would have some really good photographic opportunities. The folks from Panoramic Journeys were very enthusiastic about this being a good place to visit in the autumn, and were also pretty sure that I really needed to stay for a month (or "maybe six weeks") to really see everything that Mongolia had to offer a photographer. I wonder if gers are anymore comfortable than yurts.
2. Monks and Rhinos in NE India
I've been to India a few times before, but only to the 'main' part of India - and I hadn't really given much thought to the Assam area (I might have been able to point to it on a map but not with much confidence). Travel the Unknown weren't a company I'd seen before - but some of their rather less usual destinations do appeal. Their collection of trips to Assam and Arunchal Pradesh has certainly got my attention - with an interesting mix of culture and wildlife.
3. Eastern Bhutan
I really enjoyed talking with the folks from Blue Poppy - we'd used them via Cox and Kings when we went to Bhutan a couple of years ago. It was interesting to hear a bit more about the eastern end of Bhutan - which we didn't manage to get to on our first visit - it's further off the usual tourist circuit (is any part of Bhutan on a usual tourist circuit?).
4. Karakorum Highway in Pakistan
Long long ago I did manage a trip to Pakistan - spending a few days in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, before going up to Peshawar and not quite making it to the Khyber Pass. Peshawar is pretty much off the tourist route at the moment - but it was good to hear from TravelPak that some parts of northern Pakistan are good to go to at the moment. I was particularly interested to hear about a possible trip up the Karakorum Highway towards the Chinese border - almost joining up with the trip from Kashgar last year.
5. Self-guided touring in Japan
I first found out about self-guided tours in Japan at a Destinations Show a couple of years ago - I'd always assumed that language meant that Japan (outside the big cities) was only doable on a group tour. However there are a number of companies offering self-guided tours - everything is booked and planned - and you get a phone contact to bail you out if you need it. The companies I talked with this time were InsideJapan and IntoJapan.
6. Faroe Islands
This has been on my list for a while - but it was interesting to hear more from Atlantic Airways who fly direct (in the summer) from Stansted to the Faroes. Atlantic Airways did fly from Stansted via Sumburgh in the Shetlands - but I gather they needed to stop doing that because it was often too foggy to let them land on Shetland and they kept winding up with stray Shetlanders on Faroe. National Geographic Traveller came up with the label of "The World's most Appealing Islands" - the pictures and descriptions would support that. Looks like a really strong candidate to to add to my island collection - and not too far away.
7. National Parks in Tanzania
Another destination that was already on my wish list - there were a number of companies making really interesting pitches about visiting various of the Tanzania National Parks - everything from pretty basic tented camps to seriously expensive camps and lodges. The two companies I talked for longest with were Simply Tanzania Tour Co and Cox and Kings (who we've used on several previous trips to India and Bhutan).
8. Photo safari in Sri Lanka
We'd wondered about Sri Lanka a few years ago - post tsunami when there was a lot of push to rebuild the tourist industry. There were two reasons why Sri Lanka attracted my attention this time - firstly that the island is now said to be safe to visit all over (which certainly wasn't the case a few years ago), and a fun sounding Exodus photo safari looking for Whales and Leopards - there can 't be too many places that combines these. I'm due to do a photo trip to Svalbard with Exodus later this year - maybe Sri Lanka as a my photo trip next year.
9. Whale Watching in the Azores
Picking up both the whales and atlantic islands themes again - the Azores sounds like a good bet - offering whales all year round. Again lots of people offer this - I talked with Sunvil Discovery.
10. Wildlife Tours in Iran
I've been to Iran before - a week long visit to Shiraz, with a chance to have a look at Persepolis, and while I had thought of visiting there again I hadn't thought of Iran as a place for a wildlife holiday. Persian Voyages had other ideas and have at least one interesting tour combining natural history and Iranian culture.
I talked with lots of other people too - and my brochure stack also included Jordan, Cape Verde, Nova Scotia, Chile and the Trans-Siberian Railway. The folks from Promote Shetland were there too - trying to cope with the volume of interest driven by Simon King's Shetland Diaries. I don't really need my interest in Shetland encouraged - we're already due to be up there for (at least) a couple of weeks in the summer.
So many possible trips - so little annual leave.