Maybe you’re a “northern person” who just happened to be born in a southern clime. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

If you’re planning a travel adventure, you’ll find that there’s a wealth of advice out there regarding how you should go about doing it. Books and magazine articles with titles such as “Ten Steps for Planning Your Trip,” “Seven Steps to the Perfect Trip” or “Trip Planning in Six Simple Steps” are abundant at your local bookstore and online.

Usually, those steps look something like this: 1) choose your travel companion(s) wisely—who you want to share the experience with, 2) figure out where you want to go, 3) select a tour provider or build an itinerary yourself, 4) make flight arrangements, 5) book it, 6) do it, 7) capture your memories with photos, a journal or a souvenir.

The editor of National Geographic Traveler Magazine, Keith Bellows, however, recently suggested a shorter list of travel stages. He wrote in his monthly column that the “Cycle of Travel” went like this: 1) dream, 2) plan, 3) go, 4) share.

Sharing your travels with like-minded, newfound friends means a richer experience. ©John T. Andrews

I like his list for its simplicity and its mention in No. 4 of including other people in your travels—even the ones who didn’t go with you. However, I’d lengthen his list by one, small additional step.

Taking it one step at a time

1) Dream

Rather than choosing a destination because it’s on someone else’s list of “1,000 Places You Should See Before You Die” or “Bucket List of Ultimate Adventures,” I think your travels should start with your dreams. They should be about the places you’ve already seen in your mind’s eye; rivers you’ve imagined paddling down or mountains you’ve almost felt yourself climbing. Or, perhaps, if something inside you has always whispered that you’re a “northern person” who just happened to be born in a southern clime, you know you need to head north to see if it’s true.

2) Plan

Now that you know where you’re going, you have to decide in what manner you’ll travel. Will you be making all the nuts-and-bolts decisions yourself—such as where to stay, for how long and what to eat—or will you be signing on with a tour company? If you do opt to go with a travel provider, which one will suit your personality? For instance, Natural Habitat Adventures’ mission is conservation through exploration—protecting our planet by inspiring travelers and supporting local communities. Sharing your travels with like-minded, newfound friends sometimes makes for a richer and deeper experience than going on an adventure alone.

Experiencing one wilderness just doesn’t seem to be enough. ©John T. Andrews

3) Go

This is often the easiest step. Once you’re “out there,” act like a sponge and soak it all in.

4) Share

Although it’s hard to leave the adventure experience of a lifetime, getting back home could be the most rewarding part of the trip. Sharing your adventure with others keeps it alive. And the definition of “sharing” can be as individual as there are adventurers: it may be as simple and local as having a party with a few friends, or as expansive as calling the world’s attention to a conservation issue.

One more thing

No matter how many “steps” it took you to get there, the thing that’s certain about traveling to spectacular nature spots is that it soon becomes addictive. Experiencing one wilderness just doesn’t seem to be enough; your soul quickly calls for more. And each time you go, you find yourself changing. Adventures build your confidence; and with each successive one you take, you try to challenge yourself just a little bit more.


Travel starts with dreaming. I advise you to dream bigger.

So, I recommend Mr. Bellows “Cycle of Travel,” with a single addition: 1) dream, 2) plan, 3) go, 4) share—and 5) dream bigger.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,