1. Name: Brooke Van Horn
2. Location: Nashville, Tennessee
3. Occupation: Board-certified Assistant Behavior Analyst
4. Age: 35
5. What was your last trip, how long was it, where did you go, and what did you do?
Ireland, 11 days. I went to Dublin, Sligo, Galway, Doolin, Strandhill, Limerick, Killarney, County Cork, and County Meath. While in Dublin, I drove out to County Meath to visit Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. I went zorbing and mountain boarding in County Cork and hiked Benulben in County Sligo and Mount Knocknerea in Strandhill. I took a seaweed detox bath in the town of Strandhill, as well, at a spa called Voya. I drove the Ring of Kerry in Killarney and walked the Cliffs of Moher just outside of Doolin.
6. How far in advance do you start researching your trip?
7. What kind of content helps you?
Stories and interviews about individuals’ personal experiences, how-tos, itinerary suggestions, etc. I enjoy hearing about other people’s personal experiences, reading stories and reviews online, and itinerary suggestions.
8. Where do you look for the information?
Blogs, magazines, books, tourism boards, etc. I search the web for information, either searching for specific sites I know I want to see or visit, or reading books. For my trip to Ireland, I was specifically interested in Celtic mythology and wanted to see the sites that were steeped in that history, so I read books about various places and events that happened there.
9. Do you have favorites that you go to? Or does it vary?
It varies. I do like lonelyplanet.com and find it to be a pretty accurate source of information. Anthony Bourdain has a great television show in which he travels to various sites, which I have used to influence where to go and what to see, as well as places that I would rather not go.
10. What problems do you run into with research? For example, is it hard to get answers to your questions, are websites insufficient or inaccurate in their information, etc. What would you like to see?
I run into many websites giving the same information but all of the information still being limited. For example, when researching my trip to Ireland, I wanted to go see Newgrange, an ancient historical site that is 1000 years older than Stonehenge. I found many sites that stated you could only access Newgrange through a tour, but only one site (the actual Newgrange website) had links to those who offered tours, and even then, much of the information was outdated and/or limited.
I really enjoy reading reviews from actual people, as I feel that gives the most accurate picture of what the experience is like. For example, when looking for tours to places, I like to see what people had to say about the tour, the guide, and the amount of time they had at each place.
With group tours, I take into account that most of the time one isn’t going to be able to spend the amount of quality time they’d like to in a specific place or site they are visiting, but I like to know how much time is spent at each place, if there is more travel time involved than time spent at the locations, if the guide is animated and/or willing to answer one on one questions or would rather just make his paycheck and leave, and if lunch is included, whether they accommodate dietary restrictions or what is being served.
11. Would you be inclined to go with a vendor based on the information they include on their website?
I generally am more inclined to go with a vendor if they have more information on their site, such as group size, and am generally willing to pay more to get a more personalized one-on-one or small group experience. It is always helpful when a website lists how many people they generally have on their tours, or the best places to do certain activities. I enjoy reading about the instructors and getting a feel for them before deciding who to go with.
12. What do you do on vacation? What is your aim?
Each trip I go on has a different meaning or intention. For example, my main intention on my Ireland trip was to connect with nature and learn about the Irish/Celtic mythology involving the Sidhe. However, I recently went to Spain as well and my intention there was to slow down and learn about the way the Spanish live their lives and immerse myself in their culture. I plan on going to Bali in a few months, and my intention there is to learn about Balinese healers and visit the temples and spiritual places there.
13. Why do you travel? What is important for you to experience from your trip? Physical activity, connect with other people, experience the culture, take in nature, etc:
I travel because I love seeing new things and experiencing different cultures and how they live. It is important to me to meet new people from various places around the world and hearing their perspective of life, politics, and spirituality. The world is a big place, and while we all have different ways of life and different beliefs, it always comes back to the one thing that ties us all together: love. I also enjoy learning new things and expanding my knowledge in various ways.
I love all of these things, and ideally, I would have enough time to experience each of these on any given trip. Physical activity is always a must, as well as connecting with nature, but connecting with people and experiencing the culture are also a vital part of traveling to new places and getting the most of my experience.
14. What has been your favorite trip and why?/What is a memorable experience that has really stuck with you?
I don’t have just one favorite trip, but my trips to Ireland and Spain both top the list. My trip to Spain opened my eyes to how focused I had been on work, and how I needed to get back to living in the moment and not stressing about the unimportant things so much. Ireland was incredible as far as connecting with nature, I had an amazing meditation on top of Benbulben (a mountain I had hiked which is rumored to be one of the rare places in Ireland one can actually physically see fairies). While there I was able to connect with the nature spirits and had a feeling a complete sense of peace and oneness with the Earth and all its inhabitants, and for just a short moment in time, I knew without doubt that even with all of the uncertainties of the planet that everything was wonderful and exactly as it should be.
15. Any other info you want to add about traveling that you want tourism boards and location vendors to know that will make your and other ATs travel experiences better?
As a woman, traveling alone is usually a challenge. I am not a fan of group tours, since one never seems to get to spend enough time at any given place. However, for safety reasons, especially when traveling in countries which you don’t speak the language, group tours are the best way to go at times. I personally prefer private tours, but as these can be quite expensive at times, it would be great if some agencies offered smaller group tours with longer times at certain locations. For example, while touring Morocco, we stopped at a place called the Caves of Hercules, but we only had 10 minutes there. I would have gladly paid more for a tour that focused more time on those types of places and less time in the busy town center. Having an option to customize tours at an affordable price would be the number one selling point for me every time.