Phoebe Smith

UK-based Wanderlust Magazine editor Phoebe Smith knows exactly how to mix business and pleasure. She explores various corners of the globe in search of the perfect story, immersing herself in cultures and experiences with an insatiable appetite for adventure. Her walking, wandering and writing have led her to author several books, including Extreme Sleeps: Adventures of a Wild Camper, and end up on this year’s shortlist for the Visit England Award for Excellence in Travel Writing. Just back from her most recent excursion to Canada, Phoebe talked to us about her travel essentials, the hottest new destinations and how to make the most of your vacation snapshots.

How did you get your start in travel?

I had specialized in journalism in university, so I naturally wanted to work in magazines. While I was backpacking my way around the world after finishing school, a staff writer job came up at a backpacker magazine in Sydney, Australia, and I went for it and got it. I haven’t looked back since.

What do you love most about your work?

The variety. My first passion is writing, and I get to do a fair bit of that on my favorite subject: travel. Aside from actually exploring new places, I do genuinely love the art of magazine craft, too. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to organize and put a magazine together; and then to see people respond to it, it’s very rewarding.

Do you recommend doing a lot of planning before embarking on a trip?

I think by far the most important thing you can take with you when you travel is an open mind. Planning beforehand is great—and, in my job, rather important—but then you always have to be prepared to deal with last-minute problems or changes and learn to enjoy it anyway. Remember that the best travel stories are when things didn’t go as planned; those are the tales people want to hear about.

What are the hot new travel destinations for this fall?

Burma has to be one of the hottest destinations right now (the best time to go is November to February). In the last few years, the country has opened its doors to tourism, and people are eager to check it out for themselves—even more since Barack Obama visited in 2012. It won Top Country in our Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards and is constantly one of the most searched for destinations on our website. People go there for cultural tours, to learn about the people and to see the landscapes that they’ve read about but never visited before. Aside from Burma, I’d say there’s a lot of interest in Vietnam and Sri Lanka, also for cultural experiences, and a lot of people are looking to book trips to Iceland, Norway and Sweden for the Northern Lights, which are supposed to be spectacular this year.

What tips would you give to someone trying to plan a last-minute summer vacation?

Don't delay any longer! Book as soon as possible; otherwise, the time will slip away and the prices will get higher. Check out our Trip Finder, which can can search for trips by activity, destination, dates and region.

What are your travel essentials?

I never go anywhere without my notebook and pen. It might be old school, but unlike electronic devices, you don’t need to worry about charging it, getting a signal or having it stolen. Also, my pashmina that I picked up in Nepal—it’s great to use as a blanket if it gets cold on the plane, perfect to keep you cool from the sun when waiting for buses/trains, can double as an emergency towel and is ideal for covering up if visiting mosques…and it looks good, too!

Where’s your favorite place to travel?

It’s really hard to pick just one place! I travel all over the world for work but when I get a chance I love being a tourist in my own backyard and discovering the wilder corners of the UK…I even wrote a book about it (Extreme Sleeps: Adventures of a Wild Camper). My particular favorites are Snowdonia, the Lake District and the far north of Scotland. Go in the fall when the crowds and midges have gone but the colors of the landscape are changing. I’d suggest walking and camping/glamping for something different.

Is there anywhere you’re dying to go/stay/eat/play?

South America. I haven’t had time to do much there at all. I’d love to gaze up at the mountains, watch the stars from the Atacama Desert and maybe hop on a boat at Ushuaia, Antarctica-bound.

As summer and early fall weddings hit their peak, what are some of the best/most popular honeymoon destinations?

I think these days less and less people are looking to just fly and flop on a beach; they want an experience that they can remember. This time of year, people tend to look to New England, where they can enjoy the scenery and famous fall colors by day and cozy up in a romantic inn at night; South Africa for wildlife—game-viewing is at its best in September and October; and, for the more energetic, Nepal in October, when the Himalayas are in their prime for walking. You can check out our Unique Honeymoons website for inspiration.

People tend to get a little camera-crazy on vacations. What tips could you give for taking better travel photos?

Digital cameras and smart phones have made it far too easy for us to fire off loads of snaps without thinking about it. My advice: Be selective. Think about the photo you’re taking. Ask yourself what elements you want to include in it and take a minute to think about the composition. But, above all, remember that perfect shots are available on the postcards; make sure you put the camera down every now and again to actually experience where you are and what you’re seeing. You don’t want all your memories to be through a lens! For more tips, click here.
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