Using personal branding to plan your ideal trip

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Lifestyle branding. In the world of personal branding, it’s a big part of our “outer brands”; how we express our personal brands to the world. It’s what our lifestyle says about us, and travel is a big part of this.

In this next part of our lifestyle branding series, travel blogger Paula Gardner of Soothed in the City shows us how to use personal branding to plan an ideal holiday.

Photo: Pixabay


If you’ve ever had a bad holiday and wondered why it just didn’t work for you, or perhaps can never agree with your partner on where to go, looking to your personal brand may help you pinpoint some options to give you future trips to remember…in a good way!

Values are at the core of personal branding, and by looking to these you can find your first clues to help you find the right holidays. Drill down to the values that really matter to you: perhaps communion with nature, learning or connection, and think how you can incorporate them into your next trip. If you’re single but connection is important, consider looking into an organised tour (or even a singles holiday!) where you can meet others, or join something like where you can borrow a couch or spare room with people all over the world (always do your due diligence when meeting strangers like this. Couchsurfing incorporates recommendations and reviews from other members so you can check out your prospective host).

Both connection and learning are two of my own values and I combine these in a language holiday in Italy which I have done for the past seven years. Learning also extends to finding out about other cultures and people, so I use to meet people for coffee and get to know a little more about a city, and combine this with a food tour for every city that I visit.  I do a lot of travelling alone for my blog but bringing these things into my trip ensures that I never get lonely. In fact, peace, calm and tranquillity are more of my values, so any holiday for me has to involve somewhere I can retreat, whether that’s a hotel room with a bath I can chill in, or knowing that theirs is quiet park somewhere near the hustle and bustle of the city.

Paula’s trip to Bologna, Italy

If learning is important for you, you can take a structured learning holiday learning anything from archery to how to paint watercolours in the South of France, or just build in options to learn something in any holiday.

If you always seem to clash with a partner on where to go, or never seem to have the same enjoyment level once you’re there, again looking at your values may help. Perhaps one of your core value is calm like me, whilst your partner values excitement and adventure, for example. You may have to dig a bit deeper to find some values that do overlap, such as a love of nature, and base your trip around this, or perhaps make time to include both of your values in the trip so that you both feel accommodated, even if you may have to spend some time on your own fulfilling them. Which brings me to…

Solo Travel
Even if you’re in a couple, solo travel is still a wonderful thing to do, and worth fighting for. At first you may feel as though your friends are silently putting you on the list as the next couple to split up, but once you establish this lovely ritual of taking some time out alone, they will get jealous, I promise!

Paula at the Colosseum, Rome

If you’re new to solo travel, you can opt for a semi structured approach like a tour or language stay as I often do. A retreat is also a lovely option which can also nurture and rejuvenate you at the same time. Or perhaps just start by catching the Eurostar to Paris and wandering for the day. I do a lovely day trip with my business coaching clients, meeting them at the Gare de Nord, and then taking them the few stops to Scare Coeur, having breakfast in a traditional French brasserie, walking up to the Sacre Coeur to get a stunning view over the city, and then meandering back down the other side of the hill through the artist area of Montmartre and the atmospheric Montmartre cemetery. It’s a very doable day trip with lots of friendly and busy places you can stop to eat: a perfect example of getting started in solo travel.

The key to solo travel is that feeling of being alone, but not lonely. If you don’t like your own company you may find it challenging and feel like you need props such as your phone or a book if you’re out eating alone. I would try to avoid this is you can. The waiting staff or your neighbours are more likely to pass the time of day with you if you’re not glued to your smartphone, and, anyway, you’re missing everything you came for!

Think of it as a date with yourself or an artist’s date to get the creativity flowing, as Julia Cameron explains in The Artist’s Way.

What’s the Purpose?
It’s worth asking what the point of the holiday is. If you’re after some quality time with your partner and know this, you’re less likely to accidentally ask your friend and her partner along after being invited to their house for dinner and feeling that you somehow have to reciprocate. Likewise, if you really need rest, you can narrow down your options to places that will engender this. Every few years I love going to one of the less popular Greek island for this reason: there is just nothing to do apart from eat and contemplate life. Bliss!

The Outer Branding Trap
If your friends and partner love going to the most upmarket luxury hotels, do be careful not to fall into the trap of always doing the same to keep up. This is your trip, your vacation, and it should be about you. Holidays can also be a time to stretch that personal brand and do something that you wouldn’t otherwise think about: a canal holiday, a trip to somewhere that offers nothing to do except time to read and enjoy the vacuum, or a nostalgic homage to somewhere you went as a child.

Milan, Italy

For years I would always fly BA and wouldn’t consider a budget airline. It was part snobbery, part loyalty to an airline I liked and, to be frank, part nervousness about changing. But then BA cancelled a flight I was on from Palma in Majorca and their next flight was a week later! I stopped at the Ryanair desk in desperation and they came to my rescue. Interestingly, with all the cuts and lack of frills nowadays, the experience wasn’t the huge step down from BA I had imagined it would be. It also opened the world of cheap, cheap fares to me: a couple f years ago I went to Rome for £30 return, last year it was Milan for the same price. Stepping out from my comfort zone has made a massive difference to my travel options.

Making the Decision
I love the researching my trips. I can literally spend a whole day with hundreds of tabs open, cross-referencing Booking,com with Trip Advisor and checking out every hotel in a particular city.  I then drill down to make a short-list and often agonise making the final decision for a day or so before I press book. It’s not about the money…it’s the anticipation. My friend Fay thinks this part of the worst bit of a holiday and pays someone to do this for her.  I feel she’s all the poorer for not getting involved and she thinks I’m mad for wasting a day. The truth is that we are doing things that suit us and our personal brands, even before we are on the holiday.

Interesting, I recently found that there are two types of people when making decisions like this. Maximisers, like me, will look at every option and compare them to find “the one”. Then there are the Minimsers who will decide “I want a three star hotel within half a mile of the Trevi Fountain, with breakfast and wifi included.” They will then look on at the first three or four that come up and then just chose one that fits the criteria. Guess who is often the happiest with their decision? Yes, it is the Minimisers. The Maximisers tend to have this nagging feeling, however good their hotel may be, that in their research they missed an elusive perfect place that’s even better.

Now I love the research so much that I’m prepared to put up with that, but if you find it stressful then take a tip from the Minimsers and set yourself a time limit to get it done and booked.

As an aside, apparently we bring these decision making tendencies into all areas of our life: from choosing somewhere to eat to picking our career!

Social Media
Finally, a word about social media. It can seem like showing off when a friend posts her latest pictures from the Seychelles but as someone who posts all her travel pics on Instagram I have to attest that the personal joy I get from doing this is huge. On any grey day I can scroll through pics from all my travels as well as photos of delicious meals, treasured moments with my friends, stunning sites or silly cat pictures. Curating our holidays have become as much a part of our experience as being on them.

From a personal branding point of view I would suggest:

  • Considering the privacy settings if you use Facebook
  • Curate your photos rather than just upload everything. One or two stunning photos are much more powerful than an album of kids squinting in the sunlight, low rise swimming trunks and cocktails
  • Context is everything. Rather than just a photo, can you tell a story, recommend a restaurant or ask people for their experiences?

Paula Gardner is a travel blogger at . You can follow her own travels on Instagram.

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