- Virginia-based travel blogger Marissa Strang doesn’t come up short of helpful adventure guides and resources.
- To inspire others to see the world, Strang shared her top destinations of 2021 and travel trends for 2022.
- No vacation for her is complete without a thrill-seeking activity and ordering an Old Fashioned at the local speakeasy.
In the past year, travel blogger Marissa Strang hiked through a Puerto Rican rainforest, soaked in a spa overlooking the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, and drove her new camper van from Virginia to Florida.
Strang documents her travels on her blog and on social media, showcasing to her thousands of followers that they, too, can travel just like her. Her goal is to be empowering, not just inspirational.
“I don’t want people to look at my page and think, ‘Oh I wish that I could do that,'” Strang said. “I want them to look at my page and go, ‘I can do that, with the right steps.'”
When she started a lifestyle blog in graduate school, her audience responded the most to her travel content. Now, she focuses on being a resource and helping people make memories.
Strang shared her travel tips, trends to look out for, and where she wants to go next.
Strang’s memorable trips
Over the years, Strang has explored unique places all throughout the US, but it took her until 2020 to fully discover her favorite destination of all — nature.
“It wasn’t something that I had been drawn to until I was forced into doing it because of everything that was going on,” she said.
Now, Strang incorporates the outdoors into all of her travels. Like most recently on her trip to Puerto Rico, where she hiked in the El Yunque rainforest and jumped off a 30-foot cliff. She recommends the country for its beautiful scenery, culture, and outdoor experiences. She said it feels like you’re traveling internationally, but you don’t need a passport.
A fall excursion to Denver, Colorado, also made its way into Strang’s list of top trips for 2021. There she saw rock formations and colorful foliage while hiking, ziplined through the Rocky Mountains, and explored the River North Art District’s abundance of murals and craft breweries.
According to Strang, the most unexpected destination that became a top contender on her favorites list was Nashville. She said even though she isn’t a “country girl,” she was surprised at how much she enjoyed her trip to Music City.
“Everyone was so welcoming — it was that true Southern hospitality,” Strang said. “I really enjoyed it because of that connection with the people and the culture.”
Next, she wants to explore New Orleans, Iceland, and New Mexico — especially in October for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
Since the pandemic, Strang said the definition of travel has changed. It doesn’t always have to mean going somewhere far from home. People are now exploring neighboring towns or cities only a few hours away by car.
And as far as new travel trends go, Strang has noticed travelers being more aware of protecting and supporting the community they’re visiting, whether that means making sustainable choices or supporting local businesses and makers.
People are switching from buying mass-produced things to “crafted experiences that are personalized, made by real people who do a little happy dance every time you spend money at their establishment,” she said.
Strang said Asheville is an up-and-coming destination that’s perfect for experiences like that. The Riverfront Arts District has warehouses with different artists like metal workers, woodworkers, and glassblowers who handcraft earrings from scratch.
Travel at your own pace
“Slow travel” is another movement gaining popularity, which refers to traveling on your own schedule and enjoying the journey, not just the destination. Strang said people like the idea of moving at their own pace, having control, and being nomadic.
“That’s something I’m trying to be more conscious of this year — to move more slowly because I move very quickly, even when I travel,” she said.
That inspired her to take on a new adventure two years in the making — buying and renovating a camper van. It opens up the possibilities to easily drive to a hiking trail or campsite, cook on the beach, or stay in a desert.
She grew up RVing with her family, so she had some experience with this lifestyle. For those that want to try it, she suggests starting with a rental from Outdoorsy or Escape Campervans.
Another way to travel slowly is to take a long-haul train ride. Strang took Amtrak from DC to Florida and said she and everyone on board were enthralled by the experience, which included a steak dinner and watching the scenery go by from the window. She predicts people will start paying more attention to this travel option, especially if flight prices go up.
She also expects to see a boom in solo travel, especially with women, as more people try to unplug and practice self-love. “People are starting to realize there’s a certain level of self-discovery that happens when you spend time in your own presence and when you’re navigating a new place alone,” she said.
No trip is complete for Strang if she doesn’t end it with an adrenaline rush from activities like riding ATVs, cliff-jumping, or a scenic hike.
Adding a finishing touch can elevate an experience and make it more memorable. Angel’s Envy bourbon is aged in charred new white oak barrels for four to six years, then finished up to six months in ruby port wine barrels to add a nuanced yet approachable flavor.
For Strang, whiskey is also part of her travel tradition. She said she can’t leave any destination without visiting a local speakeasy for an Old Fashioned.
And, if there’s time in the morning before going home, she gets a good brunch.
“It’s just nice to have a local taste of something in your mouth as you’re leaving a destination,” Strang said.