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Travel show host and AAA member Samantha Brown offers insights on the return of travel

Samantha Brown at the Harney & Sons Tea House, Millerton, N.Y.  | Photo by Kevin J. O’Leary

Television travel show host Samantha Brown has been introducing viewers to vacation destinations around the world for more than 20 years. But like the rest of us, she was grounded this past year due to the pandemic. As vaccinations roll out and destinations open up, however, she, like a lot of other optimistic travelers, is dusting off her passport and suitcase. “We have a lot of hope and confidence that travel is coming back,” she says. “The wheels are turning and we’re making it happen.”

Samantha Brown at Innisfree Gardens in Millbrook, N.Y. | Photo by Kevin J. O’Leary

Samantha Brown at Innisfree Gardens in Millbrook, N.Y. | Photo by Kevin J. O’Leary

Brown recently wrapped up a shorter Season 4 of PBS’ Samantha Brown’s Places to Love and she expects to begin traveling for Season 5 in May. She is also planning to host  some AAA trips, including a river cruise in France and a seven-day train tour through Utah and Colorado that departs October 31.

The Dallas native has been a AAA member since 1988. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and their 7-year-old twins. In these excerpts from an interview with AAA, Brown talks about how travel changed during the pandemic and what she learned in the process.

Samantha Brown chats with staff at the Vollpension Café in Vienna, Austria. |  Photo by Westley Valentin

Chatting with staff at the Vollpension Café in Vienna, Austria. | Photo by Westley Valentin

Most inspired pandemic activity

Teaching her twins to ride bicycles. “A bike is absolute freedom. We’re born explorers. We learn to crawl because we’ve got to go. We learn to walk, and then we get a bike. It’s our first taste of freedom.” Brown recalls: “The first thing my daughter said when she learned to ride a bike was, “Can I ride along the Danube?’ ”

Samantha Brown meets a kite-maker in Xi’an, China. | Photo by Christina Burns

Watching a kite-maker in Xi’an, China. | Photo by Christina Burns

What she’s missed the most about travel

Connecting with people. “We meet people when we travel, and we love the fact that they’re from somewhere else,” she says. “We’re different, and yet we connect. Then we go our separate ways. That is what I have deeply, deeply missed.”

Samantha Brown tours the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, Florida. | Photo by Juliana Broste

Touring the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, Florida. | Photo by Juliana Broste

How losing the freedom to travel shifted her perspective

Every destination is a bucket list item. “Travel can be wherever you are. It could be the next town over. Just do it. Just connect with people and support the local communities wherever you go.”

Samantha Brown shows off a sand dollar found at Cayo Costa, Florida. | Photo by Juliana Broste

Displaying a sand dollar at Cayo Costa, Florida. | Photo by Juliana Broste

Her advice for reentry into travel

Take time to adjust. “If I have any insight, it’s just to be kind to yourself and to others as we slowly make our way back to where we were. We are wired to be with each other, but we haven’t been able to do that. It will take awhile to adjust. I feel like we’re going to have a slow reentry into the freedoms we once had.”

Appreciating the art at the Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. | Photo by Kevin J. O’Leary

Appreciating the art at the Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. | Photo by Kevin J. O’Leary

Where to start

Go local. “If your family can only go 200 miles from home, you’re still going to have an amazing time. The importance of travel is not measured in how many miles you go.” Brown is encouraging travelers to develop an appreciation for lesser-known, smaller destinations instead of flocking to popular spots like Barcelona or Amsterdam. For example, one of the last episodes in 2020 of her PBS show focused on Dutchess County, New York (about a two-hour drive from her home in Brooklyn).

For details on AAA tours with Samantha Brown, visit AAA.com/samanthabrown. Also check out the podcast Well-Traveled With AAA, where Samantha Brown is a frequent guest. 

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AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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