Everyone who loves a holiday will hold a special place in their heart for a favourite destination which they have probably visited many times. The real value in owning timeshare, however, lies in being able to swap your holiday home for thousands of others around the world, allowing you to try something completely different while you discover exciting new places. Once you step outside your holiday comfort zone, you might well be uncomfortable about getting back into it!

My idea of holiday fun has always been more about buildings than beaches...

Give me a bleached stone ruin or a jaw-dropping bit of architecture and I'm happy. Time out from the rat race usually finds me in search of these treasures in countries such as Italy, Malta, Greece, Croatia and Spain - all the usual suspects, so to speak. That was until the day a friend, with whom I shared a passion for funky jazz and blues music, suggested we head off for a holiday in the US, to Minneapolis, a city of all places. I wasn't exactly thrilled by the idea, and it was a holiday that would come at a considerable cost, having to fly out from the UK.

The pull of the promised parties and a mighty music fest at the home of rock superstar, the late artist formerly known as Prince, won the day and saw me flying off to Minneapolis in the US state of Minnesota. To say I was venturing out of my comfort zone was an understatement, and I was doing this against my better judgement when I started to think of the hole this holiday was going to blow in my travel budget for the year.

Here I am on a real mission, exploring the ruins of former leper colony on Spinalonga island, off Elounda in Crete. Since reading Victoria Hislop's  historic novel, The Island, based on the experiences of the lepers who were exiled to Spinalonga I had wanted to see these buildings for myself.

Here I am, well and truly in my own holiday comfort zone, exploring the ruins of former leper colony on Spinalonga island, off Elounda in Crete. Since reading Victoria Hislop's historic novel, The Island, based on the experiences of the lepers who were exiled to Spinalonga, I had long wanted to see these buildings for myself and to imagine that time, and the lives of the lepers back then, while wandering around the ruins of their community.

The Dakota Club in Minneapolis served up a varied menu, of tasty meals, warm hospitality and the funkiest music in town.

The Dakota Club in Minneapolis served up a varied menu, of tasty meals, warm hospitality and the funkiest music in town. There was a surprise in store for me, however, as I discovered there was more of what I liked about a holiday than music in this city...

Well, the music was fabulous. We partied from one end of Minneapolis to the other. The Dakota Club was a personal favourite when it came to music venues; being small and intimate, it was the perfect place to lose myself in the strains of the sassy saxophone, piano and mic. A visit to First Avenue - a mecca for fans of the award winning film, Purple Rain, was an emotional experience as well as a great place to party. Events held at Paisley Park, the home and recording studios of Prince himself, was very memorable. Much to my surprise, the actual building itself turned out to be a fascinating bit of architecture, being built out of white aluminum and having a glass pyramid to light the lobby.

Very different from the pale stones of Spinalonga, but equally fascinating for me, was the white aluminum structure that had once been home to rock legend, Prince.

Very different from the pale stones of Spinalonga, but equally fascinating for me, was the white aluminum structure that had once been home to rock legend, Prince.

In fact, Minneapolis surprised me. There was so much more to it than the music. We spent a day exploring the amazing Skywalk, a sprawling steel and glass structure built high above the streets of the city so that its residents could still get to work and go about their business in climate-controlled comfort throughout the punishing winters. The city sees an annual average snowfall of 53 inches and so the 11 miles of glass walkways, connecting 80 major buildings high above Downtown Minnie, is not only an awesome engineering masterpiece, but such a fun way to explore the city - even in the summer. I loved the communal areas dotted throughout the Skyway where you could take a break from sightseeing, joining the friendly office workers taking their lunch break.

In the time I spent there I uncovered some amazing architectural treasures. This cool city has a really diverse and unique set of buildings - from the fairytale castle that was built at the turn of the century as a private home for a Swedish publisher and is now the American Swedish Institute, to the Art Deco Foshay Tower, built in 1929 and now put into the shadows by the taller skyscrapers that came after.

Me, on the left, and my friend Sarah, exploring Minneapolis from on high as we roamed the fascinating Skyway which comprises 11 miles of steel and glass walk ways connecting 80 of the city's buildings.

Me, on the left, and my friend Sarah, exploring Minneapolis from up on high as we roamed the fascinating Skyway which comprises 11 miles of steel and glass walkways connecting 80 of the city's buildings.

There are also 22 lakes in Minneapolis, with the Chain of Lakes comprising five of the largest. A mere 10 minutes from Downtown, you have 15 miles of beautiful paths to stroll, winding through the parkland and meandering along the shorelines, it was one of the city's biggest surprises for me.

Sadly, I didn't manage to explore all the Twin Cities had to offer - as I ran out of time before I got to St Paul, part of the area. However, my flight and hotel are booked for this year, so I'm going to dig a little deeper!

Beyond the bricks - steel and glass - of the city, Minneapolis is surrounded by the most incredible beauty in the form of 22 lakes and parkland. Pictrued is one of the five largest lakes, Bde Maka Ska.

Beyond the bricks, steel and glass of the city, Minneapolis is surrounded by the most incredible beauty in the form of 22 lakes and parkland. Pictured is one of the five largest lakes, Bde Maka Ska.

The Stone Arch Bridge was a railroad bridge and is the only stone bridge to cross the Mississippi River and it does that in Minneapolis. Its fascinating beauty belies its industrial origins.

The Stone Arch Bridge was a railroad bridge and is the only stone bridge to cross the Mississippi River and it does that in Minneapolis. Its fascinating beauty belies its industrial origins.

My experience got me thinking that when planning holidays, why do I always start with the destination? Why don't I begin my holiday search with the experience I want and all the great things I want from my time away - and see where that takes me?

I have since had a play on RCI.com's online resort directory. At the foot of the page, The Holiday Types filters serve up a one-click list of holidays worldwide which meets my criteria.

Choose from beach, golf, spa or skiing holidays, and breaks that are suitable for families to enjoy. Once you have your list of initial search results, you can filter even further by ticking the activities and resort amenities you like to enjoy on holiday. Do this before selecting any destination filters, and you may well be surprised to find your perfect holiday in a location you would not have considered previously!

I, for one, am more accustomed to meandering around Mediterranean villages with their sunny pan tile roofs. Looking at this picture of a picture-perfect Swiss village, I wonder why I haven't wandered further afield to different regions.

I, for one, am more accustomed to meandering around Mediterranean villages with their sunny pan tile roofs on my holidays. Looking at this picture-perfect Swiss village, I wonder why I haven't wandered further afield to different regions.

Talking with several RCI members some time back for an article I was writing, I recall many of them telling me how using the experience they loved as the start of their holiday planning journey had opened the doors to some of the best times they have had. Rosemary Hutcheson and her husband, Gordon, have been using experiences to start their journey for a long time.

Rosemary told me: "We have discovered some fabulous new places using search filters to find golf locations for us. We visited Florida to holiday and play golf, getting the idea from the search filters on RCI.com. We are keen golfers and courses in Florida were not too crowded and excellent. Another search led us to our best holiday ever, this time to South Africa where we played golf as well as going on safari and doing so many other things. It was fantastic and not all about the golf."

Golfers would most lkely think Portugal and the Algarve, or Scotland, when looking to head off for a golfing break. How many golfers out there have thought of taking their clubs to Florida, pictured. With so many courses close to the theme parks of Orlando, Florida is a golfing holiday the whole family can enjoy.

Golfers would most lkely think of Portugal or Scotland, when looking for somewhere to head off to for a golfing break. How many golfers out there have thought of taking their clubs to Florida? With so many courses, such as the one pictured here, close to the theme parks of Orlando, Florida provides a golfing holiday the whole family can enjoy.

Punta Cana in the sizzling, sunny destination of the Domincan Republlic is good for golf as well as lounging by the pool, long cool cocktail in hand.

Punta Cana in the sizzling, sunny destination of the Domincan Republlic is great for golf, as well as lounging by the pool, with a long cool cocktail in hand.

RCI members, the McGregor family, love to ski together and having busy jobs and children at school, their window of opportunity to go away on holiday as a family is limited, so planning with the RCI.com Holiday Types search helps them to get the holiday they want. Talking about how his family use their timeshare, Stephen McGregor said: "It is an adventure and has taken us to so many new and fabulous places. We enjoyed a ski holiday in Hinterzarten in the Black Forest, which was beautiful. We hadn't realised the area had skiable mountains - the RCI search results flagged it up to us."

Smugglers' Notch in Jeffersonville, Vermont, in the US, was once the home to early 19th century outlaws smuggling contraband through the narrow mountain passes, Today it is better known as a world-class ski resort. Having three inter-connected mountains and miles of ski terrain with a 795 vertical drop it is a thrilling experience for skiers. But hire a car and drive through the spectacular pass, embraced by 300 metre-high cliffs on both sides and you don't need to ski to get to love this place.

Smugglers' Notch in Jeffersonville, Vermont, in the US, was once the home to early 19th century outlaws smuggling contraband through the narrow mountain passes, Today it is better known as a world-class ski resort. Having three inter-connected mountains and miles of ski terrain it is a thrilling experience for skiers. But hire a car and drive through the spectacular pass, embraced by 300 metre-high cliffs on both sides, and you don't need to ski to get to love this place.

Zell Am See in Austria is a little closer to home for European holidaymakers than the US, but the snow is just as good while there is an entirely different and unique destination experience to be enjoyed in these pretty mountains alive with Austrian traditions.

Zell Am See in Austria is a little closer to home for European holidaymakers than the US, but the snow is just as good, while there is an entirely different and unique destination experience to be enjoyed in these pretty mountains alive with Austrian traditions.

If you think about any and every holiday activity or pursuit, start out with that in mind and see where thinking outside the box takes you... Think of one of the most popular of ways to spend your time away (unless you're me) - lazing and playing on a sandy beach - and you're probably thinking Málaga. But beaches abound in some incredibly beautiful places, with nature's best backdrop hugging their shores. Lake Balaton in Hungary is a wonderful summer beach location, for example. Hungary's inner sea has 197 kilometres of shoreline. It is Europe's largest freshwater lake and comes with sandy beaches and the bonus of being close to hiking trails up into the Balaton Uplands National Park and the village of Veszprém, a walled-castle district boasting 13th century frescoes.

Platja Llarga in Málaga is most likely what sun worshippers have in mind when they think sun, sea and sand getaways. But, it is just one of a myriad of destination options around the world for a beach break.

Platja Llarga in Málaga is most likely what sun worshippers have in mind when they think sun, sea and sand getaways. But it is just one of a myriad of destination options around the world you might consider for a beach break.

Lake Balaton, Hungary's inner sea, comes complete with sandy beaches and all the fun of the seaside, but it has the advantage of being in the country's wine region so when you want a break from the shoreline, head off to sample some of the regional wines in the local wine caves. It is also close to hillside fortresses, villages and home to the oldest Medieval town in the region, Tihany.

Lake Balaton, Hungary's inner sea, comes complete with sandy beaches and all the fun of the seaside, but it has the advantage of being in the country's wine region so when you want a break from the shoreline, head off to sample some of the regional wines in the local wine caves. It is also close to hillside fortresses, villages and home to the oldest Medieval town in the region, Tihany.

Many of our members head for Tenerife, a tiny Spanish island dominated by the mighty Mount Teide. Having been to the top - doing the last stage by cable car - and driven and walked around the Teide National Park, I can vouch for its peculiar 'other worldliness'. I can still feel the absolute thrill of being so very small in that avalanche of nature at its most splendid. It was overwhelming and I will never forget it. Knowing how exciting the Mount Teide experience was for me, I used the Holiday Types search on RCI.com and found, at the time of my search, there were as many as 1,347 lake and mountain destinations across 10 different regions available to RCI members, with 572 of them being in the US. Personally, I liked the look of the Rockies in Canada. Inspired by my Minneapolis holiday, I am now looking to the long-haul locations to surprise and delight me on my travels.

Mount Teide and the Teide National Park that cloaks its dramatic slopes are a real adventure for those who like walking and trekking - I'm not sure I'd tackle this ascent on a bicycle, though I have seen people trying it!

The Canadian Rockies is Canada at its wildest, offering up a heady mix of towering ice-capped mountains, alpine lakes, national parks and fascinating towns such as Banff, with its quaint high street. Take a new nature trail and head for a new and exciting mountain high!

The Canadian Rockies is Canada at its wildest, offering up a heady mix of towering ice-capped mountains, alpine lakes, national parks and fascinating towns such as Banff, with its quaint high street. Take a new nature trail and head for a different and exciting mountain high!

If you own timeshare and want to step out of your holiday comfort zone to explore new destinations, then join RCI and do it with the assurance that although the view from your apartment may be very different from the one you're used to, you know the quality and comfort of your accommodation and resort will be of the same high standard when travelling with RCI membership. Click on the button below to see how easy it is to become and RCI member.

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