Want to start a site about travel but clueless where to start

Hi guys,

Newb to WP and the community here but I'm ready to dive in head first and drown myself. Hopefully one of you kind folks will resuscitate me!

I'm going to start a travel site/blog for long term travel, discussion of topics, pictures, and so on and so forth. Trouble is, I have absolutely no idea where to start with the design aspect. Site's already installed but I've got the default theme running and its awful.

So, now that I've got access to all these nifty themes and plugins, I figure its time to put some of this power to use. On the theme front ,I'd like it to be fairly clean. Most posts are going to be a combination of text and photos. I'm not going to run ads, so that's not a big worry. Maybe something like a recent articles sidebar, tags, or comments? Nothing too fancy schmansy for little ole me.

On the plugin front I'm completely clueless. I suppose something to manage photos? Spam? Maybe a donation manager? Something for SEO? I don't have any idea.

Lastly, if any of you guys have tips or ideas for me to get started with the nitty gritty of Wordpress, feel free to fire them over.