It’s better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.
Once you have an idea of where you want to go, now the real fun begins! I try to read as much as I can about a city, including the surrounding region. I find articles and websites online, of course. I go to my folder of magazine articles I’ve torn out and filed over the years about places that looked interesting and see if there are any possibilities. And, I go to the good old bookstore and head straight to the travel section. Yes, it’s easier to go to Amazon and that’s certainly an option. But I like to flip through pages and compare guidebooks and maps. Most good bookstores (if you can find them anymore, but that’s another topic!) will have a nice selection. I love my Kindle, but I think reading about travel destinations is one of those topics that doesn’t fully translate to an e-reader format. I go to my like-minded Fora colleagues if it’s somewhere I don’t know well, and get their first-hand opinions and suggestions for where to stay, eat and play while there!
When you have studied up a bit on your history and know the backgrounds of some of the places you are about to visit, it frees up your gray matter to actually absorb some details and be able to appreciate fully the wonder of whatever it is you’re looking at in the moment. Sometimes in this Instagram-crazy, over-stylized world I feel like there are a lot of people who are only interested in seeing something because it will make a great insta-feed, or because they’ve seen it in somebody else’s insta-feed. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take amazing pictures, don’t get me wrong! But if you come home with a bunch of pictures of cathedrals and monuments or other stuff that you saw a bunch of other tourists taking photos of, but you have no idea what it actually is…well, why did you just spend your money and time traveling somewhere yourself instead of just looking at someone else’s social media? You do it for the experience, right?
I know some folks who will travel halfway around the world, only to complain about the food because they can’t find anything that looks like something they want to try. They go to a famous museum but get so hot and tired and cranky from wasting half a day in a long line that they get to a point where they couldn’t care less about what’s actually waiting inside. Then, once they are back in the comfort of their own living room, they sit down to read all the brochures they picked up at all the various places, only to have a bunch of “a-ha” moments like, “wow, I had no idea that is what I was looking at!” That’s where the importance of a little research and advance planning can make the difference between pure frustration and pure enjoyment.
I’m not saying to prepare for your vacation like a mid-term exam unless you want to. But if you have just a little curiosity and do a little bit of research beforehand, chances are that you’ll find some really interesting, off-the-beaten-path spots. You’ll be wowed at how much more you are aware of little details about a place and appreciate them.
“But Kelly, I am busy. I don’t have time to read half the books and articles I have in the queue. That’s why I need a vacation! Can’t you just do this for me?”
Yes!! Would you rather have someone help do your research, and provide you with your own personal need-to-know information on your itinerary? Let me know. I’d love to help you make sense of it all.