Planning for your next trip can be as much fun as the trip itself. I love to find out as much about the places I will be visiting as I can.
When I did my first ever trip without my family (a 58 day Contiki trip around Europe) I didn’t do any reading and decided to just go and enjoy it. I was convinced that this was a good approach when some of my fellow travellers, who had read up in excited anticipation about the main attractions we were to see, ended up being very disappointed by what they saw. They had built up pictures in their minds about for example what the Mona Lisa would look like (it is very much smaller than you might expect in real life), how they would enjoy the French Riviera (what do you mean they import the sand and we have to pay to sit on the beach!), etc.
But travel is not just about the tourist attractions and ticking off the well known sights on your list. It is about learning about different cultures and how they live their lives, about the history of the region and what has shaped the country that exists today, about aspects that make their lives potentially so very different from our own and appreciating those aspects of life that are the same across all cultures. It is about experiencing the food, art, handcrafts and pastimes, rituals and celebrations, natural environment and wildlife. It is about learning some of the language so that you can have better interactions with local people.
My starting point now for any trip is one of the fantastic Insight Travel Guides. These guides are usually written by local authors who can provide fact-checked and up-to-date information. They always have great sections on history, politics, food, festivals etc as appropriate to the country, and cover each region and major centre in a lot more detail with maps, photos and descriptions of main features and activities whether natural or man-made. They also finish with a great section on Travel Tips covering everything from transport, accommodation and eating out through to etiquette, electrical systems, and language pronunciation. The final chapter covers Further Reading on a whole range of relevant topics. They are updated regularly but much of the information in the older versions will still be completely relevant and you should be able to pick them up more cheaply if you want.
I first discovered Insight Guides many years ago after a trip to Morocco where my camera got filled with sand and refused to work again. I wanted to find a pictorial reminder of the more unusual places I’d visited and the things I would have liked to have photographed to remember the adventures I’d had – and there they were in an Insight Guide. Insight Guides “commission most of our own travel photography – we strive to capture the essence of a place using original images that you won’t find anywhere else.”
When it comes to “further reading”, there are so many ways of absorbing the essence of a place. You can read novels or watch movies set in a particular country; you can borrow non-fiction books from your local library on particular aspects that interest you such as art, history, home décor, wildlife etc; you can watch TV/DVD documentaries of your choice -there are many food travel shows now that are a great introduction to food and culture; you might want to find a movie/DVD that is in the language used and that has subtitles or download a “Teach Yourself Language” App; or start visiting relevant restaurants/cafes and talk to the staff about their country.
Enjoy the Journey!
Intrepid Travel (a range of different travel styles – see my post on travel styles)
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
Note: After people telling me they had booked an Intrepid Tour on my recommendation, I now have affiliate links with the Intrepid Travel group of companies and may receive a commission if you book a tour online within a couple of months after clicking through to these sites. So if you are enjoying my tips and stories and finding them useful in choosing your own travel, please click on these links and help me to bring you more ☺.