It’s important to listen to your readers as a blogger. I was asked a direct question over Facebook and felt it was worth explaining and would make a good blog. Here’s the question…
I was wondering if you could do a post where you share tips on how you prepare before you travel to a location. For example, I’ll be travelling to Toronto in a few weeks. Do you have a method you use before each trip to find out the “must see” locations and events going on at each location? Any details you could share in a post would be awesome. I really like your “immersion” approach to travelling.
1. Minimalist packing – I think think this is a key strategy. Some people spend weeks to planning what’s in their bags, and end up worrying about all the junk they brought with them. I literally don’t bring anything that I couldn’t spare to lose. My phone is the likely exception to that, cause the cheap netbook I often carry with me for presentations is cheaper than my phone… by a long shot. It’s also very light. My goal is to fit everything in a Ogio backpack with a laptop slot. I’ve done 2 weeks in a backpack. I often bring another bag on the way home with stuff I bring home, but even that has gotten smaller and smaller. I collect masks, and often bring so unless it’s a really good mask. One of the tricks that not everyone could use… I’ve used that works for nearly all airlines is to bring a bag that looks like a bag that was stuff you purchased at the airport. So every checkpoint it doesn’t really count as a bag. Worst case I attach it to my backpack by tying it on, or rolling it up and stuffing it in. There’s always more room.
2. Twitter & Facebook – Research comes from friends on social networks, not just people I’ve met. I do enjoy posting where I’m planning on going on twitter. It’s amazing the responses I’ll get from people who are passionate about the area. My trip to Cappadocia Turkey to the underground city of Derinkuyu would have been very different had I not had a few conversations on twitter that encouraged me to go it alone. I felt very comfortable understanding what I was getting into. Knowing a local also made me feel comfortable bouncing ideas that I was planning. Thanks @captcappadocia
3. Lonely Planet – Some of the best destinations on the planet are featured and covered in the Lonely Planet guides. I’ve personally bought a couple of them when I’m crazy committed to a place. When I visited India, I really wanted to research the culture, the cities, the palaces, and I really didn’t want to miss anything! One of the worst things ever is knowing I went to a place and I missed the most important thing. There are iphone/ipad apps for lonely planet that you can download and take offline. You can also buy books for your kindle and read them along the way. Research on the culture. the festivals, and local research about a place is helpful, but you don’t need a book for every place you’re going. I didn’t tell you this, but copying the pages of the city or region you’re going to is a lot more light weight. Those books have a lot of research for places you won’t see. I learned this from a traveller who was carrying the lonely planet guide pages for Cappadocia region of turkey. Nice! The online site has great research, communities and helpful forums. I personally will copy paste things I like, and put them on a word or notepad page, I include pictures as I mention in more detail in #7 below.
4. VirtualTourist.com – Speaking of most important – I use the virtual tourist top “Things to Do” as a checklist. I read through the descriptions on 10-20 of them and find what people are saying about a place and then decide what are the things I would like most. Often I’ll add 5 or so of the top 10. Many of them are the things you MUST do at a place, but I’ll also include the day trip type content, and often use the map to see what cities or towns are nearby and plug those into Virtualtourist.com. What it does not do well is tell you what is nearby. Those day trips some times reveal what’s good nearby, but often it will only tell you boring things if you pick a boring town. Research does not conclude from virtual tourist, it is early research to help me know where to start. Virtual Tourist in Albania taught me that Tirana is an under the radar tourist destination, and a lot of people didn’t like it, but I also found Durres, an ancient roman port town was only 45 minutes away. Looking up that town, I found all sorts of things I wanted to see, but I also found key historical things I shouldn’t miss in Tirana.