Planning a big trip? Put down the guidebook. Okay fine, don’t abandon your guidebook. Those Fodor’s and Lonely Planet guides have a lot to offer.
But there are more exciting and enriching ways to learn about a place, its people, and culture than simply highlighting the biggest tourist spots and critic-approved restaurants.
Traveling to a new location is a chance to completely immerse yourself in a different way of life.
And while landmarks and restaurants are a good way to experience an area, limiting yourself to them could lead you to overlook other, more enriching areas of life that can help you appreciate the particular corner of the world you find yourself in.
So by all means, make an itinerary. Study maps, book tours, make restaurant reservations. But as you plan for your trip, consider these less conventional ways of familiarizing yourself with your next destination.
Planning A Big Trip
Read a book that takes place in your next destination
The London of Charles Dickens’ time may look a lot different from the London of today. At first glance, at least.
But literature has a way of capturing a nation’s consciousness. The best literature is specific and timeless at once, revealing universal truths while at the same time depicting the mindest, lifestyles, and tics of a certain culture.
People in today’s London may not sound like Dickens characters, but a Dickens novel can give you plenty of insight into the unique historical and societal flavors of English culture that are still relevant today.
So before you fly off to Ireland, crack open a volume of James Joyce’s stories. Cervantes could help you forge an instant bond with your hosts in Spain.
The Bronte sisters, Milan Kundera, William Faulkner, and Haruki Murakami are just a few of the great writers that are closely associated with the places they wrote about.
Their books can help you familiarize yourself with some of the more subtle flavors and out-of-the-way locales in your destination.
So if you’re looking for something deeper–and more entertaining–than a travel guidebook, seek out the books by the writers who lived in the area. They’ll prove worthy roadmaps into the heart of your destination.
Make friends ahead of time
With the internet connecting us in ways we never before imagined, there’s no reason to have to wait until your plane lands to meet the locals.
The internet is awash with online communities and social resources designed to connect people from afar. There’s no reason not to take advantage of this.
Reddit, for instance, has subgroups for countries around the world, where locals are always engaging in conversation, and where it’s possible to make connections with potential friends and resources.
You can also explore volunteering options, find clubs to participate in, or try dating from everywhere in the world with the right app, which can connect you to like-minded singles and friends ahead of time.
Locals are the gatekeepers of a city’s treasures, and making friends with them before you arrive can guarantee you a more enjoyable, authentic, and rewarding trip.
For the more adventurous amongst us, the internet has provided a wealth of slightly unconventional but undeniably rewarding ways of experiencing new places.
Platforms like couchsurfing.com allow travelers to connect with others who are looking to host them for free or perhaps a meal or a good story.
These websites institute safety measures, from ID confirmation to user reviews, to ensure that participants on both sides are sincere and in compliance with the site’s mission and philosophy.
House swapping is another exciting way to plan a trip. Travelers can essentially swap their homes with someone in a different part of the world, thereby allowing each party accommodations in a new city with local resources and tips from a native.
These options can provide a much more authentic dive into a new city than simply booking a hotel. Planning a bog trip does not have to be centered around the destination’s attractions or restaurants, although those are of course highlights.
You get to meet new people, stay in a more local area and open yourself up to out-of-the-way adventures that may be far from the guidebooks but closer to what a good travel experience should contain.
Next time you’re planning a big trip, don’t forget to plan for the local experience!