Friday, February 18, 2011

The best travel advice ever

by Steve Brock on February 18, 2011

When preparing for a trip, as for this one to Peru, read all you can…and then forget it.

 

Okay, maybe this isn’t the BEST travel advice I ever received, but it ranks up there with don’t drink the water, pack light and never accept marriage proposals from strange men in Nigeria.

I could throw in, “Don’t dine near cats in Greece” but only my friend Ed would fully appreciate the value of that insight.

The so-called “best” advice came to me from another friend, Ty, when I was in grad school preparing for my first trip to Asia. He had spent some time in Hong Kong and similar places, so in my eyes, that made him an expert on the region. But his advice applies no matter where you go. And that advice is this:

When you’re planning a trip, talk to as many people as you can who have been to that place, read as much as you can, learn as much as you can.

And then forget everything.

His point was that it is easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of information you can take in before a trip, especially today when just about every place you will visit has been documented by travel advice Web sites and bloggers. So visit these Web sites, read the books, look at the photos, watch the videos and talk to everyone you know who has been there.

When you do, you’ll start to discern patterns and uncover topics and places of interest to you. But before you reach that point of over-saturation, stop. Just stop. Put the whole trip, as much as is possible, out of your mind. And then you’ll discover an interesting aspect about our brains.

Your subconscious brain processes far more than you realize. So when I say, “Forget everything,” in reality, you can’t. The important points will stick and when it comes time for your trip, the things that stood out as you were absorbing all the advice earlier will come back to you.

Don’t get me wrong, as we’ll see in the next entry, I’m a firm believer in taking guidebooks or printouts/notes of information with you on your trip. You’ll want to refer to those for the details once you’re onsite. But for now, read and learn and then as they say – at least in the movies about New York gangsters – “fuggedaboudit.”

I followed this advice just recently in preparing for an upcoming trip to Peru. I went to the library, got all the books I could, skimmed through them to make sure I wasn’t missing anything and then put them aside. I’ll come back to them once we get closer to the trip, but for now, I can enjoy the anticipation so much more by not having to even think about any of the details.

Try it. You’ll find it not only helps you in the anticipation phase, but also adds value on the trip when the sights trigger nuggets of insight you read or heard about earlier.

And it sure beats the heck out of dining with cats in Greece…

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