At what point are you ready?

by Steve Brock on June 12, 2016

RunwayTravel planning can be as simple or complicated as you want.

Some people need only reserve their plane ticket and resolve the rest as they go.

Others need every room, dining experience, transportation detail and daily itinerary locked down before they leave. Oh, and it would be nice if they could adjust the weather too, but…

There’s no single right way to plan a trip. It comes down to your need for control, your personality type, your comfort with winging it and myriad other issues. But no matter what your planning style, at some point you have to answer this question: “Am I ready to go?”

The answer isn’t simple because implied in that main question is a second one: Ready for what?

To me, I have dig deeper than train schedules, visa requirements and hotel availabilities. I need to do more than just prepare my itinerary. I have to prepare me.

To do this, I have to ask myself (as do you) some tough questions:

  • What do I want to get out of this trip?
  • What do I want to be or become as a result of this trip?
  • How do I want this trip to change me? For example, do I want to be more adventurous? More open? More patient? Less critical?
  • Depending on how I want to change, what will I do on this trip to achieve that goal? And most important, what will I do before this trip to help achieve that goal?

Trips are wonderful learning laboratories. They give us the opportunity to try on new perspectives and even build new habits. We’re away from work and daily routine. We’re freed to experiment and explore. But the learning that they provide occurs best if we seek out that learning and prepare for it.

I’ve got a trip coming up with my family. A big one that includes several countries in a region I’ve never visited. All my reservations – well, most of my reservations – are in place. But am I ready? Not yet.

I’ve not answered all of the above questions yet. Not thought through how to make this trip meaningful not just for me (the one whose done all the research) but also for my family who will show up at the airport with only the faintest idea of what lies ahead.

The irony of travel planning is this. I can spend days or even weeks preparing for a trip, learning about the history and culture of a place. All that has tremendous value. But if I don’t think through some of those questions above, I may come home with a great experience, but not the best one possible. And to me, life’s too short not to pursue the best option.

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Looking forward

by Steve Brock on October 3, 2014

Wake of shipAnticipation isn’t just something we practice before we leave on a trip.

It’s an experience that goes with us even as we travel and, for the creative person, something that fuels our returns with as much excitement as when we set forth on the trip.

On virtually every long trip I’ve taken with my immediate family, the last day or two gets filled with several concurrent conversations:

  • “Now what?” Sometimes this involves trying to pack in as much as we can in the remaining hours we have. More often, it means adjusting to a quieter pace and relaxing on the last day or two, savoring all that has come before.
  • “Remember when?” The end of the trip is a time of initial reflection, an attempt to keep the enthusiasm high as we relate to each other high points from the past several days or weeks.
  • “I can’t wait to…” This is where what I call “reverse anticipation” kicks in. Here, everyone begins to give words to dreams that are formed around returning home. Sometimes, we discuss friends or family we’ve missed and long to see. Other times, we think of tasks we need to perform. But usually, something on the trip has sparked a dream.

This last direction causes us to rhapsodize about creative projects we want to continue, the distance from them and home adding greater impetus to our desire to see them accomplished.  Or just as likely, we become enthusiastic about new projects we want to start as a result of something we encountered on the trip.

In any case, we enter into a new form of anticipation as we look forward to our coming home. We see return not as the end of our trip and all its fun and excitement, but as the beginning of a new opportunity to extend what we have learned and become on the trip. Thus, the trip continues in ways we never would have suspected before we left.

Here at The Meaningful Traveler, I’m about to venture forth into something new as well. Not the end of this trip of writing on meaningful travel, but more like coming home to start something very new and yet really, just an extension of what I’ve been doing here at The Meaningful Traveler for the last four plus years.

I’ll share more about this next time, but I leave you with this reminder: Great trips never really end. We just extend them into the future, drawing from them and using what we learned from them to anticipate our next adventure.

And as with life itself, in so doing, even as we learn to value the present moment more, we simultaneously live in a manner that is always looking forward.

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Go ahead, dream

by Steve Brock on June 19, 2014

Rothenburg StreetsThe photo above is a familiar scene to anyone who has been to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the most popular of medieval towns along Germany’s famed Romantic Road. My guess is that if you look up the city name in Google Images, you’ll see more shots of this one Y shaped intersection than of any other scene from the picturesque city.

I like the shot (which I augmented with textures to give a bit more of the feel of the place) , but in part due to its popularity, it is far from my favorite of the many photos I took of the town. I have others like these below that I prefer because they bring me back to the exact time and place. All the associations, even of light and temperature flood back when I see these photos because now, they are highly personal.

Rothenburg Fountain

Rothenburg Gate

Rothenburg Sunrise

Yet the location captured by so many others still has a special meaning for me because that was the image that was imprinted in my mind before we visited the town. It was, in short, the image of my dreams.

If you’ve read The Meaningful Traveler for any time, you’ve likely detected the ongoing advice to “live in the present.” On a trip, the present is the trip, the real-time experience you have there. Be present to it with all your senses, and you’ll derive greater joy and satisfaction from your trip.

But before the trip? That is the time of dreaming, of looking to the future with longing. I once read of a woman who’d never left the state in which she was born. Late in life, her adult children decided to take her on a cruise to the Caribbean. They booked the trip a year in advance and over that year, the son noted a profound change in his elderly mother. For the first time in years, she had something to look forward to.

When I read that story, I must confess, I thought it sad that something like a trip was all the woman had to look forward to. But as I get older (and more aware of grace in all aspects of life), I see her anticipation of the trip not as sad, but as beautiful.

I have long recognized that anticipation before and reflection after a trip can be the most meaningful aspects of the journey. But now, as my own family has undergone a very difficult year and my wife and I plan out a trip for next year, I’m reminded of how powerful that anticipation of a trip can be.

We now are entering summer when many of you too will be traveling or looking forward to traveling. As you plan your trips, you’ll find iconic images like the popular one of Rothenburg that will define the place for you in your imagination. Once you get there, you’ll likely notice that the image is close, but not exactly like the reality before you. And that’s fine because the image has served its purpose. It gave you something tangible to hold onto as you think about your trip. Anticipate what you’ll discover. Imagine the wonders you’ll encounter.

So go ahead, enjoy your trip now, before you even finish packing your bags. Enjoy the anticipation. Let it be something you look forward to. Let it forever be a special part of that special trip.


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