I am currently mired in travel planning. Andrew and I have several big trips coming up, the soonest and most daunting being our trip to India, next month.
I love planning, organising, researching and coming up with itineraries. Even so, I’ve noticed 6 years of expat life has changed the way I think about planning travel.
Research, Research, Research
If you’ve spent any time on CheeseWeb.eu at all, you’ll know I am a travel junkie. Walking into the travel section of a bookshop is like a drug addict walking into a crack house. My collection of guidebooks rivals most libraries and my stack of travel magazines resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Don’t even get me started on the jumble of travel related links in my bookmarks folder. Before going on a trip, I spend hours checking Wiki and google images to scout out locations I want to photograph and visit.
But despite all of this planning, I’ve learned how important it is to give myself time to immerse myself in my destination, leave some things to chance and just breathe.
The (un) Zen of Travel
I wasn’t always quite so Zen about travelling. In fact, during my earlier travels, I couldn’t imagine not having every moment scheduled. After all, I had a long check-list. A moment wasted could have been another sight seen. And I sure did see a lot – but it was at a cost.
What I sacrificed with those jam-packed schedules, was getting sense of place. I didn’t allow time to go off the beaten track; to discover how the locals live and interact; or to absorb the sights, sounds and smells around me. Being an expat, these past 6 years, has taught me, you need time to even start to understand a culture.
I also sacrificed my own health. Racing from place to place, with no relaxation time, takes a toll on the immune system. While I’m not the type of girl who spends a week on the beach for vacation, a day or two of R&R is good for the body and the spirit. Returning home after a vacation feeling less tired than before I left is a definite bonus.
The Real Zen of Travel
Since those early days of hectic travel, I’ve learned the beauty of sitting in an out of the way cafe, lingering over a coffee, listing to the chatter around me, even when I don’t understand the language, and just watching life pass by, on the street before me.
I understand the compulsion to collect landmarks like children collect baseball cards. But I’ve also learned that some of the most interesting sights aren’t in the guidebooks.
Will I ever leave the guidebooks at home? I seriously doubt it. Will I stop reading travel books, magazines and blogs? No way! And I will never stop location scouting before a trip, as it is an essential part of my job as a photographer.
What I have learned is to limit my checklist to only a few major sights and to always allow extra time to relax and soak up the atmosphere.
Most of the landmarks we want to visit have been around for a very long time. They will wait patiently for us to come and enjoy them next time.
What kind of traveller are you? Do you have a checklist or just go with the flow? Have you changed how you travel? Leave your thoughts on travel below.