Elizabeth wrote a great article on the “Art of Slow Travel” which is a wonderful way to travel, but for most people, we can’t spend too long in one place. Some trips are made using up holidays from work or a gap year where you want to see as much of the world as you can. So how do we get the most out of a short trip?
I used to think I could wing it wherever I went. I can but I soon learnt that this isn’t the best way to go about things as I actually missed out a lot. I’d turn up at a place or tourist attraction and think I could discover everything while I was there. Take my visit to the Royal Palace in Bangkok for example.
I knew where it was and what is was and that was about it. I got there eventually (without spending the day flipping a coin) and a few people pointing me in the right direction but I wasted a good hour. When I arrived I realised how massive it was and just in the main temple of Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Golden Buddha) the intricate details and artwork could have done with an explanation. A brief history would have been good and while I enjoyed taking in the scenery I realised pretty quickly that I could have done with a tour guide. Luckily, being Hindu, I could recognise the story of the Ramayana that was painted around the circumference of the temple. The most incredible representation I have seen since our visit to The Temples of Angkor in 2010.
I sat down and brought up Wikipedia and Lonely Planet and did some reading. The result was starting from the beginning with a new understanding and much-needed context.
I remember the first time I arrived in Brisbane as well. I was staying in Chinatown and thought I’d go for a walk. I spent the whole morning walking around what was essentially the corporate district. If I had my CV with me, it might have been useful but actually, it was a bit of a waste of time. I found the Southbank eventually and had a blast but then I got back to my hostel and read up on the city. Only being there for 3 days, I wanted to see as much as I could.
I think a lot of it comes down to thinking I’ll be returning to a place. I don’t know why but I think it’s time to accept that it may not happen.
When considering a destination or attraction I now use a few resources –
I’ll look at the basics such as –
– best times to visit
– recommended food
– recommended places to drink
– current and upcoming events
Using these tools I can put together an itinerary of sorts. This sounds a bit boring but trust me, researching and understanding what you are doing is much better than not. The key is to allow some flexibility. Knowing what you want to visit or see and having priorities will mean you know you will be more likely to fit in your most important things and if something pops up e.g. your friend coming to town, you can choose to shift things around.
I realised everything is about context and it enhances the experience. Not like finding out the ending to a movie before watching, but like reading the back story to the characters.
Using a pen and paper means your still good even without wifi or power. You know, like ancient times!
TIP: If your trip involves doing some shopping – know exactly what you want and how much you are willing to pay. The likelihood is the time you spend trying to save a few pennies here and there, won’t be worth it when you realise how much time it took up. This happened many times during visits to Chatuchak Market.