Travel Recommendations


What do you do when someone asks you where to go in a place they are planning to visit?  I, for one, am always flumoxed by the choices.

wincing-man
some requests make you wince with pain

Our grand-daughter is getting married next year and they are planning a grand honeymoon to Iceland & France.  They put out an appeal to their Facebook friends for suggestions where to go.  And I winced.

What can you really tell anyone about what to go see in a new place?

I’ve been to France 4 or 5 times and a total of several months worth of living on the ground.  I have a good idea of what can be found there but what on earth do I tell someone 40 years younger than myself about what they should see?  Heck — even if they were my own age, what would I tell them.paris-4

As anRV’er we repeat this experience over and over again.  RV’ers and non-RV’ers alike ask us “what should we see” and each time I cringe uncomfortably.

For one thing we all know that Peg & I have eclectic taste — we don’t really fall into the norm when it comes to what we see and do when visiting — often because we’ve been there before and have already seen and done what tourists do years ago.  And also because we avoid crowds, and we avoid anything that’s being aggressively advertised — if it’s that bad that they need to advertise a lot I don’t care about it!

But more importantly I think the traveler owes it to themselves to do their own research. Asking someone else where to go is like asking someone else if you like ice cream?  How do they know?  It’s YOUR tastebuds we’re talking about — not theirs.

paris-3My Granddaugher loves to walk.  And that’s great.  Paris is a great city to walk!  I’ve spent weeks there, on foot, just walking the touristy and non-touristy parts to get a feel for what the place is all about.  But if you’re going to be there for 3 or 4 days you face an immense challenge deciding what few joys to seek, out of a myriad of options.  I’ve probably spent 3 or 4 days seeing any one of the choices they might make.  How do you whittle them down when you don’t intimately know the other person’s personality.paris-2

In most cases — whether we’re talking about Paris or Atlanta or Quartzite Arizona there are more options than the novice traveler could guess — a perfect reason to do your research.  LEARN what’s there.  Then, if you want to ask questions about what might be the better  option the person you ask stands some slim chance of giving you a meaningful answer.

But the biggest reason — that I can see — to do your own research is that you get to learn.  The process of research will improve you — broadening your base of knowledge.  The process of research will tickle your imagination about the things to be done — you’ll get more excited about the pending trip. The process of research will prepare you — filling in blanks about the place you’re going to visit so that you’ll know and understand more about your surroundings — even more about how to get around from place to place — just because you’ve been exposed to a map, or a suggested route, or having seen photos of the place — you’ll recognize things when you arrive and recognition is good both for how much you enjoy your visit as well as for what you get out of it at the end.

paris-1

Please — when you want to go someplace — don’t cheat yourself. Do your own research!  Don’t take the “easy route” and ask someone else what you should see; figure it out yourself.

If you aren’t accustomed to doing research, so what?  The first time you try you’ll do a lousy job, but you’ll learn about sources and resources.  The second time you do it you’ll already know about those sources and you’ll find some more along the way.  You’re improving your skills and you’re better prepared for the next time around.

That is what life is all about:  learning, adjusting, compensating for your own mistakes, and making better choices in the future.

I hope my granddaughter and her future husband have a grand time.  I know — because I know the kid — that she’ll do her own research in time.  And I’ll be proud of her.  I trust that their honeymoon will be a blast — how can a honeymoon NOT be perfect even if you don’t go anywhere at all.

Peg and I had a much less grand honeymoon but we loved it.  We had barely a week to spend; we were expecting weekend company the following weekend so we didn’t have a lot of time.  It was snowing the afternoon and evening of our wedding and by the time we drove from the Northern Suburbs of Chicago to South Bend Indiana we were in a full-on snowstorm.  Our first night was in a Holiday Inn where (naive as we were) we couldn’t figure out how to get the heater working right, and the snow plows made their rounds of the parking lot all night long.

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Peg and I with her parents at the wedding

We stopped the next day in Toledo on our way to NYC, we had breakfast with Peg’s parents who had driven the entire trip in the wee hours of the morning.  We had Christmas dinner in Smithville NJ — a little town I’d learned about one summer that I spent on the East Coast working for our church.  We knew little about life, we knew little about each other, but we had a blast and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Neither of us had any idea the course life would take us on — and it didn’t matter, we were in it for the long run and that was all that matters.  The first couple years while I was doing my alternate service for Uncle Sam what little bank balance we had kept going down, and down and down.  I didn’t make two nickels to rub together — but we laughed and had a house full of friends and enough visitors to our tiny apartment that we felt life was full; and it was.

My only hope is that our granddaughter has as great a time on her honeymoon as we did.  I’m sure they know each other better than we did at that point.  You may remember that I proposed to Peggy before we ever went on a date.  She was the one and I knew it.  She thought I was crazy, and perhaps I was but she said yes and not much more than 3 months later we were married. Still are 48 years later.   Still happy too.  If Melanie can find the same abiding joy we’ll all be doing just fine.

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5 Comments

  1. I, like you, prefer to do my own research. One of the best trips Rick and I had was when we decided to go from east to west via Route 66. I got the books, maps, etc. and planned a rough idea of things that seemed interesting along the way. We also included the option for spontaneity with his idea of stopping at Cadillac Ranch and a quick drive through and stop at the visitor’s center of Painted Desert. And neither of us could pass up the idea of seeing what Roswell was like, even if it was almost 300 hundred miles of detour.

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    1. You’re last comment struck me. You know no matter how much planning I do I refuse to think of any en route alteration as being out of the way, or a detour. When it was “vacation time” we were on VACATION and we didn’t have to do one thing or the other. We almost never (3 times in our life) made reservations for the entire vacation time. It was always one night at a time based on what we could find at the time. We make more reservations in the RV — because of size — than we ever did in the car. There was one time when I waited too long to stop for the night and Peggy’s reaction to that experience — too many hotels in a row in order to find any one that had a room — I decided when we bought the RV that I wasn’t going through THAT experience again.

      I often pick up or mail-order state or provincial guides and use them as initial planning guides. In the old days I’d start a travel plan quite a long while before the trip and then research – think – research – think over a period of months.

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