TRAVEL TIPS

Research vs wingin it?

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One of the biggest debates I have had when talking to friends about vacations is “travel style”. I believe most people fall into two categories; researchers and free spirits. By this I mean people that plan their holiday and people that don’t.

I am a researcher. I am the person who will troll through every travel forum, blog, travel article and guide book on the destination to make sure I have every piece of information I need while I am away, including and not limited to train times, bus/coach numbers, routes, transport cost, and pre-booking hotels along our route. Why do I do it? I guess the biggest reason is to make sure I am maximizing my travel potential to said country and to make sure I don’t miss out on any major important attractions like I did in Florence! (“Statue of David isn’t in Florence its in Rome!” – my last famous words!).

Imagine booking a flight to somewhere with no little further knowledge about the place, you just know you want to go there and have a rough idea of whats there to see. You land, exit arrivals and then think “now what?”.

….If your like me this situation would freak you out. Not knowing a good place to stay, how to navigate around the city, open times of museums/shops or how to get from point A to B would stress me out. 101 things could go wrong…being ripped off on taxi fare, ending up staying in a dive hole of a hotel or even worse not finding anywhere to sleep not to mention turning up for a train that doesn’t run on that day.  Planning has some advantages….all of these things are immediately avoided with a little bit of pre-trip reading, a few hours on a travel forum and a couple of hours flicking between Tripadvisor and Trivago…sorted!

In my experience researching before hand makes a holiday less stressful, and has also allowed me to understand the cultures and history that gives each country their own identity. Without that previous knowledge, what your seeing losses some of its importance.

But imagine doing exactly that. Just turning up. Some argue that by wingin’ it your allowing yourself to be completely absorbed by the country, relying on the goodness and hospitality of strangers to help you out, and often having a more for filling experience. Having no expectations allows you to be surprised by sites, intrigued by culture and pushes you to discover areas outside the boundaries of the normal tourist runs, sometimes coming across hidden treasures the “guidebook tourists” miss.

However I also believe it really depends on the location you are visiting, your budget and also your age.

For example: In just under 14 days we will be jetting off to the mystic lands of Myanmar for 22 days of touring the country and visiting various places. Having worked for a travel company that sells the destination and having a vague knowledge of the country’s unsettled history I debated long and hard about how to approach this destination. Taking a tour like most people who visit Myanmar is seen at not travelling responsibly since a good lump of the money ends up in the greedy pockets of the military generals, which left us with the only option to go solo.

As much as I was yearning for an opportunity to change my travelling ways this is one destination where the wingin’ it option is limited. Since we are travelling in high season, and with hotel rooms scarcely available in most of the major tourist destinations, researching and book ahead was our only option. And although I have to admit I have racked up some hours on the travel forums, all accommodation is booked and confirmed (3x over) and I know of every transport option to get us from A to B, I have left room for some free styling…. taking baby steps 🙂

Are you a researcher or winger? Why do you prefer your travel style?

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  • Absolutely agree that researching is half the fun of travelling! Nothing better than psyching yourself up for a trip that will happen in 6 months’ time, especially if you are working in a cubicle or studying! I’ve been to Burma as well (2007) and the joy of experiencing this beautiful country is incomparable. There is so much there to discover!

    I enjoy reading your blog :- )

    Cheers,
    William
    Publisher & editor of NomadHead – Your Guide to Gap Year Travel

  • Damien Smethurst

    I’m definitely more a free spirit than a researcher. I will go as far as booking hostels up front, but other than that I just like to arrive somewhere and go with the flow of whatever else is happening when I get there. I’ve found that organising things in advance tends to go horribly wrong for me anyway, so it’s easier to just arrive and figure stuff out as I go 🙂