When I first started to travel for work, I focused on the business at hand and prepared only for the working part of my trip. Armed with the necessary information to do my job, I paid scant attention to the place I was traveling to since it was just a location, not a chosen destination. I made sure I knew whether I needed a visa or certain vaccinations and that pretty much was the extent of my travel research.
Because of my lack of preparation, there are definitely things that I missed seeing or doing during my down time. I once found out that a work of art that I really wanted to see, had been on temporary loan to a museum mere blocks from a hotel in which I had stayed. I had spent a free afternoon reading a book in my hotel room when I could have treated myself to a viewing a painting on my “wish to see” list.
Additionally, my lack of preparation left me a bit timid when leaving my hotel as I was never sure whether it was safe to go out at night on my own and what potential threats there might be in certain locations.
Eventually I became more travel savvy and started to prepare myself prior to any trip. Now, whether I am traveling for work or for pleasure, I research my intended destination and surrounding area. By the time I am ready to depart on my trip, I know a lot about the city, the area around the city, the country and the political situation. I have knowledge of general customs, things to do, and potential problems. I have investigated sights to see and noted costs. I want to ensure that I see what interests me and that I do as much as I can to enjoy the experience.
These days, when I chat with people who do no pre-trip research, or even, at a minimum, become a tiny bit familiar with their travel destination, I am surprised. Why, I wonder? Our brains are wired to accept and process information every day. Brains do not get full. Securing intelligence on an intended destination just makes good sense.
The internet has made it easier to secure data on pretty much every location in the world if one allocates a little time to do some research. Yes, you have to evaluate the credibility of the site you are visiting and the veracity of the information given, but generally, investing a little internet time will go a long way to preparing you for your travels. A trip to the local library is another way to go for those eschewing electronic research. Check for information sessions or free lectures on subjects of interest.
Preparing yourself for any trip, whether in or out of country, affords you the opportunity to enhance your travel experience and avoid potential problems. Knowing a few things about your destination makes you an informed visitor, a successful tourist, and an effective ambassador for your own interests.
Travel wisely and travel efficiently.