Sunday, April 6, 2014

Planning a Travel

"Blessed me for I've seen..."
at the famous Sagrada Familia
 Cathedral in Barcelona, Spain
  I’ve visited around 30 countries/territories so far, but like most of us – I still feel I have not seen enough. And so I was back to my ‘No-climb Travel” planning early this year to visit and experience some places that are kept in my ‘later closet’ - my wish list of places that has nothing to do with climb or adventure! Not to say I will not inject a few hikes here and there, but primarily travels to see more than just the beauty of the mountains.

To be honest, planning a climb sometimes feel a lot more easy! Once you’ve selected the "peak of desire", the rest is easy. Now here’s to share tips on how I plan a travel, obviously influenced by how I plan a climb trip. Note – this assumes that you have enough money and time to travel, the top 2 perennial challenges of travellers.

1. Define your primary objective. What do you PRIMARILY want to see, experience, touch, smell, etc. Related to climb trips, one is dictated by the primary peak/wall/ mountain to climb, the ‘side trips’ and objectives will follow. Curious to be in Patagonia? Want to see the Alps? Dig down further, what do you want to see or do in Patagonia, see a wild Alpaca up-close? In the Alps, do you want to see Monte Bianco? Or ski in Zermatt? While there’s nothing wrong not having a primary objective and with a plan to simply ‘go aimlessly’, defining an objective will make planning easier. At least ask yourself, what is the one thing that will give you the most satisfaction in the trip?

2. Map-based highlights. Once you’ve decided (or just kind’a decided) what to do/see, check out google maps and zoom in and out and imagine other big objectives NEAR or AROUND your primary objective, or at least logically reachable. Oh, you’ve decided to see an ice bear in the Arctic ice, well, not much around it! What if you just thought of visiting Machu Picchu! Ahh, so much to do around Peru, the Nasca lines, dune skiing, climb in the Andes, visit the Peruvian Amazon, among other things. List them down, or put marks in the map. A quick google search on some names (in the map) whether a city, town, river, lake, bay, mountain, etc. will already reveal places of interest.

3. Reality check, pick the most feasible travel objectives, then write your itinerary. Enough money and time for the top 5 or 10 spots? Enough money/patience to get visas for more than 1 country (then stick to one)? Bringing in a companion limits your movement?  Once you have a trimmed-down version, write your day-by-day itinerary.  Day-date and places/city/town/etc. and potential places to see/visit or things to do. Now you have a draft plan.

4. Once you have these ‘highlights’ list, the rest will follow. SHELTER. (Now this is like survival planning in the wilderness). Decide your accommodation - Hotel/ hostel/ apartment / Bed-and-Breakfast, camping? Book now or on arrival? (if you have an elderly or kiddy companion – best to book ahead). If you’re on backpacking, aimless travel mode – at least research if accommodation is possible, or plentiful during high season. Print a map or get directions on potential accommodations.

5. Transport. If one is thrifty, trains or bus would be the first choice. And it’s not easy especially in not-so-developed countries. Research (even if you will not book early) for availability and frequency. Estimate time/distance so you can plan your day. And oh - print maps!

6. Gears. Most tourists are excited in packing their stuff more than knowing travel details. List down essentials first before fashion and fab! Know your travel-carry weight. NOT the airplane baggage weight, the weight that you will haul from place-A to place-B and C…D..E, etc. If you’re backpacking and travelling cheapo-style, TRAVEL LIGHT! What is essential? If it’s a winter country – warm clothes, jacket, etc! If it’s a warm, beach country – swim/dive/get-wet essentials! Plan your carry. Can you easily carry a backpack and a luggage? If not, choose a big backpack and fit everything there to reduce bags to haul. Sometimes, the backpack size will dictate the amount of gears that you will bring (or the number of times that you will wash your underwear). Like some climb trips, gear preps are either dictated by weight limits (ex. porter/small plane/yak), and/or bag/pack size. Practise smart travelling. If buying things are easy/affordable on-site, do so. A personal souvenir shirt/jacket/etc. is better bought AND used on-site vs. bringing a similar item. Ideally, buy souvenirs and ‘excess baggage’ on the last city/town before departure and limit your shopping spree in the early part of the trip. i.e. Unless you’re just touring 1 city or have xxx dollars for DHL.

7. Personal restrictions/ limitations. Plan ahead and avoid problems on-site. If food is a problem for you (ex. a vegan travelling to a steak country), you may want to research/plan for this. If you have sickness/ phobia/etc. to certain things – plan ahead and avoid things/places that will exacerbate your condition. Super afraid of water travel for example? You may want to skip Palau, or other Pacific island territories, and never-ever ride a ship/boat in the Southern Ocean!

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