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Murray's Travel log

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I love to travel. Have a look at my photos and articles. Let me know what you think.

Log entries 1 - 2 of 2 

Oct 29, 2004 02:00 PM Travel Philosophy

It doesn’t matter much where I am going. Before I head off on any excursion, the months leading up to departure are made up of hours of research. My best analogy is that it is like foreplay. And just like foreplay it makes for a much more enjoyable arrival.

It might sound like I am a bit anal in regards to this activity. In fact this researching of a destination may seem counter to the spontaneous joys that I seek. I do not believe that to be the case. I believe that being aware of my surroundings prior to arrival allows me to absorb otherwise hidden treasures. In addition, I find pleasure in reading all I can about a destination prior to arrival as this activity adds to the overall enjoyment of the trip. “It isn’t the destination, it’s the journey” I like to say. And the buildup of anticipation is all part and parcel of the vacation package.

For some the vacation planning ritual might be as simple as “Where do you want to go this spring honey, Paris or Rome? Rome, okay I’ll call the travel agent and get them to book us our flights and a hotel”. I wish it were that simple for me. My thought process normally goes something like this.

Pick a Continent – Pick a Country or Countries – select the most appealing regions and cities – research potential travel gateways and travel schedules that usually dictate the order of destination – Select a off peak time of year that qualifies as the “shoulder season” – Source several books and websites – and begin researching. This too me qualify as the beginning of that particular travel experience. As previously mentioned, it’s not the destination but the journey.

After selecting the where it is equally important to determine the when to travel to maximize the enjoyment of your trip. You’re probably thinking the reference to optimal pertains to weather. Not necessarily. To me the perfect time is when the weather is okay. But not perfect weather as all too often that equates to excessive crowds and price gouging.

I read the most finite information available. It all starts with selecting a destination. “Does it offer what I am looking for”? Any location must offer enough cultural and entertainment choices to keep me busy. A perfect day traveling would involve a morning of leisurely exploration, an afternoon at a museum or historical site, and a wonderful meal at a restaurant eating the real cuisine with the local population. All this capped off in a local drinking hole befriending the regulars and learning more about the day in the life of a Bahamian, Roman, or a Maltese. You may note that I referred to it as a drinking hole versus an establishment. I chose this descriptor intentionally. Mt travels have dictated that the dirtier and darker the hole, the more enlightening the travel experience. After dinner and drinks a quiet walk back to our room is always pleasant – except for our trip to Paris, but I must save that for later.

I must say that I have graduated from the two-week lounge lizard holidays where one parks themselves on some beautiful beach at an all-inclusive resort. Don’t get me wrong, I spent many a day idling in the bright sunshine quaffing back the local beer and testing the drink of the day early each morning. That’s how I developed some very important knowledge that would be advantageous in a game of Beer by Geography. HHHHHMMMMMM! I wonder if there is such a beast. Gleaned from my travels I know Singha Beer is bottled in Thailand, Banks in Barbados, and that draught beer is “birra all spinna” in Italy and “Biere sur pressione” in France.

Over the years I have learned that the bulk of my enjoyment while traveling stems from venturing beyond the walls of four-star Dividian compounds that would make David Korresh feel comfortable. I appreciate clean facilities with welcoming and informative and friendly staff that is central to the heart of attractions that capture the true essence of the locale. Give me a small Pensione in the Campo Di Fiori over a four star Hilton in Rome anytime. Once my target is established the internet is a valuable tool to narrow the search. Sites like trip advisor make access to third party accounts of facilities readily available. Then my wallet begins to compete with my heart and we always find a suitable compromise. Perhaps I am a bit of a cheap bastard. The hundreds if not thousands of dollars spent on Frommers, Fodors, and Lonely Planet guides is more than offset by the savings I experience on lodging and meals.

If you endeavor to soak up the local experiences and take destinations for what they are you will enjoy your journey so much more. We always meet travelers who spend so much time denigrating a location by comparing how different it is from where they come from. When I begin to hear people stating that “the rooms are so much smaller, the beach vendors are too aggressive, the food is too spicy, the people are lazy, it was too crowded, it rains too much, it’s too hot, nobody speaks English, Blah, Blah, Blah” – I immediately turn 180 degrees and flee. Why these folks don’t just stay at home is a mystery to me.

If one is not prepared to immerse themselves in newfound surroundings enjoying the simple pleasures that abound everywhere on this planet, the they are excluded from experiencing the magic of travel They are forever prohibited from opening the door on friendly encounters ranging from friendly Roman Enoteca proprietors, deranged Rastafarian tour guides, beer pushing Hong Kong Tailors, and large headed dogs in the south of France.

Oct 13, 2003 02:00 PM Final Preparations

Starting to get excited now. We departing less than two weeks for Rome and the island of Malta. Time to start collecting the pasports, power adaptors, and brush up on the articles and books we have on both destinations.

I'm trying to decide which destination I am more exited to see and cannot decide. Just like any other trip I am sure the places do not truly present themselves until you spend some time there.

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