One of the best things about traveling is experiencing a place and a culture that you know nothing about. There is no better way to learn about this planet and the people we share it with than to leave behind all your preconceived notions and go exploring. Putting myself in an entirely new situation and embracing my surroundings has lead to some of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Of course, the trick is knowing how to plan the right kind of trip for you. When you’re going somewhere you’ve never been, it can be hard to know where to start. How do you plan a trip to somewhere you know nothing about?
Whether you’re the kind of traveler who likes to make detailed itineraries or wait and see what takes your fancy when you land, you’ll have to start somewhere! Here’s a crash course in planning your trip when you’re starting from a blank slate.
Seriously, look up your destination on Wikipedia. It might sound silly, but when you’re really going in blind this can be a great way to get an overview of the country and its history. Pay attention for any tidbits of information that pique your interest. If something catches your attention, do a little more research and you may just have found an awesome destination or activity that isn’t part of the standard guide-book fare!
Get Guide Books
If you’re pinching every penny for your upcoming trip, you can even visit you local Barnes and Noble and sit in the coffee shop with a stack of books, or your local bookstore with the comfy armchairs. You’ll probably want to take at least one or two of your favorites home with you, though, so that you can mark them up and dogear the best pages. Reading guide books is a fantastic way to get a sense of the sights you won’t want to miss, and many offer great tips for safety and cultural sensitivity.
Once you have an idea of what kind of questions to ask, start asking around among your friends and family to see if anyone else has already been to your destination. Where better to get advice than from those you trust? Make sure you ask not only about their favorite days, but also about their least favorite parts of the trip, things they wish they had know before they left, and what they would have done if they had more time. Keep in mind what you know of the person, however. If they like to travel in style and luxury and you like to rub shoulders with the locals, you may not want to take their word as gospel.
And no, it’s not just because I run a travel blog! Blogs that center around your destination can often fill in the gaps and suggest neat things that aren’t common knowledge. The best part is, you can reach out and ask them your questions directly! Get googling.
Crowdsource Your Plans
If you are comfortable with putting your trip in the hands of others, don’t underestimate couchsurfing as a resource. You’ll get a real taste of local flavor staying with locals, and many hosts will be happy to take you around their city. There are even some people who sign up simply as guides without offering a bed. It’s hard to know exactly what you’ll get, but you’re guaranteed to have experiences that you couldn’t find in the guide book!