Chapter 21

Traveling can do you a world of good

A trip you book from a travel catalog may give you the relaxation you seek. If, however, you want to gain new insights and enriching experi­ences, you should plan your trips just like you would plan a project. The better you prepare, the more intense your experi­ences will be. The best way to get to know a country is by getting to know its people. So try to find some hosts and be a good guest.

What trips are useful?

There are many different reasons for traveling: wanting a chance to relax, seeing friends again, doing business, providing services, experi­encing cultural events, or getting to know the world. Trips can be very different depending on whether you are travelling on your own, as a couple, as a family, in a group of friends or with strangers, with your sports club or with colleagues from work. It also depends on your age and which phase of life or the living situation you are currently in. Whatever the reason – you can reap all kinds of benefits by going on a trip.

What are people who travel trying to find? Some people want to escape from everyday life and get away from their everyday routine, experi­encing peace and quiet, while others seek adventure; some like to socialize and do sports, others seek solitude in breath­taking natural surroun­dings; some are interested in people from foreign countries, and again others are interested in museums and opera festivals, etc. The gigantic tourism market is able to fulfill nearly all of these wishes.

Many newspapers and magazines have special pages dedicated to traveling. Some journals focus exclu­sively on travel. And there are even dedicated travel channels. You can also borrow or purchase books and videos on travel. No other market offers such a broad range of infor­mation. Creating your own travel archive is just that easy.

Plan your trips like projects!

Traveling is part of developing your perso­nality. People used to say that traveling educates you. A teenager who hitch­hikes can benefit just as much from this experience as busines­speople who meet their business partners and tour production sites as dictated by an itinerary. The success of a trip depends on how well you prepare. That’s project work.

Let’s take a “ski vacation,” for example. A group of young people want to go on a two-week skiing trip in the Alps in January. Has anyone been there before? If so, where? Who will get infor­mation on offers? Should we book a simple hotel or a vacation apartment? Should we take the train or drive? What levels of diffi­culty should the ski resort have? Who wants to take ski lessons? Who wants to go on a tour? What about apres ski options? What should the individual members of the group take along for everyone? Board games? Beverages? Does everyone have ski equipment? Can somebody help out others that don’t have everything themselves? Who knows someone that can tell us something about the resort? Do they have any maps? Are there any good websites we can get infor­mation from?

The more in-depth the prepa­ration, the greater the anticipation!

Planning a ski vacation is not a parti­cu­larly challenging project. If, however, you travel to different climate zones, parts of the world that have other forms of civiliz­ation, or difficult-to-access areas, you need to prepare much more exten­sively. This does not have to be as challenging as an expedition that parti­ci­pants sometimes prepare for years. But independent travel outside of well-organized tourist areas will only be an enriching life experience if you avoid taking ill-advised risks by preparing, planning, and arranging everything with military precision.

Here is a second example. You want to travel to the national parks in the Southwest United States. What’s the best season for visiting them? How long should you go for? What will you be booking in advance? What do you book once you are there and what do you book from home? Should you take an RV or a car? Where should the trip in the United States start? Which route should we take?

Once the main questions have been answered and the main decisions have been made, the next step involves drawing up a basic plan. This includes:

  • an itinerary
  • a route map
  • a plan of action
  • a budget.

Also compile your prepa­ratory work into a plan of action. Then create a to-do-list for the countdown: What do you need to do before you leave?

With this kind of prepa­ration, the antici­pation and excitement builds up more and more – until you finally get going.

People who believe that they will manage without any intensive prepa­ration – since you “don’t have time” for that or you feel that the travel agency can take care of everything or that it would be better to take care of it once you get there – not only risk unpleasant surprises but can neither ideally benefit from their travels nor get the most out of their desti­nation according to their interests. You may be able to say that you were there but you only really experi­enced what you happened to encounter at the time.

Don’t let your vacation stress you out!

But no matter how precisely you plan, it would be a misun­derstanding to complete a trip exactly the way you planned it. When it comes down to it, it’s precise planning that helps you to be open to revising your plans or playing it by ear. This is exactly what the knowledge you acquired and prepared beforehand makes possible: When you’re at the place you’re visiting, it allows you to think of alter­na­tives on the spot and to quickly adapt to new circum­s­tances. You will have the necessary funda­mental skills to do so. And you will be in a better position to decide whether or not to accept an unexpected offer. You feel freer and more confident.

People who follow up times of action with times of tranquility avoid getting stressed out during their vacation. You should not rush from one sight to the next. Instead, skip a few items in your itinerary when your schedule becomes too full. You should also resist the urge to take pictures of everything. Try to enjoy the moment without your camera at first. And then document what you see. Constantly buying souvenirs also steals valuable travel time. Traveling means experi­encing, under­standing, and getting to know things, and gaining experiences.

Keep a trip diary!

A trip diary is a parti­cu­larly suitable tool for recording experi­ences of a trip and all its enrichment, experi­ences, and events. You can either use a simple notebook in which you write down every day where you were, which people you met, what stood out to you, what made you happy, what seemed dangerous to you, what amazed you, what puzzled you, which insights you gain, how you feel, etc.

You can also add infor­mation on the time and weather. People who can draw will certainly enjoy adding some sketches. This kind of a trip diary will help you to enhance your travel experience and to relive and process the experi­ences you made. Travel most certainly educates you.

The best way to get to know other countries is
to connect with their people

If you want to get to know a country and its people, it will be hard to do so only with people you strike up conver­sa­tions with while you are out and about. For this reason, while you are preparing for your trip, it’s a good idea to find out addresses and establish contacts who might ask you to visit them.

There are a couple of ways to do this: work colleagues, sports and leisure clubs that are counter­parts to your club at home, city twinning, fan clubs, etc. At this point at the latest you will realize that if you are not fluent in the local language you should at least be able to commu­nicate with others in English. Outgoing and resourceful people will certainly find enough addresses. You can establish your first contacts by e‑mail and the phone even before starting on your trip.

Once you are at your desti­nation, you will quickly notice whether or not both of you are actually interested in pursuing this encounter. Sometimes, the connection is instanta­neous. For this type of encounter, for which you need to be a good guest, you will quickly find out whether or not you have prepared for your host country sufficiently.

A visit becomes parti­cu­larly enriching when you have boned up on the country’s tradi­tions and customs in advance. You also need a certain level of tact to ensure that the host and guests will be able to bond. This will allow you to go beyond small talk and perhaps do something together and become friends.

Documen­tation and conclusions

Once you have returned from your trip, you usually have a lot to talk about, but you should not leave it at that. You have to complete a “travel project” with documen­tation that describes and assesses how the trip went and draws conclu­sions. The travel project draws on your trip diary, the pictures and videos and the infor­mation you collected, including what you collected during the trip and provides records and illus­trative examples. You should complete the documen­tation as soon as you can after you return as long as your memories are still fresh. Always make sure that when planning a trip, you don’t have to go straight back to work the next day.

It makes sense to structure things chrono­lo­gi­cally. But you can also structure it differ­ently, such as by interesting people you encoun­tered or natural or cultural highlights. You can dedicate separate chapters to interesting events, special obser­va­tions, or disco­veries. And don’t forget to write down compa­risons with life back home, insights you have gained, and things to keep in mind for your next trips.

People who plan, execute, and complete their trips around the world like this will very soon experience the benefits of such inten­sified traveling. Everyone knows: You can only climb the world’s peaks and explore the flora and fauna of the world’s jungles if you have the right equipment and prepa­ration. The same applies for any other trip. People who approach traveling like a project will graduate from simply “I’ve been there” to lasting “experi­encing”.

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