Are you ready? How to Create the Best Blueprint for Your Upcoming Trip
You’ve said “YES!” and committed to a trip, now what? Really, the fun part is about to unfold like an intricate origami flamingo!
I have my own personal checklist of ‘trip development.’ Of course, you should modify this according to your own personal whims to create the best blueprint for your destination. For me, the formula is simple: Bourdain. Books. Birds. Beer. Repeat.
This is generally how my wife and I have designed all our independent trips and those we’ve been on with Wild Women Expeditions. While the set itinerary of group travel determines a generous part of your days, there’s still room to pursue some passions and curiosities. Whether you add a few days pre or post-trip, or seek out a quirky museum exhibit or tapas joint on a ‘free night’, a little research legwork will bolster your experience and anticipation. Certainly, a perk of group travel is that you don’t have to be bogged down by research–all the dirty work is done for you BUT some extra curricular reading on your destination will add an added dimension to your trip.
The Wild Women community page (on Facebook) and WWE’s private group trip page (which you’ll be invited to join three months prior to your trip) are valuable resources to tap into. Pose a question and you’ll be surprised what you learn from our in-house travelers! If you’re eager to maximize your pre-trip time in a region and want to spend two nights in Slovenia, tackle a half-day volcano hike or wine tour and want to share cab fare and a hotel room–you’ll probably find an equally eager woman who is seeking the exact same thing!
Here’s the top-secret formula for accessorizing your trip and adding an extra patina to your Wild Women experience.
In the Desert Boot Footsteps of Bourdain
Let’s start with the late and so great Anthony Bourdain. When Kim and I have finally settled on a destination, we investigate whether there’s a No Reservations, The Layover or Parts Unknown episode that was filmed there. Thanks to Tony, we had the best ceviche (ever) at La Cevichería in Cartagena, Colombia. (*And, as featured above–we had a tiebreaker ceviche at the tortoise ranch in Puerto Ayora on the Galapagos Islands Yacht Adventure.
For those who love an epicurean-styled trip, Food Network host Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives has created a ‘placemat’ if you will of more than 1,300 restaurants in 400 cities. While the map is heavy on the US locations, he has some international bites in Spain, Italy and Mexico to check out too. Host (and comedian) John Catucci’s Big Bucket Food List series compiles a weighty list of options in Canada if you are heading in either direction (BC or Newfoundland) with Wild Women!
Kim and I also adore everything by hosts Simon Reeve, Joanna Lumley, The Hairy Bikers and series like Gaycation (with then-Ellen Page and her bestie), Departures and Beyond the Beaten Path (a Canadian trio of humble brothers). Take an online wander and make a list of docs and movies filmed where you’re going to get into the proper groove.
Books: Dog-ear This Idea
TripFiction is going to be your new BFF. Plug in a location on the user-friendly interactive site and hit the tarmac running (with a few paperbacks stuffed in your pack).You’ll find a Great Books Map of location-based books and curated lists for over 160 places.
You should also join the JourneyWoman Book Club for the latest ‘shelfies’, intimate author interviews and crunchy reviews on powerful travel memoirs from the Silk Road, Corfu, the Arctic Circle and beyond! Or, if you’re really ambitious, start your own travel book club and pair wines or teas with the book’s setting. Don’t forget to fully engage your senses by picking up a few destination-based cookbooks too! Transport yourself to Morocco or Croatia before you even get there!
The Spruce Eats is our go-to site as it allows you to search by region and discover all-consuming posts on topics like Around the World in 19 Cups of Coffee, Spanish Paella and Thai Mango Cake. Gastro Obscura is another addictive stop–this site will introduce you to Jakarta’s death noodles, Italy’s drunken cheese, and peanut butter fruit. Yep, that’s not a typo! If you are drawn to strange and peculiar menus and cocktail lists like I am, Gastro Obscura is biblical! I always make a shortlist (that grows very long) of things to eat wherever we’re headed–and sometimes surprises sneak in like geranium liqueur in Greece! What’s on your must try list?
BYOB: Bring Your Own Binoculars. Birds!
Listers will be nodding along already. Twitchers will be twitching as well. If you love birds, a new destination means an immediate endemic species search. Are there bee-eaters? Rollers? Weavers? Did you know that there’s a giant hummingbird (that’s its name!) in Peru with a wingspan of 21.5cm (8.4 inches)?
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Birds of the World is an intelligent place to craft your bird wish list. If birds don’t set your heart aflutter, you can certainly sub out this pre-trip research category with flowers, waterfalls, glassblowing, wine, fibre arts, Buddhism or architecture. Whatever niche thing makes the clock stop for you, there’s an extension of your interest to be found in another country. If you love quilting–is there a women’s co-op? Are you a beekeeper? Maybe you can connect with a local apiary or find an itinerary that incorporates honey harvesting like WWE’s Tanzania Trek + Safari.
I have always semi-gloated that I write about the best things in life: beaches, burgers, beer, birds and books–in no particular order. Over the years (and beers), I’ve sought out beers made with oyster juice, peppercorns and jalapenos. If you have a passion project or interest, a scavenger hunt like this becomes inevitable. I’ve dragged Kim around Belize in search of cashew wine (we found it, didn’t love it) and we even managed to find fig moonshine in an oasis in Egypt, but that’s another story. Whether you choose to seek out unusual beers or saffron threads, coffee beans or trade secrets on how to keep octopi tender (boiling it with corks as learned in Croatia!) travel allows and encourages you to become a part-time detective. It’s also fun to compare notes with other travelling detectives/scavenger hunters looking for their own personal North stars–maybe it’s a back alley antiquarian bookstore in Dublin or a feral cat rescue in Zagreb. What do you seek out on your trips?
Your Assignment: Find the Twists and Turns
I’ve shared my perfect trip formula. What’s yours? It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling with a group or solo or in tandem. Having a few things up your sleeve to look for will add another memorable dimension to your trip. Confession: Kim and I make sure that we try the local pizza wherever we go–we’ve had slices topped with hoisin duck + wontons, fried eggs, spaghetti, asparagus pesto and Thanksgiving dinner fixings. It’s fun to be on the hunt for new twists (and turns)!
There are so many unexpected finds that we accidentally ‘discover’ in our travels. We may intend on visiting a particular museum or coffee shop–but you know, there’s always a siesta or pesky national holiday that gets in the way. Sometimes the rain comes and never stops and the birds have no interest in being part of your list. Often the bar that serves the peppercorn beer is only open at 10pm and naturally, it’s not open until the day after you leave the city.
But, this is where something else even more wonderful sneaks in. You see an end-to-end rainbow after a soggy day of trudging along the Camino. You find 99-cent Penang curry on a wrong turn. You come across a pocket of street art in a back alley. You spot a seahorse when snorkeling or happen upon an impromptu street festival where you’re offered a taste of sweet, roasted chestnuts. Maybe you are invited to a sunset clam bake or for a cup of tea after a few minutes of conversation with a jolly local. Maybe you find a gallery opening with the artist in attendance or a blackboard sign on the sidewalk that reminds you that you are exactly where you should be.
And that’s the magic part of the formula that can’t be organized or planned for!