Planning for the Unknown

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, europe, Florida, France, italy, mexico, Nebraska, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

We live in an exciting time of where we have endless information at our fingertips through social media, news sources, books, and endless other methods. At any given second I can go on my phone or online and see what is happening in many areas of the world. In real time I can explore what is happening at a place I plan on visiting.

This is awesome and equally problematic.

From a travel planner perspective, we use the most up to date, thorough and well-researched information at our disposal. Coming from reliable sources like travel guides, national tourism boards, official websites, rail aggregators and other “first hand” knowledge sources. For the rest of the public, their perspective on a new place comes from a video or social media post, perhaps a news article from a well-reputed magazine. Guess what fails to be in the articles and videos? Thorough information on how to get to, explore, or enjoy a specific region.

No doubt this is not a problem that content creators have to fix alone. Because when well-meaning Conde Nast makes a list of places to see before 2020, they don’t expect people to just cherry pick and randomly show up to Machu Picchu. They do think that people research or look into the complexity of getting to Machu Picchu on train, or foot, or bus. But many don’t, because in our world of instant gratification people don’t always understand that other parts of the world have more layers to their exploration.

Like any good history geek I love researching an answer for myself or my clients. I look at the stories that made up a place. I look at train schedules. I call locals to get information on schedules that I can’t find online. I look at sunset and sunrise times to explain to a client when they can get that perfect view. I check weather patterns to explain what they should pack. I love this research. Granted, I get a little more in the weeds than is necessary, thus, I encourage you to find a balance as you set off into the world.

Here are my tips for researching unknown place.

  1. Go to the library or book store and buy the most recently published guide on the area that you are interested in.
    • Pro-tip: ask the bookstore clerk if an updated version of that guide is coming out BEFORE you travel and ORDER it so that you have the best vetted information for your actual trip.
  2. READ the crap out of that book. Make copies, take pictures with your phone, make notes. Learn everything you can so you know what needs to be done when you’re boots on the ground in Argentina headed to Patagonia.
    • Pro-tip: I use sticky notes in a color coordinated pattern to mark places of interest or areas I am headed to. That way I know where to get information quickly. For example, I will use a large sticky note to mark a region and write the name above the edge of the page. Then I know green stickies are dining in Delhi, pink are activities, etc.
  3. Ask Around to people that travel and see if someone you know has been to such and such place and ask them for recommendations. This might save you time, money, and stress when you know someone else was able to enjoy the same vacation or trip you were planning.
    • Pro-tip: vet all the information you get to make sure it’s accurate and safe. Make a list of suggestions and then read up on what your friend/family suggested.
  4. Read reviews with a grain of salt. Reviews offer TRUE experience feedback, but remember that people are more likely to complain online versus compliment so sometimes complaints will reflect a slanted view, good or bad, of a company.
    • Pro tip: if you see complaints ask yourself if it matters if “the room is small” “if the restroom only had a small shower” or if “the price was insane” because sometimes what bothers someone else will not matter to you.
  5. Utilize hotels and locals by asking questions on dining, activities, weather, and how to enhance your vacation! No one knows better than locals on where to eat, drink, and enjoy your best life.
    • Email your hotel, tour guide, or organizer well in advance so that you have time to get a response and make arrangements to enjoy the best parts of wherever you are going.
  6. Plan for emergencies and extra time. There is nothing more frightening to me than having someone with a schedule that has no extra time built in. Why? Because if one thing goes wrong, like a train delay or a volcanic eruption (true experience from yours truly) you won’t have any time to make up for time lost. I always suggest having at least one back up flight or one back up train between you and when you need to be somewhere. YES you may have more wasted time, but you WILL be less stressed about your travels. Cool bonus: people watching is always enjoyable.
    • Pro-tip: don’t cram everything into one trip. Pick your favorite options and stick to a simpler plan. You will feel less stressed and exhausted, and when you slow down truly magical things happen! There is a reason why EVERY tour company offers some free time on varying days and afternoons because they need extra time for the unplanned and everyone needs to slow down.
  7. Teach yourself the customs, some key phrases, social norms, and other details before you go. Nothing will make you feel more insecure than thinking you have pissed someone off or that you are awkwardly getting through life. Read up on dos and don’ts and mentally note how to behave.
  8. Most importantly, have fun! Laugh off your mistakes, learn as much as you can, and don’t sweat the small stuff. In my experience, things work out and you always have a phenomenal time!

HAPPY TRAVELS!

What I Wish You Knew

colorado, musings, Travel

It’s easy in 2018 to find information on every part of the world….except when it is not.

While there are probably millions of pieces on Paris and London, there are only a handful of helpful writings on parts of American Samoa, or rural areas of Vietnam. While more people explore the world, this gap tightens, but there is always a need for better information, not more.

“Being first is irrelevant when the story is just wrong.”

While it’s great to have endless options for readings, articles, videos, and blogs, there is often a disconnect on the quality of works. Or much of the information is just outdated, poorly written, ethnocentric, exaggerated…. you get the idea.

Recently I saw a pretty popular Facebook page attached to a page through a pretty popular media company. In the video it stated that a VERY popular Colorado tourist site was only 1,000 feet above sea level. To put this into perspective, the capitol of Denver is at 5,280 feet above sea level, and this site was around 7,000 feet above sea level. The mistake was glaring and extremely unhelpful to visitors that may not know what to do with elevation gains, altitude sickness, and other problems that come with mountains.

It is mistakes like the video that create a cycle of bad information and problems for travelers, researchers, and those working in the tourism industry.

Time and time again I return to travel guides as a resource because they have many things going for them, and most importantly, they are updated and more accurate than other resources.

No doubt many bloggers and news sources try to update their work as much as possible, but travel guides have the set up to ensure their accuracy and consistency. Guides also work with companies to present information, update locations, and create a standard of information that other media sources cannot keep up with.

When I get out in the world, or run into an issue on research for work, I find that I am constantly returning to a book on the place or finding a blog that is specifically written on a set region.

What I wish all travelers knew is that it’s important to be accurate, and it’s important to provide good content. Being first is irrelevant when the story is just wrong.

Maybe the journalist in me is fighting an over-saturated market of bad blogs, but I wish I could tell people every day to buy a book, read some more, ask questions of locals. Don’t expect someone that has barely or NEVER been to Paris to give you a rating on the best restaurants. They’ll go to Yelp just like you and regurgitate 30 reviews. The authenticity is simply lost.

you-knew

I was listening to NPR on Sunday, and not that that’s surprising because of all the media I listen to NPR is the most common. Anyway, they were discussing the media bubble that is creating difficulties for NPR to make money and the conflicts of podcasts etc. Which is really interesting and something for another day.

They did say something else that I think may be even more important than that of the money/journalism bubble or at least equally important. They were discussing how NPR and for instance, All Things Considered, was established in the 1970s to promote intelligence and knowledge across the country. To cover minorities and give voice to the voiceless kind of story.  Which I would say they do make real attempts at doing and which is a real reason I try to listen a couple of times a week. Yay *applause*

But then the conversation took a turn to what is the reality of our culture and where real money in the media lies.

Let’s start here, TLC, The History Channel and the Discovery Channel and its subsidiaries were made, in ways, to replicate PBS-style stations. Where there was documentary type learning shows, that depicted and told stories around the world. This is the type of stuff I ate up day after day as a kid. The stuff I loved! Some of it was sappy and a little fluffy like “A Baby Story” or “An Adoption Tale” but other shows that talked about gender-identity and mental conditions or strange medical conditions were fascinating to me. I feel they gave me a more compassionate and thorough understanding to the world. Yet as culture changed and reality TV became more profitable and popular those stations changed to telling those stories.

In the last 10 years we have had Honey Boo-Boo and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (an admitted guilty pleasure) and Ice Road Truckers. All of which lack much of the substance of previous shows and station goals. My fiance jokingly calls TLC “The Loser Channel” but I honestly don’t know if that’s too far from the truth. Some of the shows really inspire me to care for people I don’t understand with more compassion, like my 600lb Life, while others leave me buying up stereotypes and inconsiderately dismissing other groups, such as 19 kids and Counting and it’s HUGE sex scandal mess that broke last year.

Ok all of that aside my point is that TV often reflects society like a mirror, and the unfortunate side is that most people embrace this gum-ball machine mess of television of a quarter in and sticky crap that rots your brain out.

What’s most upsetting is that while these shows are consumed and even loved, other REAL programming with great information on radio, TV or other gets bumped out. News even gets mushed up to be click-bait and full of thorough and honest information. Just this week I got into a conversation on Charlie Chaplin on Vice and had the author block me for calling her out on cherry-picking history.

Anyway, that aside I am BEGGING all of you to get out and learn. Something like only 78% of Americans read a book a year. And the number steadily increases for more than 5, 10 etc. There is research to indicate that this next generation will be less educated than any previous, a turnaround from the past. And it’s not just reading that’s important but the ability to think, analyze and understand what is happening around someone.

It’s not even just things that come from a good education but information that can be assessed through alternative means and through independent learning. This means pick-up a book, read a magazine that’s not fluff, have your kids watch a documentary on animals with you. Discuss the universe, have a lunch date with friends and talk about making the world a better place etc. etc. Jump into the fun of learning and take someone with you. You don’t have to make learning your only activity, but make it one that is also a part of your life.

My family, with all its crazy, constantly pushed for learning, and that is something that I will always push for others.

 

Anyone want to borrow a book?

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson

Lifelong Learning- Why We All Should

family, geek, History, musings

Gifts from a grandma

family, musings

Some of you may know, and some may not, my grandmother recently passed away.

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My grandmother and I, about age 2. 1993

It is a deep and painful experience, not only because I lost someone close to me, but because I lost someone that helped raise me, shared my childhood home, was always one of my heroes and taught me many of the skills and values I hold dear to me.