Planning for the Unknown

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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!

Travel Bucket List- top 10

Travel

The biggest problem about loving to travel is that there is never an end to all the place I want to go. So I put things in a box, magazine cutouts and travel guides, and make rough lists of what to do in a year or two…or three. I’ve been very lucky in that I have been able to go somewhere new just about every year  since I graduated from high school. Even if it’s just in Colorado! However, international travel has far more appeal due to the excitement of new cultures, languages, and being able to remove myself out of my comfort zone. BECAUSE I’m that kind of person!

So here is my rough list of places I want to hit in the next 5-10 years.

  1. Peru- I plan on hiking the Inca trail over four days, and I am currently “training” for such a feat! I also want to visit important Inca and colonial sights, and nerd out over weaving and clothing patterns that have been used for ages. Because I’m a nerd like that!machu_picchu_peru_machu
  2. Japan- This is a trip for Ryan and I, and maybe even Lily-bug in a few years! I think it would be a trip of a lifetime to see the diversity of the country in all its islands, eat the food, photograph the crap out of everything and just enjoy something so different from our day to day. I have even considered trying to move here for a year….I’ll keep you posted 😉kyoto_autumn_leaves_japan_heian_shrine_563821.jpg
  3. China- Ever since seeing Mulan I have desperately wanted to go to China, I’m talking 7 year old me wanted so badly to go to China. Pretty much all my elementary school projects were on China and the New Year…who knows why. Even today I’m drawn to novels on China’s past etc. Okay I want to go to China TODAY in its hustle and bustle and new meets old traditions and cities. I want to experience the joy I have met in Chinese travelers and catch some of the contagious charm of a deep and ancient culture. It’s also HUGE so this may be a long journey from North/South East and West. There is so very much to see. gate_of_heavenly_peace_188177.jpg
  4. India- This is one I want to do with my sister’s and mostly because I’ve been warned to not travel alone in India. Which may or may not be a reasonable concern, but it would be much more fun to be there with my sisters. We want to do India because of its challenge to our senses, norms, and a chance to grow closer as we take on new and exciting adventures. We want the elephants and architecture, but also the shopping and food and meeting new people. We want the diversity and the mix of old and new. It simply sounds like an amazing journey that will leave us all changed for the better! tea_estate_in_munnar_515638
  5. Korea- I have several friends living here or planning to go here. Korea is appealing due to its fantastic modern culture that is delicately blended with the past. Also the food, and the mountains and the architecture. I don’t care much about investigating the North, and the South has plenty of stories to tell and share. korea_dance_republic_of_korea
  6. Mexico- I have technically already been to Mexico, but just Cozumel. Which was REALLY awesome, therefore it must me figured that the rest of the country has a lot to share. Again this is a place with a huge mix of cultures and peoples and is full to the brim with exciting adventures for all! Can we also talk about how amazing the food is here? I’m also a huge geek for Mexico’s pre-colonial history and I can’t wait to see more Mayan and Aztec art. If you know nothing about those two cultures go read about it now, it’s so cool! flags
  7. NorthEastern United States- This is where we started as a nation, so there is a ton of architecture and history to drool over. But there is also some amazing natural areas and greenery that we don’t get here in the west. My plan is to make a road trip of it and soak up the fall leaves! declaration_of_independence_united_states_usa.jpg
  8. Oh Canada- it’s our neighbor to the north and full of poutine and mountains, what is not to love? I also want to soak in some history and adventure and hang out with REALLY nice people!toronto_canada_skyline
  9. NorthWest United States- I feel a strong need to check out that place called Washington and Oregon that are known for a rugged ocean culture and being very much like Colorado. Also their rainforests are some of the most amazing looking things I have ever seen!olympic_national_park_washington_bobcat
  10. Greece- This is one of those places in Europe that I have yet to get to experience and I seriously can’t wait to go and take in the food, ancient history, architecture and culture that seems laughable and equally loveable.symi_greece_houses.jpg

There you have it, the top ten places on my list. And of course there is much much more out there I can’t wait to see!

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson

Quinoa is great, but complicated.

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Many of you gluten free eaters probably love and rely on quinoa as a new staple grain to your diet. Whether in pasta, salads, cereals or crackers the grain has taken off in popularity over the last decade or so as gluten free eating has taken off to new popularity. It’s high in protein and tasty, easy to make, and relatively affordable. Here is a break down by Purdue on the grain. Now the grain traditionally grows in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile due to their fertile land and high elevation. Which also means that in recent years there has been production in South Colorado due to its similar climate.

However, as a result of global demand and popularity it is harder for farmers to produce enough of the crop that was once a staple to the diets of poor South Americans. Farmers have increased their standard of living but can’t produce enough of the crop and with 90 percent of world demand coming from South America, and only 10 percent in the US there is a bit of a problem. The Washington Post claims it should be “taking over the world” but isn’t because it can’t reach deamands. And the Huffington Post reported that this demand is ruining fragile ecosystems and making it hard for poorer bolivians to eat well as their stable crop prices soar sky high and alternatives are sought out, such as rice. Also, quionoa is replacing other crops where once potatoes and other foods grew for consumption by locals. With a country of high malnutrition rates the concerns are not unfound.

Thoughts? Concerns? Kudos?

Happy Eating

~Rebecca Robinson