My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Three Ways To Really Connect With Your Next Destination

2013/09/18by Gillian Duffy

There are few feelings as satisfying as making the final preparations for a trip you’ve been planning for a while. After the reservations are made and flights booked, the next step normally entails using a variety of travel resources to make some sort of loose itinerary for the upcoming trip. However, there are many ways of trip planning that don’t include museum opening times and popular local landmarks or trendy restaurants. Today’s guest writer, Gillian Duffy, writes about connecting with your destination by learning about its food, literature and history before leaving home.

It doesn’t matter if you’re heading off on a two week road trip, or a longer  holiday to somewhere exotic, connecting with your destination can make the difference between a ‘meh’ trip and one that you talk about for years to come.

Here are three ways to really connect with your next destination:

 1. Read Novels. Literature is like a secret window into a destination, and although created, developed, and manipulated just for the story line, the people in them are sometimes quite representative of the local population.

Find stories set where you are going, written by authors from the area, or that contain characters from the region. They offer an inside look at the culture, allowing you to examine how characters interact, and live with each other, what the local customs are, and how the country sees itself.

Three Ways to Really Connect With A Destination

Choose contemporary fiction, romance novels, comedy, or mysteries – they all have something to offer!

2. Immerse Yourself in the Local Cuisine. And I mean before you go! Cookbooks today are filled with information beyond the list of ingredients and how to prepare the recipe. Often they tell of the history and culture of a dish; where it came from, how it evolved as it was taken up by locals etc.  You can visit local restaurants, try recipes at home and research all the great food you will enjoy once you finally get there.

Three Ways of Connecting With a Destination

I learned that most of the noodle dishes I love so much in Thailand actually hail from China – the birthplace of the noodle!

3. Get a Feel for the History. No, not from dusty old history text books, but from stories that tell of the history of an area without putting you to sleep! Historic fiction,  memoirs  and movies can really explore the essence of a city without all the dull dates and historic facts. While the finer details of the history may not be accurate, often the overarching history is normally correct and can give a sense of how and why a place is the way it is.

Three Ways to Really Connect With A Destination

Make an effort to connect historic tales with their present-day setting.

Certainly guidebooks have their place in researching and planning any trip but going beyond the guidebook and reading other books based on the destination you’re headed to can really help you connect to that place, and get the most out of the time you have.

Do you have any trip-planning rituals that help in connecting with your destination? Tell us about it in the comments!

Gillian Duffy is a traveller, and serial expat, currently based in Canada but with Mexico on the horizon. You can find more of the best travel books to enhance your trip at The Global Bookshelf

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie Donahoe
Twitter:
September 19, 2013 at 2:33 am

I would suggest another way to get a feel for the history of a site: have a hand in preserving it! Adventures in Preservation is one of several organizations offering hands-on building preservation and conservation opportunities, but since that’s the one I know best, it’s the one I’ll plug here. They have projects next year in Gjirokastra, Albania (Ismail Kadare’s City of Stones); rural Slovenia; and Serravalle, 30 kilometers from Venice. Additional projects in Ghana, Ecuador, Ukraine and the US are in the development stages.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
September 20, 2013 at 7:35 am

Hi Jamie, thanks for taking the time to comment. And we’re happy to have you back. Perhaps you forgot that you wrote a guest article for us a while back.
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Jamie Donahoe
Twitter:
September 20, 2013 at 8:58 am

Hadn’t forgotten at all – I’ve been a loyal subscriber even since!

Happy travels!
Jamie Donahoe recently posted..Historic Preservation in Medora, North DakotaMy Profile

emi September 19, 2013 at 11:15 am

wonderful tips!

i always love finding a kindred travel lover! can’t wait to follow along on bloglovin.
xo

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
September 20, 2013 at 7:33 am

Thanks for visiting, Emi. Hope you’ll be a regular.
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Heather Cowper
Twitter:
September 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Personally I love to read a novel about the places I visit especially while I’m actually there, as you get such a great insight. I enjoyed reading The Potato peel pie and literary society when I was on Guernsey and it gave me such an insight into the history of the occupation there.
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Gillian
Twitter:
September 19, 2013 at 2:26 pm

You’re the second person to recommend the Potato Peel Pie book Heather. It’s on my list now!
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Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque)
Twitter:
September 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I read “Memoirs of a Geisha” while we were visiting Japan. I’m usually more of a non-fiction reader, but this was a prefect Japan trip book. I totally agree that having a clue about the history and culture of a place prior to one’s visit greatly enhances the experience. If you will be traveling somewhere with a cuisine far different than yours and there are some things you really don’t want to or can’t eat, it’s a good idea to know the names of key dishes and what’s in them before you are confronting a menu in a language (and maybe even an alphabet) you don’t understand in an area where you are unlikely to find someone who speaks a language you understand.
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Gillian
Twitter:
September 19, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I also read Memoirs Of A Geisha for my trip to Japan. I thought it gave some good insight that I wouldn’t have necessarily discovered even while there.
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Vera Marie Badertscher September 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Of course I LOVE these tips, because we cover all three at A Traveler’s Library. Lots of novels and biographies and literary non-fiction that enhance travel; histories are my 2nd favorite kind of book to prepare for a trip (after mysteries). I just traveled to Oregon, following the Lewis and Clark trail and shared my favorite book. I also look for websites devoted to the history of the place. How about focusing on National Historic Sites and Battlefields or internationally on UNESCO Heritage Sites?
Finally, Brette Sember writes at A Traveler’s Library about food and recipe books that enhance your travel.
But we also cover movies and T.V. shows and I’ve been inspired to travel to many places after seeing them featured in a movie or on TV.
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