7 1/2 Unusual Ways To Research Your Travels

‘There’s a million ways to find out what you need to know about your next destination and, since everyone has different tastes, these are reflected in the way they conduct their research…’

After all, it’d be pretty dull if we all turned up at the same time to see the same thing, armed with the same facts and figures, wouldn’t it? It would also mean that’d I get really lazy and rock up without doing anything, in the hope that you’d tell me all I needed to know.  Alas, life doesn’t work that way and, because I know that not everyone wants to visit the graveyard in their chosen destination, imma keep having to Googlin’ those bad boys on my own. These are the things I’m doing to prepare for my upcoming Texas road trip:

Podcasts

Podcasts are a bit having a one sided conversation where you don’t get a word in. They cover an enormous range of topics and it doesn’t matter how odd or off the wall you think your topic might be, you are practically guaranteed to find a podcast that covers it. I like my podcasts to cover one topic: true crime.  When it comes to books or movies, this is the only thing I’m really interested in, so it comes as no surprise that me, and hundreds of thousands of others, like nothing more than listening to a good murder as we drive to work in the morning.

However, I tend to branch out a *little* bit before I go travelling and search the name of the cities I plan to go to see what podcasts might be related to the area. Obviously, my first port of all is the true crime section (where I just found this amazing ‘cast about true crime in Texas…), and then it expands out from there.

‘Normal people might go straight to the Travel or News section, but whatever.  If I’m spending four nights in Houston, I gotta know what happened to all those women on the highway back in 1974…’

Roadtrip research
Not a Rough Guide in sight

Books

I’m not talking about Guide books.  No, people; those are SO 2005 and I just don’t have the patience to go search through all that tiny writing.  Don’t get me wrong; I own many and they can be really helpful, but they also quickly become dated. I’m talking book books, like fiction or non fiction titles SET in the place I’m going. I love finding out about new (and often potentially deadly) streets and neighbourhoods through a new author or two. The only exception I make to this is Bill Bryson, as I will literally read anything that man writes.  He’s been a very useful source of information over my 15 years of road tripping across the US and, although I’m now terrified of North Georgia (which, ironically, is where my step son just moved to…), I love his books with all my heart. Anyhoo, for my June trip to Naples, I read Robert Harris’ ‘Pompeii” as I was going there for the day.  Did it give me any historic basis for my trip? A little.  Did it make me even more excited about going?  Yes Ma’am, it surely did.

YouTube

Amazingly, YouTube isn’t all just videos of a very young Justin Bieber playing guitar or PSI dancing like a maniac to Gangnam Style.  There’s actually good stuff on there, too.  If I’m researching a destination, me and LT will often scroll through the travel vlogs to pick up some ideas about where we might want to visit during our trips.  We also usually scroll through old episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, because we love bagging some of the places that have been featured (like Coffee Cup Cafe in Colorado, for example).  There’s a ton of resources on the site to cater for everyone’s tastes and it really can help to give you a good picture of where you’re going.

Amazon Prime/Netflix/TV

So, I said my research doesn’t necessarily follow normal routes and this is blatantly obvious when I tell you that I will scroll through all 14 Seasons of Forensic Files to find episodes that occurred in the places I’m going.  You’re finally getting why I don’t sleep so well, right? The show covers a topic that I love and I adore it, so it makes sense for me.  If you’re normal; not so much, but if we were all the same, the world would be dull, yes?  Anyway, FF really only works in the US and Canada (with the odd episode dedicated to us here in the UK).

‘I was slightly concerned by the sheer number of times Texas had been featured; particularly Lubbock, which has 4 episodes to itself but, as I’m not actually going there, that seemed fine…’  

I did find a few excellent shows from Houston and San Antonio, though. Forensic Files aside, I watched Bosch before heading to L.A as it’s set there, and Breaking Bad before Albuquerque.  You get the general idea.

Movies

The only different with this is that they’re not all crime based.  Honest.  As a example, before Siena, I watched James Bond; before the Rocky Mountains I watched Cliffhanger; before Utah I watched 127 Hours, etc, etc.  I’m not watching James Franco cut his arm off for the fun of it, you understand: I’m watching for the scenery.  And for the reminder never, EVER to go hiking in Utah on my own.

‘For Texas, clearly I re-watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre, primarily because I planned to visit the house outside Amarillo while I was travelling because I’m odd and that’s the stuff I like…’

I also watched Paris, Texas because I hadn’t seen it before and wanted to know what it was all about, and tuned into No Country For Old Men for the scenery, as well as to learn how to make one of those mad gun things out of a fire extinguisher as I thought it might come in handy.

Blogs

It would be weird of me, a blogger, to say that I don’t check out other travel blogs to give me some inspiration.  And I do.  I read a LOT while I’m preparing for my trips and I love the detail of personal experience that vary from writer to writer.  Many blogs are written by complete extroverts and, although I read them, I know that a lot of the experiences they choose are really not for me – like going to places with lots of people, for example – but just reading about and idea I have in my head can sway me one way or the other on a certain attraction or location.

Music

So, this doesn’t really help with any kind of research, but it does feature heavily in my USA roadtrip planning.

‘I am the woman who dragged her husband (the day before their wedding) to Winslow, Arizona (such a fine sight to see) JUST because it’s mentioned in The Eagles song ‘Take it Easy’…

I’m a country music fan and artists LOVE dropping in town and state names into their songs, so this gives me plenty of material to choose from when I’m driving. I also add the tunes I hear on TV or radio while I ‘m travelling and whenever I hear them, they take me back.  This year, I plan to drink many margaritas and treat the good folks down by the Riverwalk to my best rendition of ‘San Antonio Rose’ while I’m in Texas.

Absolutely Nothing…

Although I quite like a bit of structure  – particularly when it comes to road trips – I also quite like spending unplanned days where I can chill out at my AirBnB and not really do much of anything. Sometimes travelling is as much about taking in the atmosphere and soaking up the culture as it is about constantly being on the move walking or driving around cities.  Because LT and I both work full time in the UK, our trips are planned around our time off and we do tend to try cramming as much in as possible.  It’s so important not to come back with your memories all in a hazy mess, when you’ve seen so much, but didn’t actually get time to experience it.  Plus, it’s usually those unplanned days when you happen upon something amazing that you couldn’t possibly have planned for anyway.

Do you plan your trips to the second or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of traveller?

 

Suz x

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