‘There are a million ways to do your travel research, but I like to ditch the guidebooks, veer off the beaten path, and do things my own way…’
The world would be rather 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 any travel research, in the hope that you’d tell me all I needed to know.
Alas, life doesn’t work that way and, because not everyone wants to visit graveyards on vacation, I’m gonna have to keep Googlin’ those bad boys on my own. These are the ways I generally do my travel research…
Podcasts are a bit having a one-sided conversation. A bit like speaking to your mother in law. They cover an enormous range of topics and it doesn’t matter how odd the topic might be, you’re 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 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. I search the name of the cities I plan to go and see what podcasts are related to the area. Obviously, my first port of all is the true crime section (creepy, but true), and then expand it 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…’
I’m not talking about guidebooks. 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 read anything that man writes. He’s been a very useful source of information over 15 years of road-tripping across the US. And, although I’m now terrified of North Georgia, I love his books with all my heart. Anyhoo, for my trip to Naples, I read Robert Harris’ ‘Pompeii” as I was going there for the day. Did it give me any historical basis for my trip? A little. Did it make me even more excited about going? Yes Ma’am, it surely did.
Amazingly, YouTube isn’t all just videos of a very young Justin Bieber playing guitar or PSY dancing like a maniac to Gangnam Style. There’s actually good stuff on there, too. If I’m researching a destination, I’ll often scroll through travel vlogs to pick up some ideas. We also scroll through old episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, because we love bagging the places that have been featured. There’s a ton of resources on the site to cater for everyone’s tastes. It can really help give you a good picture of where you’re going.
So, I said my travel research doesn’t necessarily follow normal routes. This will become blatantly obvious when I tell you I scroll through 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, so it makes sense for me. If you’re normal; not so much. However, if we were all the same, the world would be dull, yes? Anyway, FF really only really works if you’re heading to North America. Also – be careful if you are…
‘Before flying to Texas, I was alarmed by the number of episodes it featured in. Particularly Lubbock, which has 4 to itself. Clearly, this is a place I needed to visit. But probably not alone…’
Forensic Files aside, I watched Bosch before heading to L.A and Breaking Bad before Albuquerque. You get the general idea.
The only difference with this is that they’re not all crime based. Honest. As an 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, I re-watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This was primarily because I planned to visit the house outside Amarillo 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. I 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. You never know when it might come in handy.
It would be weird a travel blogger to say that I don’t check out 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 varies from writer to writer. Many blogs are written by extroverts and, although I read them, I know that a lot of the experiences really aren’t for me. Anywhere with crowds of people, for example. However, just reading background information can sway me one way or the other on a certain attraction or location.
So, this doesn’t really help with any kind of travel research, but it does feature heavily in my USA road trip planning.
‘I am the woman who dragged her fiancee (the day before our wedding) to Winslow, Arizona 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. 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 when I hear them at home, they take me back.
I quite like a bit of structure – particularly when it comes to road trips. However, I also quite like spending unplanned days where I can chill out and not do much of anything. Sometimes travelling is as much about taking in the atmosphere as it is about constantly exploring.
Because LT and I both work full time, our trips are planned around time off and we do cram in a LOT. It’s so important not to come back with your memories in a hazy mess, when you see stuff, but didn’t really experience it. It’s usually those days when travel research goes out the window and you happen upon something that couldn’t be planned.
How do you conduct your travel research?