The Road to Discovery
February 19, 2019
For this post, I thought I would do things a little differently and show you a little more of what goes on behind the scenes. From my own experience I feel that travelling is all about making friends. Well, a lot of my most treasured experiences have come from meeting new people and becoming friendly with them.
I often get asked how I discover the places I visit and how I put together my itineraries. So, I thought I would walk you through my process of how I do this. Whilst I’m in a country, I like to sample a little bit of everything that it has to offer. From its wild parties to its untouched wilderness, I have to experience all of it, culture, food, wildlife it’s all on my list.
Although I consider myself an experienced traveller, I’m not afraid to ask for help. So here comes stage 1 (my pre-travel research); before jetting off I like to put in a little ground work – the internet and social media are great for this. I believe you cannot get a real idea of what a country is going to be like until you are physically there but it’s always good to have a rough idea. First of all, I’ll research the top things to do in a country and then I want to find out about some amazing hidden features – that’s where you guys come in. I’ll message people I know that have visited or people on Instagram that have posted some amazing insights into the location in question. I’ve had some amazing responses and planned some amazing trips based on peoples replies. Reading other people’s blogs is another great place to start when researching a new destination.
Stage 2 is the research I do after I have arrived. This is where I feel that I really excel and by far my favourite part – talking to the locals. I absolutely love making new friends and getting to know about new cultures. I’ve made friends all over the world like this and, of course, the locals always know the best spots and help you to get away from the crowds. Getting friendly with the locals is all about understanding their culture and being respectful. I feel that in order to fully experience a country you must fully immerse yourself in its culture, so this comes naturally to me.
During one of my trips I actually made a new friend in Thailand who introduced me to his friends in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. These guys have all known each other for years and I went from country to country meeting them all and actually staying at a few of their houses. I’m still friends with all these guys to this day and will be visiting them all over the next year. I’ve also sent numerous friends and acquaintances out to meet them when they’ve been planning their own trips in these countries.
When it comes to hotels and where to stay once you reach your newly discovered paradise, there are a couple of options. The choice you have to make is whether to pre-book, or just to turn up and try to find a decent place to stay. There are pros and cons to both options. Let’s talk about just turning up and winging it. Obviously, this option gives you the freedom to move around and doesn’t tie you to any particular place. The downside, however, is that many hotels will see you as an easy target and charge you more than they usually advertise. You can also waste a lot of valuable exploring time just trying to find somewhere to crash at the end of the day. My advice for people who like to travel this way is research the pricing online and see how much websites like Booking.com or Agoda charge for the hotel you’re looking at.
Let’s talk about pre-booking. Websites like Booking.com etc have such a large pull and put a lot of work into negotiating pricing that they often offer better pricing than on the hotel’s own website. These websites save you both time and money, however, they do obviously tie you to one location, and on some websites like Airbnb you need to keep an eye out for extra charges (cleaning etc). Of course, I understand that not all hotels are on these sites and some I have stayed in aren’t on the internet at all, but that is a whole different matter and very rare these days.
For a successful trip, the less time spent actually travelling between each location the better. The worst feeling whilst travelling is having to come back on yourself to go to the next destination. Therefore, I always plan which airport I fly in and out of carefully. To give you an example, spending a month in Thailand, I fly into Phuket and fly out of Chiang Mai, allowing me to explore the entire length of Thailand without retracing my footsteps. For Laos, I then work myself from Luang Prabang right down to Pakse in the South.
I am always happy to share my contacts around the world and help you guys plan your trips, so if you’re heading to somewhere I’ve been feel free to drop me a line!