Many of us respond to uncertainty by diverting our energy to things we can control. Back when there were stay-at-home orders, some people became expert bakers, others started their own at-home workout regimes. And while I don’t feel comfortable pulling the trigger to book an international trip any time soon, and many countries are not welcoming Americans anyway, it’s a good time to take a deep dive on researching future destinations to save your travel-loving sanity just a bit. Here are five ways to start research for your next big trips in (hopefully) 2021 and 2022.
Choose a Few Destinations
First, take a look at your own travel bucket list. I suggest picking geographically diverse locations, such as one or more domestic locations and one or more international spots, and maybe one place you can drive to versus flying, so no matter the circumstances at the time, one of the trips will still be possible. Even if the “big bucket list” international trip doesn’t pan out when you want it to because of continuing uncertainties, you’ll still have done the research and be armed with the knowledge to use whenever you’re ready. Start a new travel planning document for each destination so you can make notes as you go of interesting and necessary information.
Another good, albeit sometimes superficial, way to scope out a place is on social media, particularly Instagram. If you’re going to passively scroll through social media anyway, you might as well follow something positive. This can be done by following hashtags for a particular place, local people like photographers based in the area, travel bloggers (like us) news or accounts for magazines, museums or the community’s equivalent to a convention and visitors bureau. You can also check out photos geotagged to a particular location. One account I really love is the U.S. National Park Service.
Be a Friend of the Library
If you don’t have a library card, what are you waiting for? Libraries have mobile apps and you can borrow eBooks, audiobooks, music, movies and more from your own home, or wherever your smartphone is, for free! Do a search for the destination(s) you’re interested in and you’ll find a treasure trove of information. Knowing the history of a place can make it come alive when you get there. I recently did this both on purpose and accidentally before heading to the Outer Banks. On purpose was the biography, The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, recommended by a friend I traveled with. Accidentally, I took a recommendation from someone in a book club of Calypso by David Sedaris, which peppers in stories about his family traveling to the Outer Banks. Who knew? Both books made my trip more interesting. Libraries are also a source of great travel guidebooks, which you can also pick up at thrift stores.
Stream a Little Stream with Me
While you’re at it, it’s perfectly fine to indulge in a little binge watching of a historical fiction series or documentary or even a cooking show, or ten – on something related to your travel destinations. What about music or art? Is the place you want to visit the hometown of a favorite band or visual artist? As a rabid lifelong Beatles fan, going to Liverpool and seeing firsthand the sights of their hometown blew my mind. Once you start to explore culture a bit more, you might find hidden gems like historic sites or niche museums, or a restaurant with the world’s best [fill in the blank.] The more you learn in advance, the more you can plug into your travel document and know what your must-dos will be.
Go to the End of the Internet
A leadership program classmate coined this phrase, and I love it so much, because it’s one of my favorite things to do and really captures the spirit of research. “Going to the End of the Internet” means having your curiosity piqued on one topic or another and then reading everything you can possibly find on that topic, and possibly picking up some more interesting subjects along the way. After you start learning more about a place, its art, culture and history, there’s so much more to discover, and most of it is out there on the good ol’ World Wide Web. Google to your heart’s content and what you discover will help guide your trip planning. Don’t forget to make a note in your planning doc when something comes up that interests you.
How do you research for travel and where do you get your travel inspiration? Share with us in the comments and on social media. Research on, travel lovers!