Traveling in the “Great Trip” style, you will arrive and be there instead of swooping through, then moving on. The swoop-in style of travel prohibits you from actually arriving anywhere, and it severely limits the depth of your experience.
Instead, you will have the time you need to learn the charms and significance of each place you visit. You will take the time to experience its lifestyle and hear its stories. By staying longer in each of your “home bases,” you also will have rich opportunities to venture out on day trips that will give you a broader sense of the cultural bounty of the region.
There is always an all-important trade-off between trying to take in more places and taking more time in each place. What you will gain from having more time in fewer places is that you will have the luxury of settling in and making yourself at home. You will experience more when you decrease the frantic flitting around and actually arrive. As with many things in life, less is more!
To arrive and be there, you will:
- Orient yourself and “make yourself at home.”
- “Live” there, however briefly.
Orient Yourself and “Make Yourself at Home”
On group trips, although you will have a guide, you likely will feel lost much of the time. As you play “follow the leader,” you will forego any opportunities to learn and find your own way. Sometimes you will barely know where you are, exactly, or where you are going. You may not even know where you’ve been after you’ve been there.
At the other extreme, making up your trip on your own, you again will often feel lost, because you will be lost. And you will have the sense that you may be missing the most important experiences, because, most likely, you are. By the end of your trip you will have a long list of what you would have and should have done if only you had known more before you set out.
Traveling the “great trip” way, you will never feel lost. And you will most certainly know where you have been after you’ve been there. In each new location, you will have a minimum of three days. And you will begin your time there with a walkabout to get oriented, using a great trip book to guide you, customized to your own particulars.
Starting with your immediate neighborhood, then branching out to surrounding areas, you will discover where “your” bakery is, as well as “your” delicatessen, wine shop, cheese shop, fresh market, pharmacy and ATM. You will know your best options for public transportation, and where “your” closest stops are located. If there is a river, lake or ocean, you will use them to establish your own sense of direction.
And you will identify an appealing spot to meet up with your travel companion(s) when you venture off to spend time independently. This meeting spot may be a café in the square or on a bench beside the fountain, or any such spot where waiting will be its own entertainment.
Once you are oriented, you will know where you are and where to go next. Then you will be able to expand on your knowledge, and begin to feel comfortable and confident moving about and exploring your new “home away from home.”
By using this approach to finding your way, you will surprise yourself at how quickly you will feel confident walking out to your bakery for fresh croissants in the morning, then stopping by “your market” to gather up items for your picnic in the park beside the river. And you will actually know where the river is!
“Live” There, However Briefly
When traveling with a group, you will, by necessity, be staying in larger hotels, often in areas that are thickly populated by tourists. And you will be limited to areas that can be reached by a huge bus. So, wherever you go, you will “hover” there, not “live” there.
In contrast, during your great independent trip, you will be free to book accommodations that make for their own memorable experiences, situated in prime locations. A room in a charmingly restored 17th-century manor house, with a French balcony from which you can watch sunsets over the Loire, and a connected turret room that looks out on the castle across the street… A restored abbey… The tower of a ruined castle perched high above the river… A small hotel near the Seine, across from Notre Dame.
For breakfast you will walk down the stairs of the 17th-century townhouse to the elegant dining room, or up the stairs to the rooftop terrace, with a view of the river. Or you will step out onto your little balcony to breakfast on the bread and cheese, salami and fruit you gathered yesterday at the Saturday Market.
And so the place you stay will become an essential part of the full experience of your trip. Your location will put you at the heart of what you have come to see and experience. You will walk out the door to old town, or to the river, or to the chateaux. In a word, when you walk out the door, you already will “be there.”