After months of anticipation and weeks of feverish online searching, I think I’m prepared to take on a journey of 20 hours—but I also know I’m far from ready. That’s solvable, though. Things will become more real than ever as soon as I board a cab to the airport. I’m still stunned that I’m travelling almost halfway across the world. I want to jump up in the air screaming, but my pessimism and over indulgence in worst-case scenarios prevent me from doing so.
Nevertheless, I’m excited. Just the idea of gawking at sights I’ve never had the nerve to even dream up is overwhelming—in a good way. But what’s made this trip even more thrilling is the recommendations I’ve received from people I know.
When you’re planning a trip, there are two kinds of people who give you suggestions. One, the family and friends who love you so much, but have no idea of what you need to carry and how you should approach your trip planning. They’re so happy for you that they find solace in sharing their dream trip tips and tricks with you. Not to devalue their concern, but often times, they’re far from helpful. Sure, it’s great when your father reminds you to carry an extra pair of gloves in your cabin baggage because the flight would get chilly. But it’s also annoying when your grandfather suggests you buy a new toothbrush and a fresh tube of toothpaste just for the trip.
The second kind of advice givers are more reliable. They know what they’re talking about, and it’s unsurprising they make a lot of sense. These are the ones who’ve either travelled far and wide—the globetrotters, or, those more grounded to the place you’re visiting: the locals. Not only do they know what you should bring and do, but they also know what to avoid. Now that’s advice you can’t get from family or forums. Hundreds of travellers worldwide advise on online forums, but having gone through some of them, I realise they’re too generic. You’d have a rough time combing through millions of answers before you find the one you need.
Having a local explain the locality is a different thing altogether. I had a colleague kind enough to draw up a map of the city. He even browsed AirBnb listings to help find a place closer to all the main attractions. This colleague (D for easy reference) also suggested food trucks I should stop at, and the cuisines I might enjoy. It’s all new for me—the culture, the weather, the people, even the concept of bicycle paths is unfamiliar—and it made planning so much easier because D had done most of the heavy lifting for me. Every first timer needs that kind of travel planning.
Sure, you do need freedom to get lost and wander off on your own—which I will be doing (weather permitting), but you also need some basic assurance that you’re going to be fine. I got that from asking a local to help me plan my trip. And that’s why it’s always a great idea to collaborate with people who know the place.
Of course, not everyone would have colleagues as wonderful as D, and that’s where Facebook groups and online communities come in. Although, one powerful lesson I learnt from planning this trip is that focussed advice is so much better than scattered advice. Or to put it another way, ask someone in the know, than leafing through endless threads of unsure conversations—at least you’d get proper direction.
P.S: I may sound like I know much about travelling, but I’m still a first timer myself. Perhaps when I come back (wiser, I hope) I’d have changed my opinion. Alas, we humans live as on a pendulums.