VAHISHTA MISTRY MUMBAI
epaper, Mumbai Mirror, Sunday, June 08, 2014, Page 30.
Finding out all you need to know about your next destination is an art
Vahishta Mistry, a 29-year-old marketing professional did something most of us have only dreamed of doing. He sold his possessions and set out to explore the world. Have a question for him? Ping him @vahishta and he’ll answer them here Research is a very important part of the travel experience.
Some might say it’s part of the trip, because you can picture the whole journey in your head, the myriad possibilities stretching out in front of you, ready for you to pick your route.
Here are my suggestions on how to get the best information:
THE BIG PICTURE
This is the initial stage of your research -I like to call this the 30,000-foot-view, because it’s exactly that: a high-level strategic view of your journey. The best place to start is a site like wikitravel.org, where you can learn about the basics of a region -the important stuff, like how to get in and out, where to stay and what the main attractions are.
a) Wikipedia/Wikitravel -more for general knowledge and historical context.
b) Flickr -I like to use Flickr as an inspiration for photos and to find the best views in a locality.
c) Pinterest -usually a great visual source for articles and blog entries on a region.
d) Most major cities have a local edition of an international city guide -they are great for checking out events in the month you’re planning to visit.
e) The `Places’ page of Couchsurfing.org will tell you all about the events planned and organized by couchsurfers of the city you’re visiting.
f) Maptia.org -Incredibly good at inspiring you to travel, just select your destination on the map and you should see stories from the place, written by past travellers.
MAPPING IT OUT
Once you have a clear picture of the basic things you want to see or do in your destination, a great thing is to place your route or itinerary on a map -I find that this helps immensely when planning your time. Because you can plot distances between sights or events and also create a day-wise or hour-wise plan, you will be able to make a more efficient trip overall. While other people prefer to do this step first, I find it works best as a second step, since you’re free to discard or rearrange items in your itinerary. Whereas if you were to start with a map, there’s a good chance that you’d end up missing out on things that aren’t on your initial route.
While I’d love to give multiple options here, Google Maps really does have a monopoly in this field as they have the most accurate and up-to-date maps, as well as a great interface to help you design your trip.
THE SMALL DETAILS
The final step of researching your journey, this is also the most fun part, as you can find out all of those unique little details that make your trip special. Each individual destination can become the focus of a Google search and you’ll find advice and directions from travellers who have visited those places before. Pay attention to the sort of reviews you’ll see, because what works for one sort of traveller won’t for another. If you’re travelling as a couple or with a family, you won’t do well to read reviews by solo backpackers, for example.
a) Start by searching the name of your destination on a search engine of your choice. This should preferably be at a hotel/street/ monumentlevel, not at the level of an entire city.
b) Review sites like Tripadvisor or Yelp which aggregate user reviews.
Google Places is also useful.
c) Flickr can be useful too, especially when you want to get an honest opinion of what a specific hostel or hotel looks like.