When it comes to preparing for travel, we often think of all the usual suspects that make up trip planning: flight bookings, hotel reservations, visa arrangements, medical necessities, and some degree of research on your destination. My fiancé, who has a knack for all of the above, often says that his favourite part of a trip is the planning, because it builds anticipation. Looking forward to a vacation is a big part of the joy of travel, whether it entails finding the perfect flight permutation, or immersing yourself in cultural experiences that have a relationship to your destination.
In advance of our upcoming trip that includes some time seeing Sakura in Japan, we have been gearing our Sunday movie nights towards films that are set there, watching The Last Samurai and Memoirs of a Geisha. While we can’t expect Hollywood productions to substitute for a cultural lesson, tailoring our regular entertainment choices has given us glimpses of beautiful landscapes that we might try to capture on our itinerary.
Browsing at your local airport bookstore before taking off? Choosing your vacation reading list is another way to further immerse yourself in your travel experience. I chose to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez on my way to Medellin, last year, and there are many renowned authors to choose from for this trip, perhaps some more Haruki Murakami, Kazuo Ishiguro, or even classics like the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. Ideally, I aim for something that was either created by a native of the land, or something that is set in the land – it doesn’t have to be both. So if your tastes are more to James Clavell’s Shogun or the latest paperback thriller, read on!
Like for any other activity, music is often a great way to set the mood, but I have always found that this one works in reverse – hearing a song that I used to hear on a trip often transports me back to that time and place. So make it a point to add to your media library as you travel.
In the digital era, cultural immersion and trip planning can converge by tuning your social media channels to local bloggers and social media feeds. It’s an instant, visual way to see what’s happening or about to happen in your destination.
Enjoy the build-up to your trip, because travel is always better with a little bit of foreplay.