Near the end of March, I will be traveling for several days to Paso Robles, California. So I have been spending some time researching the region.
Whenever I go on a trip, I do plenty of research beforehand, especially seeking food and wine spots, from restaurants to markets, from wine stores to wineries. I want to know about some of the best and most interesting places before I get there. I want to know which places are closest to my hotel, those places I can easily walk to and those places I might need to drive to, or take a taxi.
Sure, I do like to wander around a new place, to stumble upon a place of interest by surprise. But, I don't want to rely only on surprise. For that can be a mixed bag, sometimes finding a good place, and other times being very disappointed. I want to minimize my potential disappointments, so I do my research first.
I might visit an area only once and never return, or not until years later. Thus, I want to experience the best of that area that I can, and that is unlikely to happen without research. I strongly doubt I could get lucky and just stumble upon all such places. A prepared traveler is more likely to have a better and more thorough time, getting to sample the cream of a city.
There are some places you might never stumble upon, because they are hidden away, in more remote areas. They might be well off the established tourist routes, or simply difficult to find as they are but one of dozens of similar places in the same region. For example, I would never have stumbled upon Raku, a superb Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas, as it was but one Asian restaurant out of at least 50 others in the same neighborhood. I needed advance information.
With the Internet, such research is quite easy. There are plenty of websites that will provide reams of information about your destination. All it takes is a little time and you will have almost anything you need. Yes, you will have to weed through some useless information, but the search is worthwhile. It has definitely made my prior journeys so much better.
So why do some people remain ignorant travelers? Why do they fail to do the proper research before traveling? Why take such a huge risk, especially when you may only get a single opportunity to explore a new region?
When you travel, do you do research first, or just wing it?