Monday, February 15, 2010

Rant: Ignorant Travelers

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?


Anonymous said...

Richard, here's a tip...if you find yourself in Templeton (near Paso), please please go to Pier 46. It's a fish market but you can eat there...AMAZING!

@msparksls said...

Staying within the context that this pertains to vacation travel, I absolutely research first before anything else.. to the point of estimating arrival/departure times that allow for maximum number of meals taken throughout the course of my stay.
I hate to always preface everything with 'in this economy', but with those thoughts always in the back of my mind, I want the most bang for the buck and approach these opportunities with the same intent as yours in that it may very well be a long time before I revisit the area, if ever.
At the same time, I do find myself envious of those who choose to wing it and still manage to get what they wanted out of their trip. I've had to hush when hearing that someone was around the vicinity of El Bulli, but hadn't felt the need to plan in advance for it and could care less that they didn't bother going at all. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks Anon for the tip!

Thanks msparksls for your comments. I definitely think it is better to plan ahead, and glad to see others feel that same way.

Anonymous said...

You should be aware that not everyone enjoys traveling the same way. Personally, I would much rather "wing it" than to preplan almost every meal and activity. While refraining from doing significant research may technically be ignorant prior to the vacation, I sincerely believe that a traveler can become more enlightened to the locale by having to figure things out for themself, and by having to interact with the locals and asking for advice. Finally, are all trips the same? Traveling with children is obviously very different than going on a honeymoon. Personally, I'm a history teacher. I'm going on my honeymoon in a week to Hawaii. I've taken some suggestions from my friend who grew up in Oahu. However, I had to draw a line when he tried to make a list of every single historical artifact for me to see... I reminded him that it is my HONEYMOON:) I know myself; I am positive I will seek out one or two places of historical significance... But do I feel the need to preplan exactly which ones and on what day? I would rather jump into a volcano. (a tad exaggeration)