How to properly gather information before the travel?

How to properly gather information before the travel?

I believe that it is necessary to prepare for travel. Why? Too many times I’ve come back from a trip and only then do I start to realize how much I’ve missed.

For example, I recently went to London and saw, as I thought, all the city sights. When I returned home and opened the Internet, I realized how wrong I had been! I hadn’t seen the amazing exhibits of the Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising, hadn’t seen the unique The Rolling Bridge and Rick Buckley’s nose-shaped installations on the walls in Soho!

It hadn’t even occurred to me that there were such amazing places in London. Because of what? That’s right! Because of the pervasive laziness that prevented me from reading about them beforehand. It shouldn’t be that way. If you want a quality experience, prepare for it.

What to read and where?

My main source of information when preparing for a trip is, of course, the Internet. I wander through forums, reviews and articles about the country I am interested in. I look at photos. I study videos. I mark my route on a Google-map. Usually this is enough to answer 90% of my questions.

The second source of information is books. At one time I was very inspired by the book “1000 places to see before you die” (Buy this book on Amazon). I refer to it regularly. And I advise you to do the same.

The third source is communication with other travelers or residents of the country I am going to. Fortunately, a fairly large circle of friends on Facebook and readers on my blog make it possible to find the right person in almost any region of the world.

So, for example, we met the beautiful Marina Erte and traveled with her through Peru and Bolivia. Reading such people’s answers provides a lot of highly specialized information, like “Where is the best place to eat in Titicaca?” or “Where to buy earrings for your beloved in Cusco?”.

How to properly gather information before the travel?

“Compactivizate” what you read

Before traveling to another country or traveling to an uncharted region, it is important not just to “read something,” but to “compactivizate” useful information. What is this?

“Compactivization” is the reduction of the received information to the minimum, after which it already loses its meaning.

Let me explain with an example. Let’s say I’m studying an article about Tibet. I find something useful in it. What should I do with it? I don’t want to rely on my memory. I have to write down somewhere all the important facts that I can “squeeze out” of the article. Often it is 1-2 facts out of 10 sheets of text. This is compactivization. In a minimum of words you archive a maximum of sense.

I can reread hundreds of pages of material before I travel, but I always end up putting everything together into one small and well-structured document (usually a file on Google Docs). Just one! This is important. Such a document is a summary of all the preparation for a new journey. Its value to me is equivalent to tons of information scattered in different places.

How to organize the exchange of information in a group?

The situation becomes much more interesting if it is necessary to prepare for the journey not alone, but as a group. And do it in such a way that each participant of the project is aware of all the discoveries and discoveries of other participants. Participants may be in different cities or even different countries. Frequent shared “voice” is excluded.

To solve this problem, I have developed a simple model that involves the active use of Google Docs and Facebook groups. You can choose any other online tools. The main thing is to clearly explain to all project participants the rules of working with them.

How is my model organized? It is important that you have two environments of interaction:

  • Discussion environment. Technically, this could be a closed blog, a forum, a “secret” Facebook group, etc. As I said above, we use “secret Facebook groups” to which all participants of the future journey are invited. Discussions can take place on an arbitrary, unlimited number of topics. A separate thread is created for each of them, usually with a “source post + comments” structure. Both posts and comments are written by all interested participants (travelers, guides, consultants). However, if there is a lot of activity, the discussion threads instantly proliferate. It becomes impossible to understand or find anything in them the day after the discussion. How to solve this problem? This is where the second environment is needed.
  • Synthetic (“compactivization”) environment. We have a document in Google Docs to which all project participants have access. As a result of each Facebook discussion, all decisions made are recorded in a structured form in this document. It also stores all the information found, cleared of useless stuff. In fact, this is the “main and only” document of the journey, which I talked about in the “Compactivization” section. There is no discussion in this environment. It stores only one, current version of the journey at any given time.

The last point is fundamentally important in the areas of communication between travelers, allowing you to combat the chaos and move forward. It is believed that the content of this file is the minimum with which each participant of the project must familiarize himself.

Who looks after the sterility of this file? This is usually done by all the neat project participants who see special value in creating a clear picture of the future journey.

Instead of a summary

I would like to conclude this post with two theses:

  1. You have to prepare meticulously for a trip by working through and making sense of large amounts of information. This will help you not feel like an idiot and have a much more interesting and capacious experience;
  2. No matter is how much you actually read about place to travel, but how much useful information you were able to “squeeze” out of this array. You need to get one well-structured document filled to the brim with meaning and facts.

Good luck with your preparations and happy travelling!


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