Elements Of A Great Trip
And How To Plan & Execute An Excellent Adventure
By Katie Inglis
I just returned from traveling around Costa Rica for 8 days. It was my first time out of the country in a few years and the first time I’ve travelled to a primarily non-english speaking country with my significant other. It was also the first time I’d ever planned to meet anyone in a foreign – and rural – place and the first time I’d ever vacationed with my family as an adult. So! Not only did I have a fantastic and memorable adventure, I learned a lot too – about how to plan and execute an adventure appropriate to different age groups with varied interests, about how to communicate when you don’t know much of the language, when to put the guide book down, how to roll with the punches and have an awesome time even when things don’t go as expected. Today I want to share the things I learned with you!
BEFORE THE TRIP
When you have to plan a trip for multiple people it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
• Research the destination. Check out guidebooks and maps, talk with people that have been there before, cruise the internet for objective information about the area, and and check the weather forecast before you go.
• I’ll call this out because it’s really important: become familiar with the local culture and its customs before embarking. Get a phrasebook and a dictionary if you don’t speak the language. Find out if there are religious or social mores in place that might affect your behavior or your plans. In going to Costa Rica I didn’t realize beforehand that the streets and roads don’t have widely used names. I’d printed out a bunch of Google maps that were totally useless because they only showed road names. Next time I’ll find out how the locals navigate before heading out on the road.
• Think about the interests and abilities of the people you’ll be traveling with. If you know someone is mortally afraid of a specific activity, avoid it. But don’t be afraid of to push you’re party to experience new and exciting things that they wouldn’t try at home.
• Talk about what kinds of equipment and supplies each person in the party will need. Make sure everyone is prepared to bring what they’ll need or share supplies as necessary. Being prepared makes every adventure more fun.
• Don’t sacrifice everything you want to do for the sake of the group. It’s important for your sanity that the activities you plan are things you’ll enjoy too.
• Create an itinerary. Estimate travel times and estimate the cost of paid activities. Share the itinerary with the group and iterate on it. Then when you go, if you’re traveling to a remote location or in the backcountry, leave a copy of your itinerary with an emergency contact back home.
DURING THE TRIP
• Make sure the party informed about the plans by discussing them right before embarking. People like to know what’s going on and when they are expected to be somewhere. This can be as formal or informal as you want, but good communication in the group is key.
• Stay flexible with the schedule and remember that the more people in your party, the slower it will move. Remember that you’re on an adventure and go with the flow!
• Keep an eye on each other. Offer water/sunscreen/snacks/breaks to anyone who might need it, and encourage the group members to do the same. Keeping everyone hydrated, fueled and sunburn-free is the best way to ensure each person is having a good time.
• Respect the land and the community. Stay on the trail, don’t touch delicate formations and don’t remove anything, no matter how seemingly insignificant, from its natural setting. Follow the Leave No Trace philosophy and pack out what you pack in. Preserve the place for future generations to enjoy.
• Stay open to the unknown. You never know what sort of unexpected events might pop up that can really make your day, so stay flexible in your plans and welcome the unpredictable.
• And don’t forget to stop and smell the roses! Take a moment to absorb your surroundings. Really look at where you are and commit it to memory. Take a deep breath and be thankful for your ability to get yourself to where you are!
AFTER THE TRIP
• Rest, refuel and rejuvenate! Take some time to relax, eat some nutritious food and get ready for your next adventure.
• Share stories and memories. Figure out the best way to share your photographs with each other and arrange a swap so everyone has an opportunity to relive the experience through another’s lens.
And a few other things to keep in mind when you’re travelling:
Guidebooks are a great way to get to know a new area and what it has to offer you. Get a good guidebook well before your trip and read it! Choose your guidebook based on your interests – different publishers and editions often focus on different elements like history, eco-tourism, extreme adventuring, budget travel, etc – flip through all of your options before you pick one. Reading a guidebook that you chose because of its content or layout will inspire your trip and will give you lots to think about while planning. Guidebooks will help pass the long hours of traveling and can keep you informed about your next location but don’t forget to put down the guidebook and really experience what’s around you! You might miss something if you’ve got your nose in a book the whole time.
Do your homework before heading to a country where a different language than your own is primarily spoken. Get a good, simple, scannable phrasebook that you can reference on the go. I learned that it’s really helpful to write down key phrases that I commonly use in the beginning of the book, for easy reference. If you have time, do some background research on language to understand the different forms of gender, tense, and grammar. Also get a thorough, pocket-sized dictionary for reference.
CONSIDER THE COMMUNITY
When you travel to another country, consider where you’re staying, where you dine and your activities and ask yourself: “Is my money enriching the local economy? Is it staying local? Am I supporting small businesses and families or huge international conglomerations and chains? Are local foods and local guides being employed? Are my activities supporting responsible stewardship of the land or am I contributing to waste and mismanagement of resources?” And of course, check in with yourself to evaluate if these considerations are important to you. You have the potential to enrich and positively impact the community that you visit.
YOUR REASONS FOR TRAVEL
Ask yourself what you hope to gain by traveling to a new place. Is it to check items off a list or to enrich your life by expanding your worldview? How will your trip live on afterward, and how will you share your experiences? How can you fold them in to your day-to-day life and incorporate your experience into your becoming?
In summary, traveling to a new country can be as exciting or as relaxing as you make it. Traveling with a group of friends or family is a lot of fun with a little bit of planning and flexibility. Take some time before and during your trip to check in with yourself and your party, evaluate your plans and expectations, prepare for the worst and make the best! These principles can also be roughly applied to discovering what you might want to teach as an HourSchool class, so next time you get that creative urge consider this advice and make your class the ultimate adventure!