How to prepare for a long trip: the research process
I’m a librarian, and if I even wonder something, I usually find a reliable website or good book to answer my questions. I firmly advocate consulting various resources when planning your trip. Planning my 3 ½ month trek has taken hours and hours of research. My trip is firmly planned—but loosely. I’m not planning like this: 6 days in Paris, take the overnight train to Madrid, spend 2 ½ days, then go…. But I have the names of good places to see, fabulous museums, amazing vegetarian restaurants, maps, the best guidebook for my purpose—and it’s all because I spent a lot of time at the research process.
What Your Local Library Can Do For You
The librarian in me aside, I still love libraries. Libraries are great for the traveler. If you have a large public library near you that you can use, you’re set! (Don’t underestimate the power of consortia; the small branch of the Brooklyn Public Library near my house has a paltry selection of Frommer’s Guides; the Central Brooklyn Public Library has caused me to check out thirty travel books at once!) Also, if you are traveling, libraries are often the only place with free Internet connection, heat, free public bathrooms, a place to relax. At your local library, pick up books, flip through them, pile them around you, ask a librarian for help in finding what you want if you don’t see it. Check the catalog, your library’s homepage for travel links. Take books home. The best part? It’s all free! (Well, paid by a paltry portion of your tax dollars.) Return your on time, or renew them online, to avoid any fines.
Most public libraries use the Dewey Decimal Classification System, so upon entering, check out the 900s. If your library uses the Library of Congress Classification System, travel is in the early section of G. The early 900s of the Dewey Decimal System feature travel writing, travel memoirs, general travel guides (such as books on cruises or hiking trails). If you don’t have a good idea of where to go, checking out titles such as The Best American Travel Writing might be very helpful. You might be intrigued about by a specific section, or might, as most do, find it all fascinating.
Move on down the 900s, until you see specific areas. Travel memoirs are usually kept in the travel section, though some catalogers might disagree and place it in the biography section. Geography-specific areas are shelved further along the shelves. Before heading out on my trip, I debated between travel guides—Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring or Let’s Go Europe or Rough Guide Europe or Hangin’ Out in Europe or Let’s Go Western Europe. For my needs, LP Europe seemed to be the best bet. I’ve also checked out countless of other travel books to help me figure out—where are the best places in Italy? What are some good hostels? What is the club scene like in Amsterdam? What are my best options for the train? I found out the answer to these questions, and many more in the library. I pulled books off the shelf at random—I liked the title, or, hmmm, Croatia sounded interesting, and I definitely want to go to Italy, etc.
I photocopied maps, glued them to my walls, traced fingers across lines and held my breath. I knew I would go, it would be done.
There are many unreliable websites out there, and unfortunately, some terrible travel writing. Don’t trust them everything you read, especially on the Internet (because anyone can post anything, even if it’s not true). On websites, look for credentials (such as the name of the person, and why they have this expertise to write articles or put together a website), currency (Five years can mean HUGE changes), validity (Does what they say make sense? If you have to take everything with a grain of salt, that’s probably not a good travel resource.), and contact information (A site with no way to contact the author does not make me trust in their materials.). If a website is a “.com” they’re usually in it to make some sort of a profit—not always—but be sure to see if they’re so focused on selling you their unique travel items that it distracts you from finding the proper information. Websites like bootsnall or lonelyplanet have access to valuable message boards, travel articles, and other useful travel tips; purchasing items or advertising is minimal. Websites that end in .gov are US government websites, and may offer some useful travel information (though over-cautious at times). Nonprofit websites end in .org and often have some terrific information.
So yes, I’m a nerdy librarian who clips articles from magazines and sends them to her friends, but I think preparing for this trip has been the best research project I have ever taken on. I found my research skills have improved, but most of all, I’ve learned a great deal about the places I will go to and will not, and feel by planning smart I will travel smart!
Only @ your library!