Forward planning…

Yes, I touched upon this last week and I think that I got away with it!

For more years than I care to remember (well, about 40 actually), I’ve come up with ideas, done the research and then headed off into the big wide yonder to see what’s out there.

Initially it was here in the UK, but as the years progressed, so did the scope of the travelling.

Flights were researched and booked, accommodation found and booked, and in-country travel researched and not booked until I got into the country in question.

In all that time, there was only one real glitch – a request for a room for two in an independent hostel on a farm in Iceland thirty years ago was misinterpreted as being a booking for rides on two Icelandic ponies. Lost in translation? Oh yes, but we still got the room and my partner at the time was a keen rider, so she got a free ride on an Icelandic pony whilst I unpacked and put the kettle on for a coffee.

All this was done in the days before the advent of the Internet and in the days before I discovered either Lonely Planet or Rough Guide books. Phone calls were made or letters were written to tourist board offices in London and an envelope arrived a few days later with a map, accommodation guides and train & bus timetables. Simples!

When I did discover Lonely Planet and Rough Guides, things were a little easier.

Yes, some information became out of date, but planning became easier,

I had phone numbers to hand to do any bookings and I had some knowledge of what to do, what to see and where to go without having to draw up a rigorous agenda that had no gaps and had to be followed without any deviation, pauses, repetition or rethinks.

Although I was an early adopter and had a personal computer in the 1980s, plus a mobile phone and Internet access in the mid-1990s, I still buy and use paper guide books as the first port of call when it comes to planning and making travel arrangements.

Notes are made onto a paper notebook, pages in the guide books are flagged up by putting Post It notes at the top corner of the relevant pages and then a fluorescent highlighter pen is used to indicate any potentially interesting places, attractions, cafes, beds for the night and travel methods.

Once this is done in one guide book, the same exercise is repeated in a rival publishing company’s product. The results from the guide books are then compared, lists made on that paper notebook and it’s only at that point does the Internet come into play.

The latest travel times and costs are checked, accommodation availability is sussed out for at least the first and last nights of the trip and any pertinent queries made on forums such as Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum.

Phone calls are now kept to a minimum, but the aim is the same as it always was – find out the information, do the basics and wing the rest or simply roll the dice…

Does it work? Yes, it does.

We’ve not been stranded anywhere as yet and whilst we’ve had to sleep in an airport two or three times, it’s usually because we’ve either got there earlier than we thought we might do or we’ve decided to have a blow out meal on the last night.

Good meal or an early night as you have to be at the airport at 5am? Good meal every time!

There are some people though who don’t do their research before posting on forums and there’s been a few recently who have been getting short shrift from regular forum users for not doing their own homework.

Some expect regulars to do everything for them, including making the decision about the country they should go to, what town to go to, how to get there, where to stay, what to eat, what bag to take with them etc. etc. etc. Even when there’s stickies telling them what to do before they post what can, in some cases, be stupid questions.

Needless to say, regulars are getting somewhat brassed off at such postings and are getting rather blunt by telling those asking the questions to go away and get a guide book first, read it and make their own minds up as to what they want to see/do/visit/stay and all of the other variations on a theme before posting more pertinent questions on the forums.

And yes, I’m one of the blunt ones!

I confess, especially when someone asks that same question twice in a few days over what bag he should get or whether there’s a good place to go dancing or whether they should go to Country X, Y or Z?

There’s also those who want to use apps for everything (including one person who mentioned an app to communicate with people staying in the same hostel!) or who don’t realise that connectivity for smartphones or tablets may not be available everywhere they are.

Which is the cue for a funny to round this piece off…

What do you call a smartphone or a tablet with a flat battery or no connectivity?

A paperweight! (or a useless piece of **** depending on your demeanour or viewpoint!).

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About Keith Rickaby

Fiftysomething writer and occasional photographer who has worked in both the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and whilst I'm originally from the North East, I'm now firmly based in't Yorkshire...
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