A big goal for this trip is to really experience the cultures and the places we visit; to learn the local customs from locals themselves. We want to get a feel for what the place is really about, and meet the people by staying in B&B and guesthouses along the way. We’ve found you learn more about what makes a place special this way – what people are proud of, the hidden gems they direct you to off the tourist circuit, and the journey this community has been on through history. You can’t get that from a guidebook or Wikipedia entry. It turns a tourist visit into a life experience.
When we started planning this trip, we brainstormed of all the places we’ve always wanted to see, and those we want our son to experience. We have a long list of places, and a rough idea of our route. But when you add the dimension of time, we would be skip-hopping around the world in 584 days! That’s much longer than the year we had planned, and certainly doesn’t afford us the luxury of embedding ourselves anywhere. I realised I had budgeted 3 days through each of the Eastern European cities. And while that’s enough to see the sights in most places, it takes us away from one of our primary objectives for the trip.
Last year, we took a 3 week trip to Cuba. We wanted to see the country, so we hired a car and set off across 1100 km of communist, rural, untended, potholed roads in pursuit of the “real” Cuba. * We stayed in Casa Particulares with some truly wonderful hosts. We met vibrant Cuban people, learned about the history of Cuban life, and saw the amazing wild landscape that is the treasure of this often misunderstood and neglected country. But we were always on the move. Much of it, we saw from our little Chinese made car’s windscreen. Three days here, three days there was hardly enough to settle down and relax into a place. Some places we were keen to move on, others we really (really) wished we had made the time to stay longer.
We don’t want to have the same regrets on this trip. So a re-evaluation of our long list is in order. We’ve already cut some locations out, but increased the time in others….and we’re still looking at an itinerary that covers well over a year’s travel. I have a feeling some tough choices will have to be made, but if that means we have a better experience in the places we do stay, then it will be worth it.
After all, this trip isn’t about maximum coverage. It’s about learning, experiencing, relaxing and re-setting – the antithesis of constant motion, skimming the surface of everywhere, impacted deeply by nowhere.
Time to make The_List.v2
*Cuba isn’t the easiest place to plan independent travel, and the lack of internet in many places means you can’t always book directly with the proprietors. We used a travel agency to do all of our booking, yet still afforded us the independent travel we prefer. Rickshaw Travel offers the concept of “bite sized holidays”. You pick your locations and how you want to get there, and they set it all up for you. We were really pleased with the service, and I’d recommend them to anyone who prefers a bit of adventure and semi-independent travelling. They haven’t asked us to post this, and we aren’t getting anything in return for saying nice things. We just really thought they were great!