5 Things to Ask Yourself Before You Travel

Planning, Travel Philosophy — By on March 26, 2010 at 6:00 am

by Mary Tan
LG Asia-Pacific Editor

There’s no stemming the travelers these days -people want to go everywhere and do it all, and it will take more than a long security check to put them off. As much as we would like to just drop it all and take off, some level of planning and preparation is inevitable. So here are a couple of important questions you should probably ask yourself before you leave.

1) What do I want to accomplish?
This is the question I consider the most important; even more so than the budget. It is only when you figure out what exactly you want to do with your excursion that everything else falls into place. While it easy to simply say you want to ‘experience’ the world, you might need to be a little more specific about your goals. Experiencing a different culture means different things to people — we have five senses, and we tend to favor one over the others. For instance, will you be eating and drinking your way through the city’s best restaurants and bars (taste and smell)? Or will you see the world through the lens of a camera (sight)? Do you like to volunteer or be in close contact with local cultures (touch and hearing)? Are you traveling for relaxation and recreation, or do you want to check off as many boxes as possible in the guide book? These parameters will go a long way in defining your travel itinerary.

2) What’s my budget?
Ah, the unavoidable question, and the one we hate the most. If only the best things in life were free! Unfortunately for us, the world has become more commercialized than we would like to admit and most things will incur a fee of some sort. So think carefully about how much you are willing to spend and where that money will come from before you do anything too impulsive — such as buy a one-way ticket to Paris thinking that you’ll ‘find your way back somehow.’ Always consider the exchange rate before traveling — two months in Guatemala will probably cost less than 2 weekends in London. Once you have determined an overall budget, you can start defining it more explicitly.

3) How long can I be gone?
If you’re a student, when are your vacations? If you’re working, when you can take some time off? If you’re retired, or a parent, how long you can be away for and what responsibilities will need to be palmed off to someone else i.e. will neighbours help feed the pets and mow the lawn? It is all well and nice to imagine that we could disappear for years on end, obligation-free, but that’s not quite how it works. Believe me, if you figure out what obligations need to be taken care of early, you will be able to enjoy your travel experience far better than if you were worrying about whether you turned the gas off.

4) What’s my style of travel (and can I try something different)?
Once a backpacker, always a backpacker? What a myth. Humans are fickle creatures and our preferences are in constant motion. Once you have figured out your budget and duration, you can start working out how much you can afford to spend for daily accommodation and other activities. If you’ve really got to stretch your dollar, hostels and budget travel options would no doubt be your most sensible option, but if budget is not an issue you’re just in need of some good indulgence, consider cities that are renowned for pampering activities such as New Mexico’s hot springs. It’s important to keep an open mind — try saving up a little extra cash so that you can treat yourself to one great night out at a fancy restaurant in New York City; or leave a lazy day by the hotel pool and visit the outdoor markets in Cancun.

5) Who will I be with?
Your choice of traveling companion, if any, is an important one and can make or break your trip. How many other people will you be with? Are they your best friends, family members, or a significant other? What kind of relationship do you have with them? Most importantly, do they have the same answers to the all of the above questions? While traveling together, the ability to communicate clearly and trust each other fully in any situation is of vital importance, but retaining a good sense of humor even in the face of adversity will ensure you still remain friends by the end of the trip.

For instance, my best friend Joanne and I traveled to California and stayed in some incredibly slummy hotel where she got pissed on. Yes, that’s right, some guy literally peed on her and her stuff because he was drunk. She was hopping mad when it happened (and unfortunately I couldn’t stop laughing which I think only made her even angrier — sorry Jo!) but by the next day we couldn’t stop telling people the story and laughing about it. It was one of the most memorable — thought probably not the best — moment of our trip.

There are so many other pre-trip activities that I could wax lyrical about, but these are the ones I consider the most vital. Feel free to share yours!

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