“Choose an arbitrary purpose and stick to it!” – Tony Wilson
The meaning of life was never clear to me until I read this quote from the late Tony Wilson, TV Reporter, founder of Factory Records and The Hacienda nightclub in Manchester.
An arbitrary purpose is also worth keeping in mind when you are planning your travels. “So much world. So little time!” is the perennial problem faced by anyone planning a tour – so how do you narrow down a WHOLE WORLD of experience into something manageable?
Well here, let me help!
“Time and tide wait for no man.” – Chaucer, Shakespeare – and Anon!
A traveller always wants more time. Time is a scarce commodity, so spend it well.
In times past, our trip planning was simple; fit the largest number of far-flung adventures into 2 week slices of leave from work. Although we have abandoned the world of work, family and other commitments do mean that we pop back to Blighty every now and again to visit those we love. So even for us, travel time is limited.
Clearly, time dictates how far afield you can realistically get on one trip.
My advice on this is is not to be too ambitious. Don’t try to pack in too much, otherwise your trip will be all about driving past lots of roses, never enjoying their scent and missing out on everything else that lives and grows in rose fields!
Poring over a map is one of the best ways of tailoring your route exactly as you want it, with diversions and excursions to whatever points of interest may attract you along the way.
These days, of course, online route planning makes things considerably easier, with detailed routes illustrated at the mere click of a button.
We have found Scribble Maps to be an invaluable resource. Not only can you plan where to go, you can mark potential campsites and places of interest (with added notes!) on your own personalised route maps!
But we still haven’t decided on WHERE TO GO?
WHERE TO GO?!
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag
If you want to know how to make the most of the time that you have, here, I share some of the ruses that we employ in planning our trips;
1. Choose a Theme
“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.” – John Keating (Robin Williams) in the film ‘Dead Poets Society’
We find themes a very useful way to plan our travels.
- We were married in a lighthouse. Lighthouses are always marked on maps and are, by their nature, often in very beautiful places. So we often visit lighthouses!
- We are interested in history, so we are drawn to castles as well as battlefields and historic monuments.
- Having read The Knowledge – Toilet Training, my friend bought me A Spotter’s Guide to Toilets, telling me it was not Christmas present, but a mission…
- But if you are not into anything as trite as toilets, there is always good old UNESCO, who has done a fair bit of leg work in identifying and listing some the world’s most fabulous places!
- The website Touropia is also a great starting point, as it lists the top 10 things to see in each country.
- We are windsurfers, so “The Kite and Windsurf Guide to Europe” has a part to play in our plans.
- Our surname, Lambert, is unremarkable. However, Lambert’s Oaks is a house in Surrey that gave its name to the famous horse race, The Oaks. Lambert’s Castle is an Iron Age hill fort in Dorset (and there’s another one in New Jersey!); There is a Lambert Bay in the British Virgin Islands and another near Cape Town. If you fly into St Louis, you will land at Lambert International Airport and if you sit with a glass of wine in the centre of Verona in Italy, you may be shaded by the 84m high Torre dei Lamberti.
Can you see where I am going with this? Even if you’re not into serious family history, you can have a bit of fun and find some interesting places along the way!
2. Classic Routes
“The Grand Tour is just the inspired man’s way of heading home.” – Paul Theroux
Everyone has heard of Route 66. It is THE archetypal American Road Trip – the 3,945km Main Street of America from Chicago to LA.
But you don’t have to cross The Pond to find Classic Routes. There are plenty of well established routes that you can follow closer to home.
- Germany is particularly good at themed routes. A couple which are on our radar are the Castle Road (Burgenstraße) – 1000km (600m) route taking in some of the best castles you are ever likely to see! Established in 1954, the Castle Road now extends as far as Prague in the Czech Republic. (If you’re brave – you can do the whole thing on a bike!)
- There is also Southern Germany’s Romantic Road (Romantische Straße) – a 350km route from the River Main to the Alps, which winds through the picturesque forests and mountains of Bavaria.
- However, if you’re into asparagus, cheese, glass, half-timbered houses – or what about BEER or wine? Germany boasts over 80 of these Themed Routes! For an A-Z list, click here.
- The European Route of Industrial Heritage is more interesting that you might think. (How about a Zeppelin museum?!) The ERIH website is very straightforward and can be searched by theme, country or region.
- Or, you can always just think about what interests you and plan your own!
3. Recommendations from Locals or Other Travellers
“Travelling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.’” – Lisa St. Aubin de Teran
This is a planning tool not to be overlooked! Our fabulous trip to Colorado came about solely because of a chance conversation with a Whitewater Rafting Guide in Costa Rica. You really cannot beat taking advantage of the first-hand experiences of a like-minded traveller!
One of the reasons that Mark and I are keen to learn languages is that an unfailing pathway to travel joy is chatting to locals. If you want to find that secluded beach, that amazing restaurant or the finest vinyard in the area, there is no-one better to tell you about it than a proud and friendly local who knows the area like the back of their hand.
And then, of course, you can always click Follow and subscribe to my blog. We’ve done the research and planned the routes (click on these links to find all our trips BC (Before Canines) and AD (After Dogs).
I have reviewed many of the sites in our 30s Reviews – with a particular focus on highlighting some of the more off-beat and interesting things to do in an area.
And then there are the GOBs; Get Onyer Bucketlists! So far, I have only categorised the Isle of Skye as a GOB, but stay with me and I promise you, there are more to come!
4. Go Where No-one Has Gone Before
“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Mark and I are not fans of crowds, so given the choice, we will always follow the road less travelled. In our first year touring with the caravan, we discovered many of the ‘boring bits’ in between the well-known tourist destinations in France were AMAZING. And not only that, we had them all to ourselves!
We once planned a 2 week trip around an Umbrella Museum in Gignese, Italy that we had read about in our Italian Language Textbook. Well, we just had to go there!
This rather unscientific approach to planning allowed us to experience back-street Carnival club in Rio. In Italy, we stumbled upon a spectacular International Music Festival and got the last two tickets. Our hostess force-fed us with fresh, hand-gathered truffels (she was incredulous that we had never tasted truffels with eggs for breakfast and sought to complete our lives!) Then we watched the sunset from the terrace of our own mini-castle eating a plate of succulent, fresh figs with a bottle of fine, red wine that tasted of rubies and Italian sunshine.
Had we had a plan, none of this would have happened! Doing the odd will bring about adventures that you never expected.
At the moment, Mark wants to take the caravan to St Petersburg. Does anyone have any advice?!
5. I’ve Always Wanted To…
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain
“So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” (Still Mark Twain!)
“Experiences are something that you will never regret!” (Me!)
6. Subject to Change Without Notice..!
“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu
In the world of work, things are rigid and proscribed. We were terrorised by time and ruled by the epithet P.P.P.P.P – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
My best advice for travelling is don’t overdo the planning and don’t try to fit in too much. The joy of travel is discovery and you never know what you will find on the way.
Also, be free to change your plans based on weather, recommendations or simply a flight of fancy. Carpe Diem – Seize the Day. It will make your travels extraordinary!
7. Don’t Discount your Doorstep
“Reach for the stars, ’cause they’re sweeter by far than the moon – though she’ brighter and closer to you…” – All About Eve
I can’t believe that I had been to New Zealand before I went to Scotland!
So often, we overlook what is right on our doorstep!
Britain is a beautiful country. Truthfully, in all of my travels around the world, I have not found anywhere that comes close to the variety of landscapes, culture and history crammed into so compact an area!
While I have stood on 6 of the 7 continents, my favourite view IN THE WORLD is still from the top of Hengistbury Head near Christchurch in Dorset.
For further British Travel Ideas, check out the Visit Britain website.
WHERE TO STAY?
In Europe, we use ACSI, which lists, rates and offers reviews of nearly 10,000 sites, giving clear details of the facilities available at each one. The associated ACSI Camping Card offers off-season discounts.
We prefer not to book campsites. This gives us flexibility to change our plans and move on if, in spite of our careful research, we don’t like the look of things when we get there. (This has happened a couple of times.)
However, in peak times, in popular places – or if it’s a very long way to the next campsite – booking is probably worthwhile!
“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot
We were planning to tour in our caravan for a couple of years, but the more you see, the more you see that, well, there is always more to see!
Be warned. Travel is highly addictive. If you ever think that you’re a travel addict on the road to recovery think again. The only road that you’re likely to be on is the one to your next adventure.
At the last count, Mark has 13 years of trips planned out. And even then, we won’t have finished Europe…