Updated: Mar 18, 2020
I write this post as the Covid-19 virus continues to spread.
"Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever." -Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen
In Out of Africa, Berkley Cole stretches across the sofa as Denys Finch Hatton sits upon the floor. One knee bent, glass in hand he gazes up at Karen Blixen as she sits ever closer to the edge of her cabbage rose print armchair. The fire crackles as she finishes her tale of Shirley the Missionary and her Chinese lover.
"Have you traveled?" Finch Hatton/ AKA a very dishy Robert Redford asks. This is a rather strange question to ask a person from Denmark when they have just served you dinner in Kenya.
"I have been a mental traveler." Karen/ Meryl Streep answers, I suppose being polite. " A mental traveller has no need to eat, or sleep, or entertain."
In 2020, The Year of the Virus, being a mental traveler has it's advantages. A mental traveler doesn't need food, sleep or Limoges china for packing picnics. They also have no need for medical masks, hand sanitiser and enough downloads to manage a 14-day quarantine without WIFI.
But if dreaming of travel isn't enough ease your wanderlust, find a two year calendar, start dreaming and start planning.
I myself am a 'by the seat of my pants' traveler. I rarely plan things as well as I should, and I often don't know what I am doing until I reach my destination. I would love to call this whimsy, but its disorganisation. Having no upcoming travel gives me time to hone some planning skills and improve the efficiency of my travel.
Following are a few travel tips I have come across that may help us all plan a terrific 2021!
Find a printable diary online and print off two years. Grab a pencil and a coloured pen of your choice and get to planning!
Start by blocking out birthdays, events and other family/social obligations you are aware of and don't want to forget. It is not fun to explain to an airline representative that you must change your non-changeable ticket because your forgot about your daughter's wedding.
DREAMING AND PLANNING:
Where to go and When
Though many travel bloggers advise against it, develop a bucket list of fantasy destinations. I remind myself of places I have romanticised, like Zanzibar, Marrakech, even Timbuktu. Yes, that is a real place in Mali, Africa. I also think of those experiences I am determined to have, like seeing hot tub-frolicking snow monkeys in Yamanouchi, Japan. They all go on my list. Mix up your fantasy list with achievable options. Plan for the fantasy, schedule the achievable.
When you have your list, cross reference your ideas against the weather. Above is a short list of fabulous destinations and when to go there. I know we are not all lucky enough for long distance travel, but 2020/21 is all about dreaming. I am dreaming of Fiji in August.
Weather is one of the most important factors when planning travel. You need to be aware of weather patterns, such as yearly monsoons, hurricane seasons, too hot, ect. You don't want to get excited for a bargain just to realise it is for the wrong time of year.
Run your finger across your book shelf and pull out any books you have read that have inspiring settings. A great book uses descriptive locations as characters. Think of how Gone with the Wind makes us think of white plantation houses dotted upon the red earth. Or how we long for boating on the Mediterranean Sea at sunset, as did The Talented Mr. Ripley right before he clubs Dickie Greenleaf across the head with an oar. Books and films expose us to far flung places and unusual cultures. If we are lucky, we can one day, see those things for ourselves.
The next step is to determine the amount of vacation time you will have, and put in your request. Next comes budget. Planning far in advance is good for working out budgets and finding deals.
After your destination and budget are set, find an travel agent, expert in your interests, that can structure your trip. When travelling to complex destinations, I like to use an agent. This gives you an extra person to call should you have any problems.
But if you feel comfortable doing so, plan it yourself. The planning is a great way to learn about where you are going.
There are loads of apps available to help plan travel. If I had all the time in the world, I would try them out. Goodness knows I need the help! I have been playing with Portico, which is an organisational board for travel ideas.
THE NITTY GRITTY:
Once you have set your dates, flights and accommodation, start planning your activities. When I am traveling solo, I look up my favourite travel sites and do what they tell me to do. But when planning for travels with others, you need to be a bit more responsible with the time.
A WRENCH IN THE PLANS:
Be aware of what, if any visas you may need to obtain before travel. This process can be difficult or easy depending on a lot of different factors. It is better to be aware of what you need and get it done way in advance.
This holds true for inoculations as well. Become acquainted with what injections or medicine you will need and mark any deadlines on your calendar. Check the
World Health Organisation website travel guidelines for the best advice.
This is a fantasy list so you don't have to pack today. But since you have the time why not start mental packing!
There are a million resources giving advice on how to pack for traveling. Try to look at sights specific for where you are going and what your are planning to do. Dress codes might not be a straightforward as you think.
Packing requirements for the Middle East may be easy to understand. But you must also realise that many countries are majority Muslim and have strict dress requirements for women. So while it might be a good idea to wear shorts on safari in Nigeria, they not approved of in public places.
Europe does not have dress code standards, but you must be appropriate in church and synagogs. You may need head and shoulder coverings. Please don't wear hootchie dresses in St. Marks Cathedral! These things are easy to forget, but being properly dressed is a sign of a respectful traveler.
I have found a handy sight called What to Wear on Holiday, which gives great dress code advice per country, per continent. Top tip: I learned from this sight not to wear black or blue in Nigeria as they attract tsetse flies. Speaking of Nigeria, it is also illegal to wear combat print. I am attracted to khaki print like the tsetse is to black so I can't ever visit Nigeria!
BACK TO DREAMING:
It is important, at this time when we either can't or are afraid of going out of our homes, that we remember that the world is big and round and still spinning. It doesn't stop, and neither should we. If we nomad travellers can't roam free, we can still dream. We can imagine the warmth of the African plain at sunset, and Al-Khazeh temple as it towers over Petra, Jordan. Imagine the calming rhythm of a swirling matcha brush in a Kyoto Chashitsu tea ceremony or the size of an American redwood tree.
Consider the lazy cloud that blankets Table Mountain, or the snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro. The clank of the Underground and a pint of warm beer. Picture the buzz of Bondi Beach, the Sydney Opera House and the skyscrapers of New York. The joy of Carnival, the sound of Jazz. A waterfall taller and wider that thought possible. Fjords and forests and caves and mountains and hills. Envision houses on stilts and sapphire coloured oceans that lap upon pink beaches. Elephants, and tigers, coyotes, eagles, bears, zebras and even hot-tub monkeys
I, myself, will be spending the next few months tucking into the
2020 Conde Nast Spa Guide and
planning for some serious relaxation time!
HOW LUCKY I HAVE BEEN
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