So it’s February, we’ve made our main holiday plans for the year already, so what was I doing at Destination Travel Show at Olympia in London this week? To be honest it was a bit of an excuse for a day out and catching up with my folks who popped in too. It was also a chance to immerse myself in ‘travel’ for a day. Yes, I’m a planner – but with our big trip it’s less about planning a day-by-day itinerary. I’ve done enough travelling to know that even the best laid plans can get thrown out when you’re on the road! I’m planning to arm myself with information so that I have the tools to make the right decisions.
So where did I go? In the Andes I chatted with a lovely Peruvian about the Amazon and the Galapagos, I had coffee in Nicaragua and popped into an RV in North America. I saw a mariachi band and had a happy time chatting in Costa Rica. I’ve come away with armfuls of brochures and itinerary ideas. I’m reassured that both Nicaragua and Costa Rica are suitable places to hire a car, and that it’s easy to get away from the tourist masses. I’m excited by the prospects of visiting the Amazon from either Ecuador or Peru – my 7yo will be thrilled at that! I can’t wait to go zip-lining in a Cloud Forest, or possibly even snorkelling with sea lions in the Galapagos. I know that I can pick up an RV from one city in the USA and drop it in another but that could incur $200-$600 drop-fee, and that we’d need a ‘standard’ RV to sleep the four of us comfortably. Unfortunately my questions about getting ferries in Alaska couldn’t be answered, nor could my questions about how to travel best from northern British Columbia, Canada to Vancouver (by train / ferry / road). I didn’t really take the time to drill into Patagonia, Chile or Argentina. Too many specific tour operators, not enough general tourist boards. Was it useful? Absolutely. Any research like this helps to focus the mind. Some questions were answered, new ideas were planted and I came away with a better idea of the potential costs of some parts of our trip.
I also planned to go to the show because Stanfords, the travel bookshop, hold their Travel Writers Festival there, and I love a travel book. Guidebooks, non-fiction accounts of a journey, fiction which brings a particular place to life – I love travel writing in all its forms. I’ve just written a book about Great Explorers (due out in April, published by the British Library), and perhaps the best part of the writing process was the research, and reading about these wonderful adventurers and their journeys. Reading Ranulph Fiennes’ autobiography during this time was a particular highlight.
I saw the ever-inspiring Phoebe Smith, Hilary Bradt and Lloyd Figgins speak about travelling solo (many tips about personal safety are very relevant travelling with kids such as ‘walking with purpose’ and with your head out of your phone / book / map and getting used to a new ‘normal’ ie the hair-raising traffic in Rome is actually normal) and picked up two new books – one a classic by one of my favourite writers, Paul Theroux, and another by an explorer who’s adventures I love to follow, Levison Wood. Unsurprisingly, both books are set in the Americas where we’ll be headed in two years.
It was good to be around the Stanfords stand seeing what’s popular and setting wheels in motion to start a developing a new book project of my own.
Notes taken, websites added to my bookmarks and Pinterest, and so the research continues. Happily I think we’ve worked out our daily budget, so now we’ve just got to start saving for it!!