?? In my opinion, any trip has a minimum of three stages. First, there is the planning, getting tickets and reservations, researching new restaurants, checking what is going on at the destination and feeling excited with the prospect of experiencing it all. You suddenly close your eyes and imagine how wonderful it will be to walk the streets and enter the places on your list, places you have been recommended by that hip magazine you love or by that Instagrammer you have been following for ages. Oftentimes we dream of places seen in movies or described in books.
When I was a kid I loved when relatives and friends returned from their holidays full of stories to tell. I would savor every little detail and sometimes ask weird questions such as how the place smelled and how did people look.
Second stage: being on the move. Once the departure day has arrived and suitcases are packed, it is time to cross oceans and continents, to get your passport stamped and your wallet filled with foreign currency. I love arriving at a new destination at night to wake up the following morning and be surprised by all new little details darkness hides away. There is a deep satisfaction to leave the hotel early in the morning, sit at a nice coffeeshop filled with locals and take some time reading the papers and observing the comings and goings of the waking city. You are there, time to experience it all and make the best of your time. Pictures, dinners, shows, people, misadventures. Everything becomes part of a large story, of you being a character in a life that is not really yours, since your “real life” is the one back at home, at work.
Coming home is the last of the stages, the closure of the trip when experiences turn into memories and a file of pictures on your hard drive. It is true that these memories are everlasting and that we always return a little changed, having seen the world through a different prism and having left our daily routines on hold for a while. A bit of PTD (post-trip depression) can sink in, however, after a few days back it seems you never left.
Out of these three stages, the first one is my favorite. Planning a trip is almost like being there. A few years ago, while I was writing a guidebook called “Europe through Cinema” I had to immerse myself in the city I was researching for several days. I would watch countless movies, I would wander the streets on Google Maps, I would read the local papers online and devour books set in the city. It kind of felt good, almost like the real thing. During the Paris chapter, I even dreamt in French. It only increased my longing to be there for real, but it did not involve hours on a plane, credit card bills and jet lag. It is like being in love with an unreachable movie star, with the difference that if you really want to have that movie star for yourself, all you have to do is book a ticket and go.
What is your favorite step?
ps: a book recommendation: “The Art of Travel” by Alain de Botton 😉