Before I embark on any kind of trip, be it a mammoth RTW adventure or a quick weekend getaway in the UK, I always do my research. Initially I want to see if a place is worth visiting and what kind of sights I can expect to see. Then once I’m planning the finer details, I like to look at hostel reviews, places I can eat dinner and how to get around. If you’re reading this blog, I expect you’re the same.
But sometimes I feel like all of the research takes away from the experience. That restaurant that had rave reviews gave me such high expectations that I was disappointed by the food, whereas if I had stumbled upon it on my own I would have been pleasantly surprised. That photo of Halong Bay that I had been staring at for the last year made me a bit numb to staring at the real thing. And quite frankly the photo with the amazing filter made it look a lot prettier.
Some of my favourite travel experiences have been the ones that were completely unplanned and I had no prior research of.
I had never heard of Sihanoukville in Cambodia before I travelled to Southeast Asia but decided to visit after hearing about the place via word of mouth from other backpackers. Well it turned out to be a well-earned beach retreat after the trauma of S21 and the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh, which I really needed.
I got to experience that laid back beachy vibe that I had been craving from Thailand but had not yet experienced. As I hadn’t read up on the beach town, everything was an adventure – tasting the culinary treats of various beach-side restaurants, exploring a local market I stumbled upon and discovering the wonder that is Top Cat! (A cinema with bean bags and sofas and readily available snacks!) I even booked a trip to a remote island off of the coast which had a group of people living there with a completely self-sufficient lifestyle. Super interesting.
What I’m getting at is that I don’t think I would have had as good of a time if I had previously researched Sihanoukville.
I mean I just looked at Sihanoukville on Google Images and the place looks like paradise. There’s a chance I could have been disappointed by the beach that was a bit rough around the edges and the slightly shoddy bars. But coming from the cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap with no preconceptions made it look completely idyllic to me.
Another example of this is Yosemite. Believe it or not, I didn’t really know what Yosemite National Park was before I visited. It was just a stop I was making on my America trip between Vegas and San Francisco. I’d heard it was quite pretty but was too preoccupied with researching my bucketlist destinations of New York, San Fran and the Grand Canyon to look too much into it. I had no idea that ‘quite pretty’ was a ridiculous under-statement.
So now I tone my research down a bit and take it all with a pinch of salt. I find recommended hostels and restaurants but don’t look too much into the reviews or investigate menus too much. That’s part of the fun of travelling! I also don’t dwell too much on the Pinterest photos of the amazing locations and try to keep my expectations realistic. I want to be blown away by these amazing sights, not mentally comparing them to that photography blog I saw them on.
So my top tip for the day is to keep the adventure alive by visiting somewhere you don’t know anything about. You’ll be surprised at how much more fun you’ll have in the most unlikely places. Safe travels.