It is that time of year when everyone is packing suitcases, hitting the road or skies, taking summer vacations. The dates for long-awaited trips, planned months ago, are finally creeping closer on the calendar. It is time to pack up and go!
Despite the natural excitement of our upcoming trip to France, it also feels surreal.
We’ve been thinking about it for so long that it has become part of a mythical future. Which makes it difficult to believe the date is approaching and will soon arrive. Do you also get that feeling when preparing for a big trip?
When we go, I want to be “in the moment.” I want to soak up all of the long-anticipated French-ness of the places we will visit, to really taste all of the food, and linger on park benches. I want to tune into the place, and feel a part of it for at least a little while.
How do you make the switch from “anticipating the trip” to “embracing the reality” of the experience?
Too many plans and expectations, and you’ll spend more time anticipating what it will be like than enjoying the reality.
Too much unplanned time, and you run the risk of missing THE thing. For instance, it would be tragic to visit Paris and somehow not see the Eiffel Tower. Ok, that is an extreme example – you’re bound to get a glimpse of the thing. But the point is, 100% unstructured time leaves too much to chance.
So to get ready for France, and take it from “dream” to “imminent reality” I’ve been doing a few things:
1. Tell people about the trip.
Not only is an upcoming trip a natural conversation topic, but you never know who might have had an off-the-beaten-path experience that you wouldn’t find in any guidebook. Or their bestfriend/aunt/neighbor went and reported a can’t-miss restaurant.
Not only for practical advice, the memories they choose to share can help give you a sense of the place. As well as potentially avoid their mistakes if you hear a cautionary tale!
2. Create an Itinerary
The next step would be to add those tips to your itinerary. For planners, like me, this is a given before you take off. But even if you’re not a planner by nature, I think mapping out your trip can help take it from distant dream to reality. Seeing on-paper (or on-screen) that you’re going to wake up in THIS city and get dinner at THIS restaurant (plus checking out the menu in advance!) can help with the transition.
I’m not saying you should plan every moment. I actually plan wandering and down-time into the schedule so that I know I can enjoy those moments fully. But listing out the major sites can also help you plot a path through a new city, rather than zig-zagging back and forth to your intended destinations which is sure to lead to sore feet and cranky attitudes. (Depending on how our itinerary works in real life, I’ll share the full plan here afterward so stay tuned!)
3. Download Apps, Books and Movies
Apps are perhaps an obvious pre-departure task – downloading maps and a currency exchange calculator. Other apps to consider: the app of the airline or transport you plan to take, which might have in-app resources or helpful travel updates. And a language translator, if you’re traveling someplace where you will lack native language skills. Rather than downloading these in the airport terminal, get them before your trip and get familiar with the features – which will take your trip from fantasy to really-really soon!
Saving the best for last – books and movies. I have two new books related to France to throw into my carry-on. I can’t wait to open them when flying over the Atlantic toward the City of Light! And to truly transport yourself, a good movie is maybe the best way to prepare. Last weekend we watched Amelie on Netflix with English subtitles, to help our ears start tuning into the French language as well as dream of the streets and cafes of Montmartre.
With that, I think we’re ready to go – wish us Bon Voyage very soon!
Linking up with some #traveltuesday bloggers: