Planning to be Flexible
Sometimes the best part of traveling is the planning. I am the sort of person who loves to research. I try and know as much as I can about a place before I go. I even like to read novels set in the area to get a feel for where I am going. I am the one who has an itinerary that maps out every single minute and highlights all the must see places and things to do. I am also the person who throws that away the minute I land and then let whatever happen. Crazy? Yes!
I love travel books, brochures, websites, review sites and the unlimited amount of resources now available. Initially it can be overwhelming when trying to decide exactly where to go, but once the decisions are made the bountiful resources are invaluable, even if just to keep the excitement alive during the long wait.
There are some things I find extremely valuable about online suggestions, for example, tours. We do not like to do go the way of the multitudes and be shuffled around like a herd. The smaller, local guides are best in my opinion, and they are often best to book in advance. I know they tend to be more expensive but we have found private tours are undeniably the best. In Barbados we found a driver who was a local fireman, who, on his days off, took people on tours. We hired him to take us and show us the island. It was incredible because he really listened to what we were interested in, took us off the beaten, tourist path and showed us where the best kept secrets and views were. In Rome we had a private tour guide who gave us an evening tour, because we were the only ones, we were not revisiting places we had already been. He also knew we had spent several days in Florence and Tuscany, and we were most interested in the Early Roman history, so he gave us a tour that fit our interests and, at the end, he invited us to join him at his favorite local restaurant.
As for restaurants, I find the online suggestions to be a popularity contest based on tourists. As foodies, we much prefer to taste the true, local cuisine. For a special occasion the 5 star restaurants are great, but I am just as happy at a food stand. This has also worked to our advantage on several occasions. Once in Tortola we were doing a snorkel tour with a wonderful young man and asked him where he would recommend the freshest best seafood. The outcome was that he drove our boat out to meet his “cousin” who was fishing. We looked at what he had and decided on the lobsters and bought them right there on the spot. Our guide ended up joining us at our condo and prepared the lobsters just like his grandmother always did. In Rome, our Airbnb host leaned out the window and yelled down our dinner reservations to the restaurant below. We were treated like family, the wine poured freely and we didn’t even look at the menu; we just told the owners to bring us whatever they wanted to prepare…AMAZING.
I am currently planning our trip to Tahiti. We have a few tours booked for things that are high on my bucket list and we have limited opportunity to experience them. The rest of the time I will let the trade winds take us where they may.