Want more out of your next vacation? Reap the rewards of Immersive Planning
By Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, Ph.D
Travel planning often starts with basic online resources. I go to blogs such as the Postcard Jar and read plenty of reviews on Trip Advisor as I build my itinerary; and for really special trips, I talk to Hillary at Zen Luxury Travel.
Experts say that it’s planning the trip — not the trip itself — that gives us the most satisfaction. That didn’t make sense to me. If planning is so satisfactory, why go on the trip?
But once I tried Immersive Planning, I understood. Plans of any sort will build anticipation and excitement, but the key is our prior knowledge of a place. If you learn about your destination beforehand, you are more likely to have a memorable experience.
Immersive travel planning
How do you savor good food? It’s an active process: You luxuriate in it and relish each flavor. Now recall one of your favorite trips: Which of your senses were most memorable? Sight, sound, touch, smell, taste?
I don’t much enjoy the smell of the beach, but I love the blue-green ocean expanse, sinking toes into the warm, crystal sand, and listening to crashing waves.
Then there’s the beauty of the Painted Ladies – talk about eye candy. The whimsical colors and ornate adornments of Edwardian and Victorian architecture delight my inner child, who always wants to run her fingers across the carved wooden embellishments.
If you can tune into your senses, then you have the starting point for immersive planning. Learning becomes about enhancing your experiences, not an academic exercise.
Let’s consider my interest in architecture. Sure, Victorian houses are beautiful, but that’s about all I knew – they were pretty to look at. I was sinking into the mentality that seeing one house is as good as seeing them all. Another example is my “Discover the wonder” blog post about Thai silk. The wonder never faded because I invested a little time to discover the history behind the world’s most amazing silk.
History ignites our imagination. It connects us to a place and people.
Once you learn the history of a particular interest or place, set a goal to widen your interests. For years, my only art interest was French Impressionist paintings. But a trip to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art widened my perspective.
Previously, my most likely place to exercise was a museum because my method of viewing was more akin to speed walking. But at Crystal Bridges, I toured the galleries with an art history expert who broadened my appreciation. I became fascinated by early American portraits – my favorite was an oil-on-canvas portrait by John Singleton Copley in 1765 of Mrs. Theodore Atkinson Jr. (Frances Deering Wentworth).
That experience led me to learn more about Colonial New England, which of course led to planning trips to the US Northeast. If you never stop learning, you will never stop anticipating the experiences. Just remember to start easy – no need to become an expert on your first go-round.
How to learn
We each have one or two learning styles that work best for us (for example, auditory is my strongest learning style). Try using those styles as a guide to immersive travel planning. Take this 20-question self assessment to find out your learning styles: Education Planner Learning Style.
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I’ve already talked about Victorian architecture, so let’s use it as the topic for an Immersive Planning example.
- Books on tape. I just added a scrumptious selection to my Audible library: Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts: Dining Victorian. Full of anecdotes, this entertaining and detailed investigation brings the listener table side into all things Victorian, including customs, manners, and morals. I wish I had seen this one before my trip to Cape May, New Jersey, an island community that boasts more than 600 Victorian homes and buildings.
- Podcasts. On the quirky, offbeat side of history, try the BBC’s History Extra podcasts. They have a whole list of shows dealing with the Victorian era. If you want a huge collection to pick and choose from, the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast and blog will keep you entertained for like – forever!
- Music of the region. I know a lot of about my favorite island, but I didn’t know Amelia Island, Florida, was known for its annual Jazz Festival in October. If you can’t make it to the island in the fall – my favorite time to visit – you can still enjoy and learn about jazz year round thanks to the many events sponsored by the festival organization.
- Discussions. When you gather with friends or family over meals or coffee, talk to them about what you are learning. Talking about your new knowledge will help it stick!
- Pinterest, of course! Create a board about your destination and add boards or pins specific to history you are learning for the trip. I also like to use Pinterest as a visual file for itineraries. For inspiration, read about how two of the top travel planning bloggers use Pinterest.
- Stream movies and TV shows. I love period pieces set in the Victorian era. What better than one about Queen Victoria herself? My latest favorite is Victoria & Abdul.
- YouTube videos. Check out the English Heritage Channel’s Victorian Way cooking videos such as How to Make a Cup of Tea. Downton Abbey fans won’t be disappointed.
- Journaling. Travel journals aren’t just for writing about your trip. They work great as planning tools. A journal can be a visual catalog of your growing knowledge by drawing pictorial depictions of what you learn. (For the visual learner, think of these pages as pictorial flash cards.) See more travel journal options below.
- Cooking. Depending on how long you have to prepare, consider cooking one dish a week that’s specific to your destination. You can expand your knowledge of history and culture by finding out about the origins of the dish.
- Interactive reading. When you read physical books, consider using highlighters. I use multiple colors of highlighting pens with each color representing a different category.
- Blogs on your location or topic, such as Victorian Paris for those who love the City of Light and 19th Century.
- If you love fairytales and myths, go on real life travels with The Fairytale Traveler. It’s become one of my favorite travel blogs.
- For culinary travelers, try the Ancient Foods blog.
- Historical fiction or nonfiction books that focus on a location or place. Here are two of my favorite series:
- Edith Maxwell’s Quaker midwife series set in late 1880s in Amesbury, Massachusetts. The first book in the series – Delivering the Truth – won the IPPY Silver Medal for mystery, was nominated for both a Macavity and an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel, and was named Amesbury, MA’s 2016 All-Community Read. The third and latest book in the series, Turning the Tide, came out in 2018. Get a preview of the series in this video of Edith leading a walking tour of historic sites in Amesbury.
- Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Series transports you to late 19th century New York City. Book 1 in the series (Murder on Astor Place) was published in 1999. The latest, published in 2017, is Murder in the Bowery.
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For Audible books, I use a Bluetooth speaker that I connect to either my phone or tablet. If you want good quality sound in a super affordable package, try the DOSS SoundBox Bluetooth Speaker. It has more than 7,000 reviews on Amazon! I also recommend buying a case, which makes it perfect for travel.