After seeing a good friend do the same for her parents, I decided to write up a rough itinerary of my trip to supply mine with, to ease the itching worries I’m sure they only express half of and to stem the flow of questions over dinner the night before departure.
I’ll admit it felt quite childish writing out the name, address and contact number for each place we are going to be staying, almost like when my Mum used to ring the house of the friend I was sleeping over in to check I was actually there; but when I look at the bigger picture I can see now and understand perfectly why it is so important to have a record of such things. Even if it wasn’t to be given to my mother, but a friend, other relative, or just somebody who I trust and who would be dependable were something to happen abroad, and I was rendered uncontactable, a general itinerary and outline of your travel plans is vital to have laid out before you go.
Too often we hear of travel-stories from hell – things going wrong, phones being lost, people getting lost or too drunk or kidnapped or attacked…it’s bleak and scary to think about, but it should never be ruled out as a possibility.
That’s why by letting someone at home know where you plan to be (give or take) on certain days and nights, even if you veer off course slightly or decide to accompany some new travel friends for a night in a different city or take a tour you hadn’t planned on, there basic structure and outline of the trip will be there to work from should something happen, and you can’t be contacted.
Another benefit of doing out an itinerary is that it makes you clearer yourself on the plan for the trip, saving you from frantically checking dates and hostel names at the last minute. It’s almost like doing a bit of study on the places you’re heading beforehand, so all the information is fresh and clear in your head!
If nothing else it’s also an excuse to get excited for your trip and doodle around a page of travel-plans when you’re supposed to be working!
Tourists look up. They stare around in wonder awe and try to take in all the nooks and crannies of the cities they do not live in. They see things that inhabitants of the city itself overlook in their day-to-day lives, things they consider irrelevant, unnoteable, non-important. Imagine working in an office down the road from the Colosseum. A very large and ancient example, but an example nonetheless.
One huge thing I have noticed from working a 9-5 job in the city is that every morning, in the bleary-eyed dawn rush over the same bridge and cobbled streets that lead up to my office, is that I never, ever, make the walk whilst looking up. My head is always down, bent in defence-mode as I battle through the crowds of suits and asics runners with tights in the daily struggle that is the 9am rush. One morning recently, whilst still feeling the effects of a few too many midweek cocktails, I noticed a man opening a window on one of the upper floors of the row of shops and cafés in Templebar. A simple, quick movement, meaningless to anyone catching the change out of the corner of their eye, yet it was enough to pull my gaze skyward, and I began noticing things about the buildings I pass every day that I hadn’t noticed before. Maybe I’m getting a bit Patrick Kavanagh-esque in these musings, noticing beauty in the mundane and all that, but it was interesting to cast fresh eyes on old surroundings, and it opened my mind and brightened up an otherwise uncomfortable and hungover commute.
I then turned my attention to the tourists around Dublin, with their maps and backpacks, stopping to take pictures of postboxes and shop windows and doors that I walk past daily without batting an eyelid at. Even in the depths of Winter, they find the beautiful and noteable things, making sure to snap an image so as to remember it clearly, whereas we barely notice them at all.
This is what there is to gain from travel. The constant exposure to new and exciting things – new and beautiful things, that we haven’t grown accustomed to and probably never will. It seems to me that in continuing to expose ourselves to new experiences, places, people and cultures, that life could be just…fresh. All the time. It would be filled with the feeling of new socks on your toes. But in your mind. Imagine!!
In all the times I have filled the role of a tourist in a place I haven’t been before, it’s the excitement and the newness of not knowing what’s literally around the next corner that keeps my attention and energizes me. It’s that fleeting moment of panic you feel when you think you’ve taken a wrong turn, and have managed to get completely lost in a city far away from home, only to retrace your steps and discover a new and more scenic route back to your hostel that makes my heart beat, and gives me a feeling of purpose and being alive. Here’s to more moments like this in 2015!