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Cooking Up A Fresh Dish Of Travel

September 27, 2010

My grandma always used to tell me, “If you can read, you can cook!” After my experiences prepping for this trip, I like to think that the same philosophy could apply to travel. Before eurobites, I knew virtually nothing about traveling abroad or stepping into a completely different world and brand new culture. But after a little Pregaming, I think I’m well on my way to becoming a natural. Much like great and experienced chefs are able to whip up delectable concoctions with little more than knowledge of the palette and their own creativity, it takes a well-seasoned traveler to be able to get up and go, letting the winds of chance take them and trusting that their traveling foundation will guide them.

However, every great chef once started with a cookbook. And every great traveler took his or her first big steps into the world with a guidebook. I am certainly a beginner and being such, I have sifted through my fair share of guidebooks, or recipes if you will (if you won’t, too bad because that’s the analogy we’re making today). Now there are plenty out there, and I certainly haven’t read them all.  But I’m here to share my personal perspective and process and to tell you the recipes that worked for me.

When you boil it down, a guidebook is a lot of concentrated information in one place. Larger than life places and experiences packed into anywhere from 700-1200 pages. And that’s just one book. Times that by ten and you’ll be closer to what we faced in the beginning. But as I said, we were beginners and were discovering what worked for us by trying a bit of everything. It was easy to feel overwhelmed at times, but don’t let the trip get salty and sour right at the start. Make it sweet. Spice it up. Have FUN with this part of the trip, and take your time. I found it fascinating to read about all of these new places and exhilarating to think that I will actually be there!

We had a number of resources at our fingertips and so do you. The library, second-hand bookstores and InterLibrary Loan are great (and cheap) places to start. It wasn’t far into the planning process that we found ourselves surrounded by pages and pages of information about things and places we knew little to nothing about.  So we combined forces.  We each took a book and just started reading. Simple as that. Some of our literature included Let’s Go Europe, Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring, Europe by Eurail, Rick Steve’s Europe Through the Backdoor, Idiots guide to Europe and Europe for Dummies.

We quickly found that some were more helpful or user friendly than others. From personal experience as well as feedback from fellow travelers, I would recommend the Lonely Planet series.  They pump out some great material that will get you to the cultural heart of any country. However, there is certainly a level of personal preference when it comes to guidebooks, and it can depend on the kind of trip you’re looking to take. Europe on a Shoestring happened to be right up our alley. But much like you can look at the ingredients of a recipe and just know you’re not interested, sometimes just looking at the table of contents to see how the book is organized can give you a good idea of how pleasing it will be to your traveling palette.

Looking back on this process now, I will say, it’s amazing how many things we hadn’t thought of!  As it turns out, there’s more to going to Europe than just buying a plane ticket.  What do we pack? How do we get around? What do we eat? How much will that cost? The Euro is worth what?! Most of the guidebooks had a front section of general but important information before they got into country-by-country. These front sections were some of the most helpful parts, especially to help ease into the whole thing. Here, there was usually information on prepping for the trip and some vital information that applied to wherever you may go. Once you get into the country-by-country sections, there is more specific information that allows you to really plan the trip once you’re there.

For someone who has never traveled abroad and had no idea what to expect in any of these foreign places, just about everything in these books seemed important. Let’s just say, I went through several highlighters. Some information, especially from the books that we would one day have to return, we copied into notebooks. Create a system for yourself. Stay organized. And make sure to find things that you can refer back to easily and that will really be helpful once on the trip.

I will leave you with a one of my favorite books so far, a book that I will HIGHLY recommend. Rough Guide’s First-Time Europe.  I would compare this to a foundation cookbook that every chef starts out with, containing all the important basics from which every great meal starts. This book covers everything.  The smallest (but sometimes very important) things that you may not have expected. I read this book after reading several others, and I still found plenty of new information that hadn’t been covered anywhere else. And it’s all compacted into a pretty short and quick read. There is accurate budget info and tips for packing, as well as personal suggestions for what to do/see and how to do/see it.  One of the things I liked most about the book is that it is written in first person, with little anecdotes along the way that make it a fun and interesting read. Definitely look into this book!!

A guidebook has and will definitely prove to be quite an important asset for our journey. Hopefully this has sparked your traveling taste buds and gotten you hungry to start your own trip. I’ve given you a place to start from my perspective, but make sure you find a guidebook that works for you. Every palette is different, and it’s important to get a guidebook that has all the right ingredients for you to have your own delicious experience.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 28, 2010 12:51 am

    Great tips… I’m happy to hear you’re pre-gaming so hard, but I’m ready for you to get to the damn bars, already. It looks like your photography skills are really coming along… that tour guide bridge pic had me loling for real.

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