18 Oct The Travel Cycle’s Four Stages—Plus One
Begin to plan a travel adventure, and you’ll find that there’s a wealth of advice out there regarding how you should go about doing it. Blogs, books and magazine articles with titles such as “17 Easy Steps for Planning Your Next Trip,” “15 Tips for Easy Vacation Planning” or “12 Simple Steps to Plan and Organize Your Perfect Adventure” are abundant online and at your local bookstore.
Usually, those guidelines look something like this: 1) figure out where you want to go, 2) choose your travel companion(s) wisely, 3) select a tour provider or create your own itinerary, 4) book your flights, other means of transportation and hotel accommodations, 5) do it and 6) capture your memories by journal, photos or souvenirs.
A few years ago, Google created a now much-used infographic for the travel industry which categorizes those phases this way: 1) dreaming, 2) planning, 3) booking, 4) experiencing and 5) sharing. The former editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine, Keith Bellows, suggested an even shorter list of travel stages. He wrote in his monthly column that the “Cycle of Travel” could be labeled: 1) dream, 2) plan, 3) go and 4) share.
I appreciate Google’s list for its mention in number 5 of including other people in your travels—even the ones who didn’t go with you. Bellows’ roster has the added quality of being even shorter.
However, I would suggest that you lengthen those two briefer lists with one, small additional step.
Striding through the stages
Following Bellows’ way of thinking, I’d describe each “leg” of his travel planning process this way:
1) Dream. You might choose a destination because it’s on a travel menu of “1,000 Places You Should See Before You Die” or “Bucket List of Ultimate Adventures” or “Places to See Before They’re Gone.” Personally, I think travels should start with your dreams. They should be to the specific spots and locales you’ve already seen in your mind’s eye; rivers you’ve imagined paddling down or mountains you’ve almost felt yourself climbing. Maybe something inside you has always whispered that you’re a “Northern person” who just happens to have been born in a Southern clime, and you know you need to head to the opposite point on the compass to see if it’s true.
2) Plan. Now that you know where you’re going, you have to decide in what manner you’ll travel. Will you be making all the nuts-and-bolts decisions yourself—such as where to stay, for how long, and what and where to eat—or will you be signing on with a travel provider? If you do opt to go with a tour company, which one will suit your personality? Being in the company of like-minded, newfound friends sometimes makes for a richer and deeper experience than going on an adventure alone.
3) Go. This is often the easiest part. Once you’re “out there,” act like a sponge and soak it all in.
4) Share. Although it’s often emotionally and mentally difficult to reach the point in your journey where you realize it’s the last day of your adventure-of-a-lifetime, getting back home could be the beginning of the most rewarding phase of your trip. Sharing your adventure with others keeps it “alive.”
In fact, in today’s world, experiencing a trip and sharing it have almost become synonymous. And there are probably as many ways to define the word sharing as there are adventurers: It may be as simple as posting a photo of an incredible view from your hotel balcony on social media, as complimentary as writing a five-star review on TripAdvisor, as local as having a party with a few friends to talk about what you did and saw, or as global as calling the world’s attention to a conservation issue in a region of the world that you just passed through.
Bringing it back around
No matter how many steps or numbers on a list it took you to get “there,” what I know for certain about traveling to spectacular spots in nature is that it soon becomes addictive. Hiking in one wilderness, paddling on one wild river or sailing to one remote island never seems to be enough; your soul quickly calls for more.
And every time you follow through on the urge, you find that you change. Adventures build your confidence, stretch your muscles and expand your mind; and with each successive one you take, you feel more capable, stronger and a bit wiser.
So, I highly recommend Mr. Bellows’ short and sweet “Cycle of Travel,” with one addition: 1) dream, 2) plan, 3) go, 4) share—and 5) dream bigger and wilder.
Here’s to your adventures, in whatever corner of the world you find them,
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