“Looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them,” opines a romantic red-headed orphan in the classic children’s story, Anne of Green Gables.
Researchers have proven her right, concluding that planning a trip can often bring us more joy than the holiday itself. A Dutch study showed a significant increase in happiness levels among those who had vacation plans. Interestingly enough, it also found that people who’d returned from a trip were not any happier than those who had stayed home.
So how can we make the most of this anticipatory joy? We can start by spending more time and finding more creative ways of preparing for our travels. Here are our suggestions:
Watch where you’re going
Television and movies have always inspired our vacation choices. I was so seduced by the sultry palm trees and ocean beaches of the Florida Keys while watching the Netflix series, Bloodline, that I drove twenty-four hours to see them for myself. When Lord of the Rings audiences realized that the snow-capped mountains and lush green valleys of the fictional Middle-earth were in the very real New Zealand, many fans hopped on planes to see these landscapes for themselves, resulting in a forty percent increase in the country’s visitation. Croatia saw a 120 percent tourist interest increase when Game of Thrones began filming in the Baltic nation.
Almost every popular destination is the setting of a movie or TV series, so once you’ve decided on your next destination, grab some popcorn, watch, and dream while you wait.
Research a recipe
Taste a new destination by trying out a dish or recipe. Food and culture are intertwined, so discovering a locale’s flavors can provide glimpses of its culture and traditions.
Thinking about traveling to Quebec? Why not try your hand at a tourtière (a traditional meat pie that has century-old roots in the province)? Is a trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast on your bucket list? Buy an illustrated cookbook that spotlights the region’s rich classic recipes and fresh produce. Watch YouTube videos or even take a cooking class, and you’ll be salivating to go to your destination of choice as you savor each morsel of “research.”
Learn the lingo
Taking the time to learn a few words of a country’s language goes a long way to ingratiating yourself with locals and enriching your experience. Even if you’re headed to to an English-speaking destination, it’s fun to discover the region’s verbal idiosyncrasies.
In Scotland, for instance, you’ll be able to “keep the heid” (stay calm) if you understand that “ah dinnae ken” means “I don’t know” and “dinnae fash yersel” means “don’t worry.” In Canada, ask for a “double, double” (two creams, two sugars) at the ubiquitous Tim Horton’s coffee shops, and pay for it with a “toonie” (a two-dollar coin) or two loonies (one-dollar coins). Even in North America, we all have our own lingo: if you’re going to Alabama, learn when to use “Roll tide,” a phrase that unites all Crimson Tide fans.
Listen to the rhythm
Music is a window into a culture’s heart and soul. Curate a playlist with songs from a location’s iconic singers or tune in to a local radio station. On one impressive website (www.driveandlisten.herokuapp.com), you can take a virtual drive through some of the world’s greatest cities, including Paris, Rome, Dublin, San Francisco, Tokyo, and St. Petersburg while listening to a local radio station.
Whether it’s enjoying the island calypso music of Trinidad and Tobago, New Orleans’ jazz, or Ireland’s folk music, researching a destination’s music scene will have your toe-tapping feet itching to go.
Read all about it
Guidebooks and Internet research are serviceable choices when it comes to planning an itinerary, but there’s nothing like a well-written fiction book to capture a palpable sense of place. Planning a trip to Savannah, Georgia? Reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil will have you ready to meander cobble-stoned squares shaded by atmospheric Spanish moss of the city’s magnificent oaks. If you’re considering a trip to Alaska, the James A. Michener saga by the same name recounts its geological features and historical events in more detail than most guides.
And of course, if you’re going to the beautiful province of Prince Edward Island, be sure to read about its red sand beaches, sparkling waters, and blooming archways in Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I’m certain you’ll agree with the heroine (and researchers) about how much pleasure can come from anticipation.
Jennifer Merrick is an award-winning freelance writer, photographer, and avid traveler based in Toronto.