How do you prepare for your next trip?

MccarthysbarbookcoverI’m going to Ireland for a few weeks of hiking with a hiking friend. Then I’ll tour on my own for a few days to satisfy a long-standing curiosity.

So my question is how do you prepare for a new international destination? Yes, I have my clothes, boots, passport, pack and reservations. I know the trails I’m going to walk, But that’s not what I mean.

How do you learn about a new country or area? I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted to on Ireland because I was so busy researching and writing my next book on national parks of the south. But a few weeks ago, I felt like I need to start cramming.

First, I got a AAA map of Ireland. OK, it goes with the UK, but that’s the best I could find for free. Then I ordered city maps – not free. I looked at the general area of the trails on a road map. I started reading the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland. I find the series still the best go-to for history, culture and practicalities. You can find lodging information on the web, but not too many other guides are confident enough to spend pages explaining the culture.

I overdosed on current Irish movies two weeks ago. I saw The Boxer, In the Name of the Father, both with Daniel-Day Lewis  about the Irish troubles. Then I watched Evelyn, a quiet movie about families in the 1950s.

I was looking for a light book on what it’s like to live in present-day Ireland–an Irish version of Under the Tuscan Sky about Italy or A Year in Provence about France. But the book that caught my eye was McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy. McCarthy drove through the Republic of Ireland in the early 2000 and stopped in every bar called McCarthy and many others, as well. It did inform me about the Irish character and landscape. But mostly, it was funny.

That’s not much preparation, I know. What do you do?

I’ll be blogging about my trip, internet and exhaustion permitting. And for that long-standing curiosity? Stay tune, as they say.


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