Learning to travel again

I recently returned from three weeks in Europe with P. Before I get started with the trip itself, I thought I’d jot down some notes about the travel experience itself.

Over the last couple years, I traveled mainly for work. I generally take the opportunity and use up some holiday allowance to ensure that I can experience the area properly. In this way, I’ve been able to see Tokyo, Kyoto, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

I’ve learned a lot about international travel: what and how to pack, how to shoot photos efficiently, how to make the most of downtime, and how to figure the best way of getting around unfamiliar territory.

This trip involved a number of firsts. The big one was traveling with somebody else that had different priorities and experience from me. The last time P had left the country was our trip to Thailand four years ago (no photo link — I should rectify that). That was a relatively simple trip that we had booked through a travel agent, and was primarily a relaxing holiday.

This time, our goals were different. Our primary reason for travel was to attend a family wedding, but the majority of our time was spent sightseeing. London and Paris are rich with interesting things, and we wanted to see as much as possible. For each of us, that was a subtly different statement. I like variety, and P likes detail. In Japan, I learned that nothing you want to see is close (temporally) to the next attraction. Regardless of the convenience of motorised transport (the Philosopher’s Walk is long, but I found it more convenient than trying to figure out Kyoto’s buses), researching your route and moving quickly is essential.

I learned to research history and facts about a place ahead of time. This means I can actually look at the attraction, absorb it quickly, and take a lot of photos. While I probably don’t understand the finer points of why a painting was chosen to hang in this particular gallery, I was able to see more paintings and be ready to see the next thing.

Flexibility is important. I move quickly, but am always on the look out for a unique photo, or a side trip. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to take shots like this otherwise:

Local street signs are always fun to look at. Do kids eat poo off the street in Dublin?

But, as I said, P and I differ on this. She prefers to move slowly, and to take her time with audio tours and looking in detail, so I had to learn to be patient and appreciate more of what was in front of me. I needed to let go of any preconceived notion of what we were actually going to see, and look for more photos.

I didn’t do very well at this. I might have been less frustrated if I had my D7000 with me, but had elected to bring my EOS-M (more thoughts on that later) because it was lighter and smaller. I don’t regret that particular choice (780g vs 280g body, never mind the lenses), but I would have shot a hell of a lot more photos that way, which would have kept me busy.

I also operate on a lot less sleep. This is also about effective time management, and I didn’t take advantage of this to get in some “me” time. This was partly tied up in not wanting to be exclusionary and seeing some things that P might have also wanted to see, but splitting up might have been better for us both.

None of this is to say I didn’t have a good time. It was great to see so many new things, to experience them for myself, and to be able to share that experience with my partner. We almost never do substantial travel together, and it was great to do that.