Write Your Own Guide Book

My life traveling companion and I recently returned home from a 17-day journey that took us through the Swiss and French Alps and culminated in the marvelous twin cities of Buda-Pest, Hungary.

As with any trip of such magnitude, we spent months researching guidebooks and reading articles about the places we planned to visit. We watched countless hours of the Travel Channel and perused the Internet for tips and ideas from other travelers.

When we embarked a Geneva-bound Continental Airlines Boeing 767 from Newark, NJ, we were ready for anything.

After a brief stay in Geneva, our journey took us along the towns of northern Lac Léman (Lake Geneva.) Our plan was to arrive at our resort destination in the tiny Swiss town of Val-D’illiez in the early evening of our second day.

We casually sauntered through Nyon, Lausanne, Vevey and Montreux, with stops along the way for anything that caught our fancy. As we’ve matured in our tastes, my companion and I are less inclined to visit large cities. Even if the guidebooks call them a “must see,” we prefer travels away from the masses.

This was the perfect time of year for that. With a wind chill factor that made the temperatures feel like it was in the 20s, the beaten path was practically empty.

Our plans had also included a day of touring the vineyards that hug the hillsides along the lake. In fact, since we both love wine, this had been a part of the trip that I had researched down to the glass. But Mother Nature had other plans. While it’s not supposed to snow in that part of Switzerland so early in the season, someone apparently forgot to tell Her.

It didn’t take long for us to be reminded of the most important lesson of a relaxing trip:
It’s good to have an itinerary, but plans are made to be broken.

What the tour book called a well-kept highway to our resort, turned into an hour-long, 5 mph trek up a steep snow and ice-covered one-lane roller coaster ride that made Walt Disney’s Expedition Everest seem like a cheap carnival ride.

The road was manageable during the day, but the thought of getting stranded on it at night conjured up headlines I didn’t want to consider.

The vineyards would have to wait for another trip. We settled for buying a bottle of wine and drinking it from our terrace overlooking the Alps. If truth be told, I’d settle for that anytime.

One of the reasons I love to travel so much is that I love to learn. The simple lesson taught by that ice-covered road is one I’ll carry with me on all future travels.

If a trip is to be enjoyed, you must allow for change. If you stick to what the guidebook says, you end up travelling someone else’s journey. And you miss adventures that were meant for you.

A guide book is just that – a guide, a starting point. Preparation is a vital key to success. But to truly enjoy your journey, trust your instincts. If you love where you are, stay there. Rushing off to see someone else’s idea of a “must-see” destination may leave you empty and exhausted.

It’s a good lesson to remember as you travel the most important journey of all – the journey through life.

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