Immersive Travel Research: 4 Easy Ways to Start Planning Your Dream Trip

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Love the idea of immersive travel experiences?

(Not sure what we mean by “immersive travel”? Learn here.)

If you’re sold, then we’re going to bet that you’ll get pretty geeked about immersive travel research.

Trust us.

Actually, I DON’T trust you. Immersive travel research does not sound fun.

Au contraire, my wanderlust-ing friend. Research, done right, will transform your travel experiences.

In fact, without research, you might as well just buy a stale baguette and watch Emily in Paris. I mean, seriously.

Ready? Let’s Go!

Immersive Travel Research, Step 1: Choose Your Destination

How do the seeds of these dream trips get planted?

Maybe you saw a picture, or a movie, or read a book or an article.

Maybe you were a kid.

Maybe you even have a file of dream trips—virtual on Pinterest, or physical, like a picture you keep tacked up in your office, or a map with a bunch of thumbtacks in it.

Just pick one. It can be a city, a country, a region.

Not sure? Do the spin the globe thing. Or choose one of the cute pictures from the map below.

Got it?

Great. Next!

Immersive Travel Research, Step 2: How Much Time Ya Got?

This is an important one.

Because if you really want to do immersive travel, you don’t want to spread yourself thin.

You can absolutely have a memorable weekend, even an overnight in a city—provided your travel time there and back is minimal. (Check out everything we managed to squeeze into a couple of days in Detroit at this link.)

Traveleing longer? We recommend a minimum of 5 days.

Does that sound expensive?

Actually, it’s easier than ever to do budget travel, provided you choose your destination wisely.

Staying in one place makes your travel bucks go even further.

Got 2-3 weeks? You can tackle more places.

Still, we say don’t do less than 5 days in any big city. For smaller destinations, aim for at least 2 nights.

immersive travel research can lead you to restaurants that you may return to more than once. For Head Roam, one was Peron! Peron! in Buenos Aires, featured in this photo, which shows a shrine to Evita, coplete with candles, medallions, buttons, and small pictures of Eva herself alongside the Virgin Mary.
Steve and I spent weeks in Buenos Aires learning Spanish, and became semi-regulars at the restaurant Peron! Peron! That’s not Madonna.

That new destination each night thing? We’ve done it. It’s not immersive. And it sucks to not be able to really unpack your suitcase.

Immersive Travel Research, Step 3: The Fun Part

Ok, you’ve decided where you’re going, and how long you’ll be gone for.

NOW things get fun.

immersive travel research: A true deep dive into books about Peru and by Peruvian authors, including Aunt Julia and the Screenwriter (Vargas Llosa), The Peru Reader, and Peru, the cookbook.
A monster load of books that I snagged, mostly from the library, for our trip to Peru last year.

This is where the journey truly begins.

Not when you get on the plane.

Here’s our handy list of favorite sources to kick off your research.

  • For a massive online library of audiobooks, ebooks, sheet music, and magazines, sign up for Scribd. You pay a monthly fee and get unlimited titles—including tons of titles from Lonely Planet, one of our absolute favorite reference libraries. Check out their partners, with whom you get a free membership as well: MUBI, Curiosity Stream, Pandora Plus. Very cool. (Not an affiliate, by the way, just a devoted member.)
  • The “36 Hours in….” feature at the New York Times is a great gateway to a bunch of world capitals, state capitals in the US, and big cities that aren’t capitals, like San Francisco, Barcelona, Casablanca, and a ton of others.
  • Realize that “36 Hours” is much more happily stretched to 72.
  • Just googling “36 Hours [your destination]” is going to pull up a bunch of sites as well. (Ditto the above.)
  • Check out Culture Trip. For pretty much any destination you can think of, you’ll find dozens of articles to get your imagination going. All easily digestible for those who find their concentration challenged.
  • Got a library card? If not, get one. Now. You may even be able to do it online.
  • In addition to books, audio/video materials, and more, many local libraries have significant, completely free online offerings, like Hoopla for electronic books, and Kanopy, which has a huge selection of video.
immersive travel research: a streaming service like Kanopy, available through many public libraries, is excellent, with features and documentaries from around the US and the world at large.
A small selection of Kanopy offerings in December 2020

Immersive Travel Research, Step 4: The Yum Part

Sure, you can eat when you get there.

But sometimes, you just can’t wait.

And truly, taking a cooking class, reading a cookbook, even just reading up on the food of the place you want to go: Sometimes, that’s inspiration and destination rolled into one.

I started blog life as a cooking blog, and have some recipes for you here.

spiced lemon cake with rosemary
Spiced Lemon Rosemary Cake, a Head Roam recipe (which is, by the way, really delish)

But, admittedly, not many. (We’re working on transferring previous ones; sign up for the newsletter to get notifications as they go live.)

Until then, and in addition to, some favorite resources:

  • Favorite Blog: Half Baked Harvest, probably my number one blog go-to for reliably interesting and easy recipes. The Recipes index has a “Cuisine” pull-down menu, featuring the usual suspects: Italian, Greek, Thai, American, etc. But type in any cuisine—Moroccan is a good one—and you’re likely to turn up some beautiful and inspiring options, like this ridiculously gorgeous brunch.
  • Favorite Streaming Service: YesChef, an affiliate partner. Currently featuring master classes from Edward Lee (Kentucky), Nancy Silverton (Italy), Erez Komarovsky (Middle East), and Dario Cecchini (Tuscany), with many more to come. The videos are as beautiful as those on the series Chef’s Table, but with a big and meaningful difference: These chefs, each true masters, provide you with step by step recipes on how to prepare beautiful food. Click here for the latest YesChef deals.
Master chef Erez Komarovsky harvests a bouquet of flowers to weave into his challah bread.
Master chef Erez Komarovsky harvests a bouquet of flowers to weave into his challah bread. Photo courtesy of YesChef.
Photo from The Chef and the Dish, a superb online cooking service

Immersive Travel Research: Ready, Steady, GO

So pick a country. Dive in. And please: Send us your own favorites, and your reviews of our recos. Help us make Head Roam as accessible, comprehensive, and just plain fun as possible.

Happy Roaming!

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