Our recent three-week trip to England suffered, at least for me, from the same problem as last year’s visit to Italy. It suffered from a lack of pre-trip planning.
I am not speaking here of having every hotel and inn lined up ahead of time. Of having a strict schedule to follow. Where to eat, what to see. None of that. To our credit, we usually have good luck just showing up somewhere and finding suitable and interesting lodging. There is in my opinion lots more to be said for spontaneity than for anal micro-scheduling.
But I am a traveler largely driven by history. Unfocused trips to museums do not interest me a great deal. I like to undertake my own research and visit what to me has become hallowed ground. The museum is the last place to visit, not the first. To place a hand as close as possible on a past event I know something about is thrilling. And to do that I have to do the research at home long before the trip takes place.
In the autumn of 2009 we stayed a week in Sicily, at the chic resort city of Taormina. But my eye was always on Syracuse and the ill-fated Athenian Expedition during the Peloponnesian War in 413 B.C. I wanted to visit the highlands northwest of the city where the Athenians, trying to escape, were turned back. And visit the river to the south, where they were slaughtered by the Syracusans and their Spartan allies. If I had done my pre-trip homework properly, I would have realized I needed to hire a Sicilian guide.
In England, I was only prepared at Shrewsbury, in dealing with the Darwin legacy. I just recently read “The Voyage of the Beagle” and became an admirer of the young naturalist. But I was ill-prepared to sustain my historical interests into other areas over the remaining time.
Time goes by swiftly. I know I should not waste such opportunities.