Plan your book. Then plan your trip.

When you plan to make a book about your vacation travels BEFORE you go, your next trip could be greatly enhanced. (Especially if you plan to take the book beyond a simple photo journal, to more of a journalistic or documentary-style book.) You’ll be inspired to search out interesting and obscure stories to tell, and images to share. If you’ve kept an open itinerary, you may even decide to visit new places and experience unanticipated events along the way.

To prove the point, I followed my own advice on a recent trip to Thailand. I went there with the intention of recording the trip in a documentary-style book. Even though the trip was quite short, I wanted to bring home some unique and informative stories about the people and their culture, along with the typical scenic landscape and touristy shots. Perhaps because time was limited I was even more intent on making the most of every day.

Although I did some research in advance I left all the doors open—no reservations after the first night. Every morning I found a coffee shop with WiFi (even in very remote locations) and Googled around for awhile. Soon I was on a twenty-four hour cycle— planning tomorrow’s itinerary today, always looking for the unexpected and willing to chase it down.

As I moved around northern Thailand, camera and journal at the ready, I began to think about how the book would present. After the first page I would toss out the first person. No more “on Saturday we went to the small town of Chaing Rai.” In favor of “Chaing Rai is the gateway to several tiny secluded villages high up in the hill country, including the Akha Tribe, which originated in Mongolia, hundreds of years ago.” Which story would you rather read? To be sure, I had no illusions of creating some great masterpiece destined for widespread publication. I just wanted more than a slide show to share with family and friends when I returned home.

It was really fun. And it truly broadened my perspective, piqued my curiosity, and transformed a normal vacation into a spectacular one. I’m sure that will be the case for many of you.

You can expect to:

• Take better pictures, and more of them

• Embrace ideas and experiences you might otherwise have overlooked

• Meet more people, try more food, walk more paths

• Learn more about the history, culture, geography and language

• Return home with a book that is already a success, before you even make it!

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