What I’ve Been Reading Lately

While you may think I haven’t been reading much lately, you would be wrong! I have just been doing reading of a different variety: Travel Research!!

While buying four books on the same travel region may seem overly fastidious, I have never traveled by myself…well, never outside of my own business travels, and never anywhere for fun. Plus, the only times I’ve been outside of the country I’ve either been visiting friends or traveling with family. Nothing I’ve planned by myself or for myself. And this time, I’m going it alone. Quite honestly, I’m terrified. But also very very excited.

The only downside is that every time I research a country (ie Sweden, Finland, Estonia, etc), I get caught up in how much fun each location seems. I pour over my calendar, convinced I’m not spending enough time in a particular location. Most recently this happened with Estonia. I would love to go hiking in Lahemaa National Park, but that would require limiting the amount of time I spend in Copenhagen and Helsinki, and it would be difficult for a single travelor to get to–it would require car rental, for one, which is too expensive for my single travelorness. I would also love to visit Savonlinna in Finland, but same deal there. I also reallyreallyreally want to go to Åland, but that would require a significant change to my itinerary…that I might end up making cuz I really want to goo there!

So far my itinerary is thus:
Aug 27 – Aug 31: Sacramento
Sep 2 – Sep 3: Fly to Copenhagen
Sep 3 – Sep 7: Copenhagen and surrounding areas
Sep 7 – Sep 11: Helsinki with trip to Tallin, Estonia
Sep 11: Overnight ferry to Stockholm
Sep 12 – Sep 14: Stockholm
Sep 15: Fly home :(

I will probably change my Copenhagen dates because both Åland and Stockholm deserve more days. I JUST CAN’T DECIDE!!!

Lake Saimaa - Eastern Finland

Overall, I like the Stockholm Day by Day. Tons of useful information, the Top 25 lists cover multiple topics, such as Lodging, Nightlife, Dining, Outdoors, etc. But obviously since it’s dedicated to Stockholm, this it might have been a more appropriate choice if I were ONLY going to Stockholm and ONLY for work or a mini-break, as the UKers call it.

Rick Steves
First of all, his guide books have a wealth of information, especially concerning cheap, easy travel. He also writes a guidebook the way I want to read it. He adds more color and ‘How To’ in his itinerary descriptions, hotel and restaurant recommendations, and writes about getting around in depth.

I find other guides lacking in the ‘take train X, connect to boat Q, land and walk one block north, rent a car, and follow the attached map to your awesome destination’, which a noob like me completely appreciates. Other books just say ‘accessible by train and car’, which leaves much to be desired. With his books, you really get a sense of the place you will be visiting and, I must say, has helped to calm my nerves about traveling solo.

However, his guide books are very city-centric and, from what I’ve seen, the man loves museums. I think he has been to every museum in Europe. I wish he would branch out to the more remote, or nature-adventure locations. He also has very obvious favorites. For example, more than half of the Scandinavia book is dedicated to Denmark (Copenhagen and Ærø as obvious faves) and Norway. The rest of the book is dedicated to Sweden, with a tiny chapter on Helsinki, and a tiny chapter on Tallin. And I’m sure there is more to Finland than Helsinki, and more to Estonia than Tallin.

Lonely Plant
The series covers significantly more ground than Rick Steves. It touches on other Scandinavian locations, such as the Faroe Islands, Åland, and Iceland. It also does a great job of suggesting overall itineraries. In addition, it pointed out some great nature-type stuff that can be done in each location. However, I find this series to be much more overwhelming. I find the smaller print and multiple columns per page to be very overwhelming. It is also lacking in the details. A lot of the book simply points out that this location exists, and yes it is accessible, and yes there are hotels and restaurants, but I think it is more limited in its options.

But since Rick Steves misses the forest for the trees, and Lonely Planet doesn’t see the trees for the forest, I have found these two series to compliment each other very well. Each fills in the others’ holes. I would buy a Rough Guide for Scandinavia as well, but that would definately be overkill. I’ve heard they are good guide books, and from the name I would wager they have a more Outdoorsman focus, but really I have no clue.

So as you can see, I’m excited. I need to make more hotel plans and perhaps change my Copenhage stay and I’m nervous suddenly everything will sell out (even though I’m totally traveling in the off season). Just my nerves talking, I know. But like I said, I’m new at this. So if I’m absent for much longer, at least now you know why.

What about everyone else? How do you plan your travel? Where are some of your favorite locations and where do you want to go in the future? Any tips for me in terms of planning itineraries? Or in terms of what to do? And has anyone ever been to Scandinavia?

MILLIONS OF QUESTIONS! I can’t wait :) :)

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2 responses to “What I’ve Been Reading Lately

  1. I’m so envious of you! That picture is gorgeous!
    I’ve only been overseas once when I studied abroad in England. My friend and I solo-planned a trip to France & a little bit of Scotland. I also did some brief trips around England on my own.

    The books we used were the Let’s Go travel books. We depended on them because we had to and they were helpful, but we made a number of mistakes so I don’t know if a better book would have prevented those mistakes or if they would have happened anyway. (Our mistakes involved missing trains, usually.)

    We stayed in France for a week and a half, Paris for a few days, then town-hopping, spending about a day and a half in each. I liked seeing all the places, but I did feel that we rushed some of the locations. I advocate for spending quality time in the places that have enough to offer to sustain your interest. That way, there’s less time spent negotiating transportation, relocating your stuff, etc.

    One thing I think we did right: staying at both big cities and small towns. Give yourself some city time, small town time and nature time. I feel like it gives a better picture of the country, like you’re seeing its different sides.

  2. Thanks for the advice!! And for the same gasp of awe I had at that picture…makes me want to stay in Finland forever. Your tips have made me feel a little better about spending approximately 4 days in each city…although I know I wont be bored, I’m scared that will happen, haha!

    A fried of mine (oddly enough named Christine :) ) lives in Spain and I’m trying to convince her to come visit with me for a few days. So that will be fun. Hopefully her and I can split car costs and go to some of the more remote locations.

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