Immersive Travel

Immersive Travel Defined

Immersive travel is about experiencing a destination through being there like a local. It means selecting a place to stay in a residential neighborhood, living like a local. It’s about the discovery process – selecting things to do, places to visit, food and drink, like a local would. It means budgeting enough time to allow getting steeped in the local culture, and history. A moderate pace is a key ingredient as immersion is accomplished by allowing the experience to be absorbed, and to sink in.

Location

At the top of the list of requirements allowing for immersion is the choice of location for our stay at our destination. For travel in historic destinations in particular, I prefer a centrally located, residential neighborhood that allows for pedestrian access to the majority of the sights I would like to visit. There is a world of difference between stepping down from a residential apartment into a central part of the old town, as compared to descending the elevator into the lobby from your hotel room, hailing a taxi, and working your way through traffic for 30 minutes before starting your discovery trek.

Residency

The sense of being there like a local is achieved by living there like a local. This means selecting an apartment as the choice of residence for the duration of your stay. The destination opens itself up to you when you stay like a local. You walk to discover the city, finding places to eat and drink where the locals do. The destination unfolds before you as you do a walking discovery trek through all parts worthy of exploration in your vicinity. Locales and nuances are discovered that exist in nobody’s tourist guide, or blog post, as you turn the corners, following  your sense of exploration.

Settling In

Behavior – be a local and try to blend in. This is a key, and necessary ingredient in the recipe for immersion. Blending in allows interaction with locals, and allows you to have the experiences the locals do. If you behave like a tourist, you will be treated like a tourist, and miss the opportunity for an immersive traveling experience. Behaving like a local requires that you understand local customs. If dinner is customarily served late, conform your schedule to have a later lunch so that you can enjoy the local custom for dinner. An accomplishment in immersion happens every time you sit down at a cafe and the waiter greets you in the local language, and continues to engage that way until you politely respond in English. It means you’ve passed as a local. As long as you know a few key phrases in the local language, you will be welcomed in all of the places I’ve traveled to, and write about.

Related Topics

Immersive Travel Planning

Immersive Travel Planning – Where to Start

Half of the joy of Immersive Travel is imagining where to go next.

Travel planning is an exercise of imagination, the expression of curiosity, and the definition of a theme.

Imagine  approaching an elegant buffet with a great variety of food and drink, ranging from haute cuisine to more basic. Tempting dishes from the far flung parts of the world. You’re hungry. How do you decide what to eat with so much variety? The problem comes down to choice, with an endless array at our fingertips.

The Challenge of Choice

Such is the challenge in trip planning. The explorable world lies before us like an elegant, well organized feast. We merely need to decide what’s next on our plate. It sounds easy, and it would be if we had constraints. Using the buffet analogy, if we were seafood lovers for example, we would immediately gravitate toward what we liked most, adding that to our plate. And so it is with trip planning. We need to know what we like, or at least what interests us next, either due to our own inspiration, or the ongoing execution of a theme.

Immersive Travel Requires a Theme

The theme is the thread that binds a collection of destinations together into a trip, giving it greater meaning than the sum of its individual parts. Themes are derived from our desires and motivations for travel, and may be geographical, historical, or cultural in nature. See the post on Immersive Travel Motivation to get an idea and find your travel inspiration.

Let’s take Europe as the section of the world buffet we want to explore next. We don’t have the appetite to explore all of Europe, so we need to drill down. We can choose a specific country, or a culture to further refine our trip theme.

An Example

Suppose we want to explore German Language as a cultural variation, and refinement to our work-in-progress theme. This narrows the geography to the borders of Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. A circuit that is doable in a couple of weeks by rental car. And would be a wonderfully immersive travel experience. Naturally, this presumes we like German language centric cultures. We need to know what we like.

The approach is to pick a section of the buffet, and narrow the selection down to what accommodates our current desires. Choose a hemisphere, then a continent, followed by a country or region, then select some destinations that allow a theme to flow.

A Developed Skill

Sounds simple, and in reality engaging the imagination is the hardest part, but practice makes it ever better over time. Once the big picture comes into view, what remains is logistics. Airfare, transportation, specific parts of town to settle into, and the all important selection of residence. The residence contributes significantly to the immersive travel experience, and should be selected judiciously.

Wonderful Examples of Immersive Travel Planning

 

Peru Travel Planning Peru Travel Planning - Why Go to Peru –  Peru Travel Planning Peru travel planning can be tricky because there’s tremendous variety for the first time visitor. Options include the vast, arid Pacific Ocean beaches, the steamy, and exotic Amazonia, Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable Lake in the world, the high Andes with ancient Inca secrets like Machu Picchu, …
Travel Planning France and Italy. France and Italy Travel Planning – Highlights of Europe - Motivation – France and Italy Travel Planning A long-time friend of mine asked to join me for one of my immersive travel experiences. More clearly, he asked that he and his wife join my wife and I for one of our immersive travel experiences. I had to give the idea some thought before I agreed …
Portugal Travel Planning Portugal Travel Planning - Motivation – Portugal Travel Planning With architecture dating back to the 1500 – 1800s, when Portugal had a mighty maritime empire, a food culture centering around the bounty of the sea, and a tradition of winemaking that includes fortified, vintage Port, there are plenty of motivations to visit this gem of the Iberian Peninsula.  Portugal’s history …
Croatia Travel Planning Croatia Travel Planning - Motivation – Croatia Travel Planning The Balkans are a part of the continent that must be explored by anyone wanting to see a good representation of European history, geography, and culture. There is so much more to Europe than France and Italy, with all due respect to the charm and allure of this magical duo. Let’s face …
Northern Italy Travel Planning - Milan, Genoa, Portofino, Verona, Como Northern Italy Travel Planning - Motivation – Northern Italy Travel Planning This is about travel planning – an exercise in imagination regarding where to go, and moreover, why go there. It helps me set my own expectations about what’s to come at the selected destinations. The theme of this trip is a selected region within a single country – Northern Italy. …
Travel Planning Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic Travel Planning – Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic -   Travel Planning – Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic Motivation This is about trip planning, but more than anything, it’s about an exercise of imagination, the expression of curiosity, and the definition of a theme. Imagine  approaching an elegant buffet with a great variety of food and drink, ranging from haute cuisine to more basic, but …
France Travel Planning - Lyon to Bordeaux France Travel Planning – Lyon to Bordeaux - Motivation – France Travel Planning This would not be an itinerary I’d choose for a first-time visit to Europe in general, nor for a first-time visit to France specifically. This is a combination of destinations suitable to a more seasoned European traveler, and moreover, someone having experienced France previously. Having been to France in the past, …
Chile travel planning Chile Travel Planning – Santiago, The Lakes District and Patagonia - Motivation – Chile Travel Planning Of all the countries is South America, why would I choose Chile as the first to visit for some personal vacation time. Personal safety comes to top of mind as a motivator. Chile is safe to visit, even for those that speak no Spanish, with a low incident of crime. Chile …

 

Immersive Travel Destinations

Immersive Travel Arequipa Immersive Travel Arequipa - Immersive Travel Arequipa is the 3rd destination of three in the Peru itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Peru circuit are described in The Peru Travel Planning post. Ollantaytambo was all about Inca history, and tradition – especially because it was the gateway to Machu Picchu. Cusco …
Immersive Travel Cusco Immersive Travel Cusco - Immersive Travel Cusco is the 2nd destination of three in the Peru itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Peru circuit are described in The Peru Travel Planning post. Cusco was the capital city of the Inca empire. At its height in the early 16th century, just before …
Immersive Travel Destination Ollantaytombo Exploring Machu Picchu - Exploring Machu Picchu starts in Ollantaytambo, the gateway to Machu Picchu. This is the first destination of three in the Peru itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Peru circuit are described in The Peru Travel Planning post. Arrival in Lima The direct flight to Lima from my …
Immersive Travel Experience Paris - This destination, which I call Immersive Travel Experience Paris, is the 1st of Four in the France and Italy itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the France and Italy circuit are described in The France and Italy Travel Planning post. Paris is the City of Light, the City …
Lisbon - This is the 2nd destination of two in the Portugal itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Portugal circuit are described in The Portugal Travel Planning post. Lisbon must be visited on a first trip to Portugal. As the seat of Portugal’s maritime empire spanning from the 1500s …
Porto - This is the first destination of two in the Portugal itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Portugal circuit are described in The Portugal Travel Planning post. The city of Porto, nestled on the Douro River, with its medieval architecture, friendly locals, the source of Port wine, and …
Split - This is the 3rd destination of three in the Croatia itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Croatia circuit are described in The Croatia Travel Planning post. Founded by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC, and made famous by the Roman emperor Diocletian, the city of Split …
Dubrovnik - This is the 2nd destination of three in the Croatia itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Croatia circuit are described in The Croatia Travel Planning post. If Croatia is the gem of the Balkans, then surely Dubrovnik is the gem of the Adriatic. Deeply steeped in history, …
Zagreb - This is the First destination of three in the Croatia itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Croatia circuit are described in The Croatia Travel Planning post. Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia, and airport of entry for long haul international flights. It’s an interesting combination of …
Como - This is the fourth and final destination in the Northern Italy itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Northern Italy circuit are described in The Northern Italy Travel Planning post. We departed Verona early on a Friday morning to make our way to Como. Nearly 3 hours of …
Verona - This is the third destination in the Northern Italy itinerary. The details related to planning for this destination and the others on the Northern Italy circuit are described in The Northern Italy Travel Planning post.. Verona is not on everyone’s itinerary for Italy. From experience, Verona is lightly touristed as compared to other destinations visited …
Genoa - This destination is the second of four on the Northern Italian Travel Planning circuit, as described on that post. As a coastal city which has revitalized its old town over the recent years, and with an opportunity to visit Portofino as a day trip, I looked forward to this stop. It was a relatively uneventful …
Milan - This destination is the first of four on the Northern Italy Travel Planning circuit, as described in  that post. Milan is the capital of Italian commerce, design, banking, and industry. But there’s so much more to this city. Milan is Italy’s fashion capital, and the locals dress to look the part – especially style-conscious women. …
Český Krumlov - This is the 6th destination on our Western Slavic Countries itinerary as described in that Travel Planning post. We departed Olomouc by car, selecting the longest route available on google maps because I wanted to experience the most scenic drive possible. It was a cloudless, sunny Thursday morning as we departed central Olomouc. We started …
Olomouc - This is the 5th destination on our Western Slavic Countries itinerary as described in that Travel Planning post. We set off from Wroclaw To Olomouc along a scenic route I found via Google maps. After a stretch on the A4 toll road, we were on tree-lined, twisting and turning two lane roads as we drove …
Wrocław - This is the 4th destination in the Western Slavic Countries circuit as described in that Travel Planning post. We drove through green, rolling countryside on tree lined roads with a backdrop of beautiful blue skies, on a  sunny day. It was mostly two lane roads but they were very well-maintained and traffic was not particularly …
Kraków - This is the 3rd destination in the Western Slavic Countries circuit as described in that Travel Planning post.     The route from Kosice to Kraków was mostly a 2-lane road with construction at many points along the way. As the main route, it handled all traffic including trucks, farm equipment, bicyclists and all vehicles …
Košice - This is the second destination of 6 on the Western Slavic Countries itinerary as described in that post. We got a late start out of Bratislava because of two reasons: It was apparently our Uber driver’s first time picking up a customer. He drove by us several times and after the third time I had …
Bratislava - This is the first of six destinations as laid out in the Central Europe Trip post. The big picture difference between a Trip and Destination post is that the former is about conception and planning, while the latter is about execution and being there. It is in the nature of things for plans to not …
Immersive Travel Bordeaux Immersive Travel Bordeaux - We set off for Bordeaux from Lyon early in the morning, and prepared ourselves for a 5-hour road trip. We grabbed a couple of sandwiches for the trip from Boulangerie Saint Vincent just around the corner from the apartment. These neighborhood bakeries not only sell fresh breads and pastries, but also make wonderful to-go sandwiches …
Lyon - Arrival Due to good planning, if I do say so myself, we had a short layover at Charles de Gaulle terminal 2. We took a 55 minute flight – what felt like a commuter – to Lyon Saint Exupery airport. Passport control and customs were a breeze at this smaller, provincial airport. We made our …
Puerto Natales – Chilean Patagonia - The flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas, the gateway to Chilean Patagonia, was without incident – my favorite kind of flight. LATAM airlines does a fabulous job in accommodating their customers. The in-flight entertainment was served up via an app that you could use on your phone or pad at no cost. It worked …
Puerto Varas – Los Lagos - I love to drive. Unfortunately, the geography of Chile doesn’t lend itself easily to driving. If attempted, the drive from Santiago to Puerto Varas would have been over 10 hours and 1000 kilometers on some sketchy roads. It’s the kind of time not available on an 8-day itinerary.  It’s an hour and a forty-five minute …
Santiago - Drink the water. I can’t give that advice for all cities in South America, but it’s good advice for all of Chile. And it hints at Chile’s tidiness and level of safety. Having been to Santiago previously on business, I am aware from my own experience that personal safety is not a concern in this …

Travel Tips

Find a Great Apartment - Find a Great Apartment An immersive travel experience is achieved by being there like a local. This means selecting an apartment in a residential neighborhood as our home for our stay. An apartment allows us to have a sense of how the locals live by joining them – and living like they do for the …
Immersive Travel Motivation Immersive Travel Motivation - Immersive Travel Motivation  As if I needed a reason – I travel because the voyage fulfills so many needs for me personally. I want to share with you some of the themes that come to mind when I think about what motivates me to travel, and why I want to have an immersive traveling experience. …

Travel Tales