Travel yet to be

Base of 3333 steps in Misato, JapanPlanning a trip to an unknown location requires a lot of work. While sites often exist with helpful information, there is no single source which has everything. This is one area where community sites such as WikiTravel can help to fill in the gaps For now outside of major cities, the details are often insufficient. If such sites were as popular as Facebook, then more information than you could possibly want would be available on just about everywhere and in just about any language of interest. However, this level of information overload is far away.

Today there are many places where it is very hard to find helpful information. A perfect example is a recent trip to Misato, Japan to climb their 3,333 stone steps. There is not much in English related to this location. Particularly nothing that described the area, where to park, restaurants and facilities in the area, nearby attractions, whether there is food or water along the route, or even how long it would take to climb. Fortunately there were Japanese web sites which helped to fill in some of these blanks. Eventually searching in Japanese produced at least the location to search for in Google Maps. Since this is a popular attraction in Kumamoto, and there were fair sized buildings visible, we figured there would be no problem finding lunch in the area. Unfortunately, lunch turned out not to be available.

When we arrived at the 3,333 stone steps we learned that while there were restaurants, we were there off-season, and they were closed. Those in the know brought bento lunches, or camp stoves. For those of us visiting for the first time, there was not much else to do, but climb, and eat afterwards.

As we traveled we took pictures of the scenery, and the various landmarks along the path. These were easily viewed later in Google Earth with the techniques described in ‘Where was that picture taken?‘. Also while driving, we found several areas that looked promising for a future visit. Instead of marking them on the map, we just took pictures. Since the GPS was on, each picture was properly identified with its location. This made it very easy to look at the picture to remember the point of interest, and seeing it on the map helped to identify it. This same technique has come in handy while traveling by train to quickly mark areas of potential interest. While pictures taken out the window of a moving car or train may not be very good, they do make it easy to come back to visit later with either Google Maps or Earth.

Planning a trip has become easier thanks to the internet, but the experience still has a long way to go. The farther you venture from home, the less helpful information is available. When traveling to a foreign country, the chance of finding helpful information is complicated by language barriers. What you are looking for likely exists, but only on a page written in a foreign language. Its out there somewhere, but essentially buried in the haystack.

Over time community involvement will help to make more and more information about everywhere available. Have you traveled somewhere recently? If so, why don’t you see if your knowledge of the area now exceeds that of WikiTravel. If so, this would be your chance to help fill the void. Make sure to include items you wish you had been aware of before making the visit. Over time, a contribution here and there can make a difference. Your travel experiences will aid others, and theirs will help you. Also, by looking for things to write about, you will find yourself paying more attention to what you discover.

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