Okay. I’m a technical writer by profession. I often say that the primary skill involved in technical writing is the ability to become a short-term expert. You’ve got to learn enough of whatever it is you’re writing about to be able to write intelligently about it, and then you’ve got to move on to the next thing.
What does this have to do with my trip to Ireland? Well, when I decided not to take a package tour, I was left with the daunting prospect of putting together my own trip. Which meant I needed to become a short-term expert on Ireland. And that meant books.
I got a whole bunch of books to read through, and used them to decide what I wanted to see, where I wanted to stay, how I wanted to travel, and all the rest of it. Here are the books I picked up, and what I used them for.
What can I say. I love the Dummies books. They are a beautiful example of technical writing, providing simple, clear information, and not assuming that you know anything about the subject. They’re not the be-all and end-all of research, but they’re a great place to start if you know very little about what you’re researching.
Ireland for Dummies is no different. It gave me a good foundation for more research, and provided the basic information that let me decide when I was going to take my trip, how I was going to get around, and all the rest. It was the starting point for doing the rest of my research, and probably the book I used most through the whole planning process. There’s a new edition out, now1, but I used the 5th.
Not as user-friendly as Ireland for Dummies, but with a lot more information crammed into it. This is where I went after Dummies, looking for more detail on an area, or more helpful travel tips. The focus is on more active, adventurous travelers than I, but it balances nicely with Dummies’s2 focus on more traditional tourists. I find I’m kind of splitting the difference.
The value of this book is all the colour maps, walking tour maps, bright pictures, and lists of favourite moments in the various locales. I found it not as useful as the other two books for information, but leafing through it kept me inspired and interested in the planning process. The easy, readable entries and the colour maps make it the book I’m planning on taking with me to Ireland.
This book came in handy for two reasons: first, it kept me inspired with all the pictures, and second, it let me take a look at the physical layout of places I wanted to visit. See, I’ve got arthritis, and it impairs my mobility sometimes. It was helpful for me to be able to assess how demanding seeing certain things – some of the castles, Skellig Michael, etc. – was going to be, so that I could schedule appropriately. It’s not that I can’t get around, but if it’s better for me to schedule seeing two difficult excursions on different days, to make sure I get to enjoy everything I want to see. So, yeah. This book was quite helpful.
I could say that I got this book for the same reason as Eyewitness Travel Ireland, but really, it was because I’m running a roleplaying campaign set in Dublin. The book’s great for that.
This book is billed as being enormously useful, and I think it is, but only if you plan the kind of trip the book caters to. That trip is renting a car and staying in delightful little out-of-the-way B&Bs. The book focuses on villages, towns, and the outskirts of the big cities, which means it didn’t have much of real use for me. I don’t feel like I wasted my money, though; the book had a tip in it that may have saved my entire trip from crashing and burning. And the forum on Michele’s site is full of helpful advice and helpful people, willing to pitch in and offer advice on pretty much any Ireland travel question you may have.
And, of course, the Interwebs
Seems like pretty much any place I wanted to go in Ireland had their own website. Some were better than others, but they all provided the basics: when the site is open to the public, what the cost is, stuff like that. Also, the hotels and guesthouses have their own sites, and the various tour companies. The trick is knowing what to search for, which is where I needed the books to start.
So, that’s the reading I did to figure out how I wanted this trip to work. Next time, I’ll talk a little bit about my actual planning process.
It’s getting close, now!