27 June 2014

RIVER-CRUISING MUSING: Pre-cruise preparation

Foreign-language dictionaries.
Photo: Wikicommons
Those of us whose mother tongue is English are lucky that we have such an enormous vocabulary at our disposal. Alas, this doesn’t mean that all the world’s experiences can be adequately described in English. Take the Dutch word voorpret. You could literally translate it as “pre-fun” but it needs entire sentences to properly explain. It refers to the sense of enjoyment we feel about an event, before that event has actually happened. It isn’t just anticipation or looking forward to something, which carries with it a sense of future hope. Rather, as I understand it, the focus is on the here-and-now pleasure that comes in the preparation.
Nowhere can voorpret be more keenly felt than while preparing for a journey. As you sit looking through river-cruise brochures, reading guidebooks and planning what you’re going to see and do along the way, you’re indulging in voorpret. For some, that’s as much satisfaction as they need without actually having to go anywhere.
There’s a lesson for me here. When I first started travelling, my voorpret would last months. Before spending three weeks backpacking around Turkey during my university holidays, I read guidebooks, history, studied maps, even got novels by Turkish authors out of the library. I might even have checked out hubble-bubbles and belly dancing if only there had been such things where I was living in those days.
The great Russian writer
Photo: Wikicommons
These days, with work commitments and squeezed time, I barely do any voorpret at all. Truth is, I often turn up on river cruises with embarrassingly little background knowledge, and am then expected to write about it intelligently for other people. But you can’t let work just become the perennial excuse for having no fun in life any more, can you? 
So last year, before I set off on a Viking river Cruise to St Petersburg, which I’d always longed to see, I made sure plenty of voorpret was provided. Among other things, I read a biography of Peter the Great and re-read quite a bit of the Dostoevsky I’d perused as a university student.
I ended up enjoying St Petersburg twice, once in my head before I went, once during my visit. In fact, like any good fairy-tale, it was three times, because it inspired me to write more afterwards than I’d expected. Voorpret is much to be recommended, even if it means going Dutch.

If you have any hints on pre-trip preparation and how to get plenty of vorpret enjoyment out of your travels, please join the conversation by leaving a comment.

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