Once I have begun to research a place, either in books or on the Internet, my voyage is underway. Each new fact I discover usually makes me more eager for that upcoming trip and each finding begins to fashion the itinerary. The more I learn, the more I look until I have mapped out the journey to ensure that I stop at all the places of interest along the way. I search for out of the way, uncommonly visited sites, crafts that coincide with my interests, unusual places to stay along the routes, etc. One activity in my planning is a book store stop or online session to find authors who live in and know intimately about the places I intend to go. They are the masters of focusing on the cultural highlights and revealing the mysteries I am likely to encounter. So these folks and the many specialists who live in or specialize in the areas I am traveling to are my next source of delight. I may read a novel or two by one of the local authors and I will unquestionably get into an exciting dialogue with some tourist agent or other. So I keep on learning.
Of course, one can even mark the beginning of a trip with making the definitive choice about where to go, how much time to spend in each place and even where to stay. That requires either an individual search for the required information from a direct source or from some third party agency which makes such reservations. A commitment to go somewhere for a given period of time means you have locked in the trip. You are on your way. The trip has actually begun. In real-life terms, the first financial payment for the trip is the concrete beginning. The final payment to complete the arrangement is the penultimate step in the series of actions that makes the trip a reality rather than just one's idea or intention. Needless to say, once all that has occurred, the actual physical passage to the desired place can mark the beginning of a trip. The drive to the airport is the final passage that can be considered a beginning. A book or two about the place tucked into your carry on and a few vouchers in your fanny pack depending on how much structure you prefer and you are definitely on your way.
So the fun can begin very early and can and should continue through the trip and well afterward in the memories and the collectibles you return with. It begins with any of the first steps enunciated above. It should continue, not only with the actual experience of the voyage, but all of the wonderful events that follow. When you share it with your friends, when you read something more about the place you have gone, when you look at the trinkets on the shelf that you have returned with, the trip continues. It is part of you forever.
Village Dancing, Cote D'Ivoire