Just show up and look around
Our visas came a few weeks ago. It's charming how official they look. "Kingdom of Thailand"! The mere presence of the word "kingdom" makes me smile, like we're traveling back in time, although of course I know Thailand is not THAT backward a place. It's one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, after all. I expect Bangkok, where we're going first, to be modern and multicultural—but hopefully chaotic and decidedly Asian as well.
I'm trying not to make any assumptions beforehand. I have a kind of inertia when it comes to travel research and planning. I don't want to know too much about a place before I arrive. Maybe I think it's going to sully the experience somehow.
Allison, on the other hand, is a hardcore researcher, poring over various travel guides and websites, constantly coming up with ideas about places to go, things to do. I'm glad one of us is interested in taking that approach, frankly, because my own travel philosophy of "just show up and look around" probably causes me to miss some things.
Also, being the unrepentant extrovert that she is, Allison will be motivated to talk to people while we're traveling, which is good, because I usually don't do that UNLESS IT'S ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Indeed, the thought of talking to "other travelers" used to make me cringe. Perhaps it still does. But I was younger then, more romantic about the idea of wandering alone in an utterly foreign and incomprehensible land.
You probably learn more about the world when you interact with it.
Well, at least it's a possibility.
Observing also teaches you things, even if you don't fully understand what you're seeing at the time. In fact, perhaps you learn more that way. That's probably why I don't like to research a place too much before visiting it: If I go into a situation thinking I understand it already, I won't quite pay attention.
I won't be fully aware.
On the other hand, maybe I'm just lazy. Perhaps the people who get the most out of travel are the ones who do a lot of research beforehand—who know a bit about the history of a place, the culture, the language, etc.
But who wants to "get the most out of" anything, anyway? As long as you know you've probably missed something, you'll be motivated to go back.
I know that I'm never really going to "get" Thailand. So why be in a hurry to try to understand it beforehand? I'll see what it's like when I get there.
And if it doesn't make sense, I'm sure Allison will study a map or try out Thai phrases on a stranger until it does.
It's called teamwork.