How To Travel Well
Do you know what I love?
I love the unexpected circumstances that crop up during travel. Those bits of odd stories and facts that are not included in the guidebooks.
Here are some of my own:
- For our first christmas together, my husband and I spent a week in Rome. A truly awe-inspiring city! What I didn’t expect to see were hundreds of ferrel cats roaming around, especially in and around the ruins that were strewn about as if it were construction debris. The Colosseum was crammed with cats- they must have to be photoshopped out of official tourist photos!
- Just last year my family and I were able to take an amazing trip to China. In Beijing, where westerners are still somewhat of a rarity, we were often treated as rockstars and asked to have pictures taken of us, or with us. My daughter, in particular, was very popular. So much so, that we had to hide her blonde hair under a baseball cap and shield her from large crowds as much as possible.
- When my husband and I were newly married, we bought a 2 week rail pass and travelled through Europe on it. One of our favorite discoveries was a beer garden in Salzburg, Austria run by monks that gave out liters of beer in huge steins. It was a place known mainly by locals. The snack of choice for people there? Radishes!
So how do these stories happen? Not by planning for them, but by relaxing your expectations and going with the flow. This is not always easy in an unfamiliar territory where you are not quite sure where or what you are doing. If there are language barriers, this feeling is confounded.
The beauty of travel is that you are not in your home environment. Everything is different and so should be your mindset.
I have a few tricks up my sleeve to get the most out of travel. Want to hear them?
1. Plan beforehand, then let intuition take over
Apps like Tripadvisor and Yelp make it so much easier. Getting recommendations from friends and travel blogs is another. Gather as much information as you can beforehand and start to choose favorites among them. If you’re going to a city, look for patterns of where the recommendations are located and perhaps find a few good restaurants among them.
File it all away and then reassess when you get there. You may be tired from the journey or the weather isn’t cooperating. That’s when intuition takes over so you can pick and choose what will work best given the weather or your state of mind.
2. Be a traveler, not a tourist
“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”-G.K.Chesterton
Choose 2-3 main attractions per day, max. Allow for breaks and meals. If you cram too much in you don’t experience nearly as much. Let quality, not quantity, be your guide.
3. Soak it in
Try new foods, talk to the locals, and haggle with the street vendors. Read local newspapers. Wander through the aisles of the local grocery store.
There is so much more to learn and experience if you dig a little deeper.
4. Write it down
Even if your trip seems unforgettable, trust me, someday you will forget! Find time at the end of the day to jot down the places you went, even if it’s on a back of a napkin or hotel stationary. Be sure to include the names of the attractions and restaurants that you enjoyed. Try to remember a few unique moments that you encountered in your day.
Once you’re home and start to recount your trip, you’ll be so thankful that you did this. (My problem is that I tend to lose those bits of paper. Don’t do what I do, find a safe haven for all your travel memories!)
5. Expect the unexpected
Sh*?$ happens! Illness, bad food, lost luggage, stolen cameras, etc., etc. have happened to most seasoned travelers. It’s all part of the experience.
So is the kindness of strangers, mouth-watering food, and jaw-dropping vistas when it’s least expected.
My point is, don’t let the bad bring you down and be open to the good.
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawharial Nehru
How do you get the most out of your travels and what are some of your favorite memories from them?
Have an adventurous week!