“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot
Patience Is Key
I would not consider myself one of the most patient people, but I have learned that it is integral to enjoying yourself when traveling. It’s unfortunate, I know, but we cannot control all situations. It is better to be open and patient when traveling than to be annoyed most of the time. Just take a mindful breath and remember, things could be worse. Take a spontaneous road trip near home or far beyond and see what adventures await you.
Wake up Early
I love this one. Even though I am not a morning person, I cherish waking up early and not letting my time be wasted on sleep. There is so much to experience and we only have so much sunlight in a 24 hour period! Not to mention, waking up early and getting out has its perks – like smaller crowds, the more precarious areas are less dangerous in the mornings, and it is easier to connect with locals.
Get an Eyeful
It’s like people watching meditation. Spend a couple hours in a park or an outdoor coffee bar watching people, viewing the city and taking in the pulse of it. Take note of the smells, colors, sounds and activity going on around you. Admire where you are and become familiar with all you can; slow your thoughts and take it in.
Back It Up
There are too many stories of luggage getting lost (a good reason not to check a bag), wallets being stolen, laptops turning up missing… back everything up on an external hard drive and for me, also in an online storage space like Google Drive. Backup important documents, photos, your driver’s license, passport, birth certificates and even health insurance cards.
Snap, Snap, Snap! Take Pictures
For most people, it is not every day we get to travel somewhere new to become immersed in another culture. Take lots of pictures, it is ok to look like a tourist. Especially now that we can take photos digitally, they are easy to share and don’t take up much room in your bag. Not to mention, taking pictures are free souvenirs. Just be sure to refer back to #4 and back them up! Through the years I have taken so many pictures of places I’ve been and people I have met – I would like to note that once you have taken photos, don’t forget to get out from behind your camera and enjoy the sights firsthand. A breathtaking picture can be captured, but there is nothing that can replace the primary experience your mind, eyes and soul will catch.
Where There’s a Will…
I had a 10th grade finance teacher that told us something to the tune of, we can have anything we want, anything at all, we just have to budget right. I applied this statement to more areas of my life than just finances. If you want something, you can have it. Anything at all. Visualize what you want, see it, feel it, and disregard those who say you cannot do something. Do not give up.
“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties and obstacles vanish.” – John Quincy Adams
More times than I can count someone has told me I cannot do something. I cannot say that each time I did not believe them either. Don’t do that – if what you want has not happened yet, if it is still out of reach, it is STILL achievable. You just need the right circumstances and people involved. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Every time.
“By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” – Charles Spurgeon
Smile and Say ‘Good Morning’
It is not always easy to interact with locals of a place you are unfamiliar with. There is no need to walk around with a pera-smile on your face, that’s just weird, but, you can shoot a smile toward people every so often and smile back when they offer one to you first. Learn to say ‘good morning,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘please,’ and ‘hello’ in the mother tongue of the place you are visiting. People around the world respond well to kindness and a guest with a pleasant disposition. It is also looked highly upon that you have taken the time to learn something in their language.
When traveling to a new place you will experience various lifestyles, customs and opportunities to learn something new. To be open-minded is also to be adaptable. To broaden your mind, do not attach to the thought that your views, way of living and doing things are the correct way. You don’t have to agree with a new concept, but you might just be surprised what you learn. Walk in someone else’s shoes for a day and embrace the possibilities! Exercise empathy and experience life through a new set of eyes and an open mind.
When you engage in volunteering for valuable projects in a country you are visiting, there is a brilliant opportunity to learn more about the place you are visiting and make a few friends in the process. Volunteer work is rewarding and offers some of the most irreplaceable memories and experiences a new world has to give.
Let Go of Fear
We live in a world where the media makes everything out to be far worse than it truly is. Having worked as a journalist for the U.S. Army, I can say I have seen this firsthand. All the places you want to go outside of your little hometown bubble are not as dangerous as they have been made out to be. With a good helping of common sense and being aware of your surroundings, you will be fine. Most people in this world are generous, willing to help, and just as interested in your culture as you are of theirs. Don’t let fear keep you from traveling or occupy your mind for most of a trip. Let it go, let go of your fears.
I like to be impulsive in a positive way. If an opportunity arises while traveling, I like to say ‘yes’ more often than not. It is the unplanned experiences that really make traveling fun! I am just as prepared as I am impulsive though. 99% of the time I have a well thought-out plan to fall back on while I am waiting for those moments to say ‘let’s do this!’ and put the schedule in my pack. Say yes to exploring a new place, or trying a new activity – spice up your getaway with the unexpected by saying ‘yes’ to those fortunate moments that come your way.
Comfort Zones are Out
If you are planning to experience a new place it is integral to step out of your comfort zone. It is only when we step out of our comfort zones that we can learn something new and expand “our zone” of contentment. There is too much understanding to obtain to stay locked inside ourselves with anxiety and fear. Break lose and be willing to open up. To do this, take action in doing what you fear the most. Unintuitive, right? Trust me. It’s ok to laugh at yourself when you feel uncomfortable – talk to strangers if that is what you fear, bring on the skydiving over beautiful local mountains if that is what makes you think twice, deep sea dive or go hiking if that is what will bring you out of your comfort zone. Free yourself.
I have a problem with packing too much stuff, and that is exactly what it is too, stuff. It is amazing what you will find you do and do not need when spreading your wings. A couple goal I strive to keep is – Do not check a bag, bring carry-on only when flying. Only travel with what you can carry on your back. If I do need something additional, buy it locally when I get there. You know you are an experienced traveler when your travel bag has actually decreased through the years.
Keep In Touch
Just because you are completely immersed in travel and keeping busy being engulfed with all this world has to offer, don’t forget about your family and friends back home. Remember to keep in touch with those that love you, miss you, wonder where you are and how you are doing. Give them a call here and there, shoot them an email with some photos, or even send a post card. While making new connections it’s important to keep those current relationships strong.
The Road Less Traveled
It’s ok to partake in the everyday tourist attractions, after all, they are called attractions for a reason. Just make sure to get off the beaten path and take the road less traveled. With that said, not all rural areas will provide the experience we are looking for, so when thinking outside of the box of destinations to travel, be well informed. Be curious and have fun.
No More Excuses. Travel.
Even today I could think of every excuse in the book to not get out of the house, “it’s too expensive,” “I don’t have anyone to watch the dog,” “they need me at work.” All of these excuses lead to more excuses which leads to wasting time, AKA: procrastinating; which then leads to never traveling. Get out more! Travel. Take a road trip to somewhere in the backyard of your own state, or go to a neighboring state. Visit an adjoining country for a week. Travel! No more excuses; if you want it to happen you can make it happen.