Recently, I’ve been planning a few new adventures to close out the year (hiking in the Grand Tetons and a quick trip to Costa Rica) which got me thinking about my past trips and what they’ve taught me. It didn’t take long for me to realize there were a few universal lessons I’d learned. Below you’ll find a list of nine ideas that I learned from traveling but that have transcended my everyday life.
This must be the place
“Wherever you are, be all there.”
Most people think I’m crazy when I tell them I love travel days. For most, those are the worst days of any trip. For me, sitting on a train or waiting in front of my gate are times I truly feel at peace. When I’m in those places it’s easy for me to relax because I look around and recognize that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I don’t feel guilty thinking I should be doing something else. This way of thinking creates a type of presence and freedom allowing me to focus on the moment and enjoy it for what it is. Even when I’m not traveling I always try to be completely present and focused on whatever it is I’m doing.
Where not what
“No matter how many plans you make or how much in control you are, life is always winging it.”
I’m a go with the flow kind of guy, but when traveling it’s good to have an idea of where you’re going. When I plan a trip and have to keep to a timeline I pick the different places I’m going to, but don’t decide what I’ll be doing in each place until I get there. Yes, you can do some research for general ideas, but I’ve found it’s better to wait until you’re there to pick what activities you’re going to do. For me, it helps keep some spontaneity in my trip and gives me flexibility once I’m there to learn what my options are. Which brings me to my next tip…
Ask a local
“…because life is too exciting not to share.”
It doesn’t matter how much research you do you’re not going to know about everything ahead of time. But you know who can help? The person that lives there. Whenever I’m traveling I try to ask a local for advice on places to eat and drink, things to do, or places to stay. People are more than happy to point you in the direction of their favorite hole in the wall bar or the place they discovered with the best calamari. More often than not, their recommendations aren’t on Yelp’s top places but turn out to be incredible.
Night Transportation is your best friend
“I will never lose the love for the arriving, but I’m born to leave.”
If you can handle sleeping on trains, buses, and flights traveling at night is as close to teleportation as you’re ever going to get. Instead of wasting a day going from one place to another, you can go to sleep (something you’d be doing anyway) and wake up at your next destination. It requires more planning, as you have to make sure you can get where you need to go in the early hours of the morning, but worth it if done right. We caught three night trains in Vietnam which is what allowed us to see so much in the 8 days we were there. Besides, you haven’t really experienced a place until you’ve seen it peaceful like it is while everyone else is still sleeping before the chaos of the day begins.
Traveling is trust
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
I hadn’t really thought about this until I was riding on the back of a scooter, at night in Bali, and was completely separated from my friends. As all my friends and their scooters went one way and me and mine went another I realized in that moment that I had decided to completely trust this random Balinese guy. I was trusting him to not only to get me from one one place to another, but to do so safely-in crazy traffic, reunite me with my friends, and for the agreed upon price. There were so many things that could have gone wrong. When you travel, you’re at a disadvantage in some ways, you have to be willing to trust other people to survive. From my experiences, across the world, I can tell you that trusting is rarely a mistake and people are good.
Take the damn picture
“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
I used to worry that taking photos while I traveled made me look like a ‘tourist’ (which is the last thing a traveler wants to be). I worried even more about how ridiculous my friends and I looked while taking our ridiculous group photos. I worried the other people around were going to judge us. Now a days I give zero fucks. Odds are, I’m never going to see those people again. What I do care about is having a lifelong reminder of that day and that moment with the people I care about. On that subject…
Capture Moments not Things
“If you want to see what someone values take a look at what they photograph”
Over the past 4 years, I’ve seen lots of places and taken literally thousands of pictures. Whether it was my time on the cruiseship, backpacking Europe, or traveling around out Southeast Asia one thing proved to be universally true: the photos and memories I cherish most are the ones of my friends and I goofing around. My house is full of photos from my travels and not one of them is a building or landmark. Yeah, I’m glad I’ve walked across the Charles Bridge, but my first Prague memories go back to Hostel Orange and the friends I made there. When you think about your trip in retrospect you’ll think of the people more than the places. My advice, try and capture them the best you can.
Give Yourself Time
“To rush is to miss the experience”
You’ll be tempted to go to as many places as possible and fill each minute of every day with activities. To see everything a place has to offer. Well, guess what, you can’t. Accept it. While it’s important to make sure you see what you want to see it’s equally important to not overdue it. It’s better to see a few places in depth than to see a dozen barely at all. Looking back on my trip to Asia I could have happily spent an entire month in any one of those countries. There were times when I felt like I tried to do too much. Always on the go to the next activity or city. I didn’t leave the group as much time as I should have to let each place truly resonate. Do yourself a favor and give yourself time. I don’t think you’ll be too upset if that means you have to take a second trip.
Explore the Alleyway
“It is not down on any map; true places never are.”
When traveling, I love discovering new, unknown, obscure places. While some people opt to stick with Tripadvisor or Yelp for research and to validate their choices I go the opposite. I’m all about walking around a city and seeing where my feet take me. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for food, drinks, souvenirs, or a tailored suit in Bali the best places are always down the alleyway you almost didn’t see. Do yourself a favor and get off the main streets and explore a city’s alleyways. Those alleyways are the places where you truly get to discover a city and all that it has to offer.
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