How to be a better world traveler
Summer has officially kicked off and that means a whole lot of road trips, weekend getaways and vacations are going to happen in the next few months and who isn't excited for that?
As you plan your travel itineraries, some attention also needs to be paid elsewhere to enjoy your trip even more. Yes, staying at the best hotels or visiting notable "Best cities in Europe to Visit Before You Die" locations can ensure a great time, but there are plenty of other little details you should mind before you leave to guarantee a fuller experience while travelling.
1. Plan your packing right
And this starts with choosing the proper travel accessory. Whether you're going the backpack or the luggage route, choose one that is suitable for your destination and activities. It goes without saying that backpacks are overall better for those who are going to be moving locations frequently or visiting less developed areas which would make backpacks easier to transport. Research this well and only get the backpack or luggage for what you will need to bring. Do not go for the largest capacity simply because it offers more space because you will likely end up regretting getting such a large bag to lug around.
2. The lighter, the better
Speaking of lugging things around, that is one side of travel that is always bothersome. If only baggage teleportation could exist already (someone get one this!). But alas, we still live in the 21st century and carrying all our belongings with us is still the norm, so packing light is the simplest option to avoid any frustration down the road. Using packing tools such as packing cubes or compression bags help greatly to reduce the size of your cargo and neatly separates your items for easy access later. Using travel size products and travel friendly items like light travel towels and fast drying pieces of clothing will help make your packing decisions much simpler.
3. Learn some basics words
Now, I struggle with this all the time, but as experience has shown, even a simple greeting or thank you in the native language can shift attitudes very quickly. Tourists tend to have a bad reputation and truthfully, I can totally understand why. Whether it's ordering a meal or asking for directions from locals, a genuine greeting can totally eradicate memories of loud, pushy and rude tourists of time past. So quickly research some words that will serve to be useful (Where is the bathroom? How much does this cost? Hello. Thank you. Etc) and practice before going. I've tried to learn words before and was never able to pronounce it properly but my attempts and effort were always appreciated by the locals and helped give them a laugh which helped me get a friendlier response.
4. Get travel insurance
Seriously. You never want to leave your home without it because that added security will be much appreciated if you fall ill, because like it or not, you are not immune to it. Some credit cards have great travel insurance coverage now so that makes it already much easier to deal with.
5. Get your tech in gear
Do you need your laptop for your beach holiday? Probably not. And not to be a party pooper, but remember that the more you bring, the more you are risking to lose, leave behind or damage. So perhaps a vacation should also be one spent unplugged and leave your tech items at home.
However, if you do need such items with you, then get those babies road ready! Get your universal plug so you can charge your electronic devices anywhere, bring smaller travel chargers to save space and bring extra power packs if you will be visiting places with unreliable power sources (this one is a lifesaver!).
6. Be open to authentic experiences
Don't be shy to try new cuisine or activities tied to the region you are visiting. Go where the locals go and do what the locals do. That is one of the simplest ways to immerse yourself into a new culture. Guidebooks give you a great guideline of where tourists should visit, but for real authenticity, follow the locals. It's sometimes hard to leave our comfort zones, but leaving that bubble for something new is what will leave a touch of magic and stay with you longer than eating burger and fries at a westernized restaurant made for tourists.
7. Be kind
Leave the attitude, stress and judgements at home thank you. You are visiting a new land and a new culture and you made the conscious decision to visit this place so please don't "Ewww" or "I can't believe they eat that" or "Why are they dressed like that?" your way around your visit. That's just plain disrespectful and making you lose sight of the whole point of traveling. Be kind instead and appreciate that others live the way they do and if they eat something un-appetizing, simply be happy no one is forcing you to eat that. Also, be kind to the waiters and taxi drivers. Ask them "How are you?" before placing your orders or negotiating a taxi rate. "How are you" is a powerful tool to make people feel like you are seeing them as another human with perhaps a good or bad day under their belt. Going straight to business without the simple "How are you" is very typical and I've seen many waiters taken aback when I start with a simple smile and "How are you". Try it, you'll know what I mean.
8. Set your expectations low
Sharing on your Facebook feed that you are "OFF TO AN EPIC ADVENTURE!!" as you wait to board for your flight to Thailand can seem reasonable, but what if it rains the entire time you're there? Expectations can be what makes or breaks your fun. Be open to live the adventure that awaits you, whether it was what was preconceived in your mind or not. Perhaps the rain led you to find a sweet artist studio that you wouldn't otherwise have found. People often paint their travels as perfect and highlight the amazing parts of their trip, so don't compare or expect when you are travelling. Just enjoy your own little adventure that is yours and nobody else's.
9. Be patient
The transportation will be a mess, there is a delay at the airport, your room isn't ready... A myriad of unforeseen issues can mess up your plan. There is nothing much you can do about it, so harness your patience and don't let setbacks ruin your day or your entire vacation. Roll with the punches.
10. Leave small footprints
Ever seen the aftermath of a music festival or beach party? It basically looks like a tornado passed through a dump. There is trash littered everywhere. Or even worse, when you hike through national parks and see terrible engravings on trees that says "Adam + Rachel 2012", it just makes my skin crawl. Traveling is about leaving the place the same if not better than it was before you got there. Leaving your mark there is unnecessary and very disrespectful to the land and people who take care of those places. If everybody who passed by there did the same thing, how ugly would those beaches or national parks be at this point? Littered with trash and strangers name who we really couldn't care less about. If you must leave a mark, go to a tattoo parlour and get your self inked with whatever jibberish you want. Just leave nature alone.
11. Contentment, not content
"If there is no picture on Instagram or Facebook about your experience, did it really happen?" That is the new philosophical struggle of our era. Capturing moments on your phone or camera to share (or brag) to others has surpassed our desire to enjoy the moment. Filming an elephant bathing in front of you and seeing this majestic moment through your camera lens trumps watching it with your own two eyes. How crazy does that sound?
But alas, that is how our social media minds work now. My last and final tip on how to be a better explorer would simply be to aim for contentment and not content. Enjoy the moments first and then if you must, capture it. But don't reach for your phone or camera instinctively for everything. Reach for your thoughts on what you are observing and allow this moment to register in your consciousness.
Now, go off and explore with these tips under your belt and enjoy a whole new experience of world travel! Happy travels!