It’s a new year with a whole new set of resolutions. You should already have “travel more” on that list, but setting goals for how you travel is just as important. I’ve composed my most essential tips for improving how you travel, getting the most out of your dream vacation, and leaving nothing but good behind when you leave.
Travel Slow : When we only have so many days off work for vacation, we tend to cram as much into our trip as possible. It’s important to slow down, soak in the experience, and truly be in the moment. Limit the amount of sights you see in a day or cut out a city that you don’t feel you’ll have the time to thoroughly enjoy. Rushing through cities can leave you tired, stressed, and worn out. You may leave with a camera full of photos, but your memories will be a blur.
Go Somewhere You Didn’t Think To Go : It’s easy to dream about a vacation in Positano and the Caribbean with all the glamorous photos on instagram. Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful destinations, but there’s a whole world out there waiting to be discovered! Even if you’re short on vacation days, try to push yourself outside your comfort zone and pick a location that may hold unexpected wonders for you.
Take Nothing But Photos : When embarking on your travels (more importantly through nature), be sure to leave the nature behind. Don’t grab shells from the beach or pick off a piece of the Berlin wall that’ll just collect dust in your house. Leave the environment as you found it so others can enjoy its beauty as you did. Instead, support small and local businesses by buying handmade treats for your friends and family.
Meet The Locals : Take some time out of sightseeing to sit down with some of the local people and learn their story. The people you meet in a new place are just as important as the monuments and scenery. You can learn all the facts you like from your guide book but you can’t drink tea with a bedouin by reading a history book. This can also mean just people watching. You can learn so much by sitting down and soaking in the world as it moves around you.
Visit More Than Major Wonders : Some wonders of the world are slowly slipping away due to erosion and global warming, like Venice and the Maldives. It’s ok to see and visit these beauties before they’re gone or if they’re always been on your bucket list, but cities and countries are more than their highlights.
Remember to Get Lost : Your trip may be short or maybe it’s a guided tour. Regardless, letting yourself wander at least one day on the trip is so important to the overall experience. Some of the best spots are found by merely letting the map go and allowing your instincts to take over. After all, you’re getting away to have less obligations, not to schedule more. Be spontaneous!
Don’t Exploit Animals : You may not see it as exploitation or mistreatment because you only see the animal walking around in it’s habitat. But when you’re not there, those animals are beaten to be trained to behave when tourists are around. Locals in impoverished countries see that there is a niche for wild animal interaction and try to cater to the demand. Remember: if you don’t cuddle those animals at home, they’re probably wild and not meant to be cuddled.
Participate in Festivals : If something special is going on while you’re visiting a new place… jump in! Don’t be embarrassed of your dancing skills, just enjoy the moment and embrace the local tradition. It’s also a great idea to research any going ons in advance (or leave that to your travel professional – me!) to make sure you’re dressed appropriately and don’t miss the activities.
Try Something New : Whether it be a food, a sport, a language, or an activity, make sure to do at least 1 new thing you’ve never tried on your vacation. You may end up finding out it’s your new favorite, or it’ll at least be a great story to tell!
Reflect a Little, Each Day : A few years ago, I participated in a study abroad program in Cambodia for post-conflict resolution and spiritual healing. A very important part of the program was learning how to digest all the information and experiences we had that day, because some were more emotionally taxing than others. We each kept a journal and dissected our feelings about each meeting we had. Even just talking about what we saw helped to understand our experience more fully. It may not be necessary to carry a journal on a vacation as different outlets help different people. However, I find that when I take a small amount of time each day to reflect on my current life – whether alone in silence or with some new friends – the most influential encounters surface and I’m a tiny bit more grateful for my life than before.
Use a Professional : Like me! Quick getaways are easy to book yourself online, I won’t try to sugarcoat that. But authentic, one-of-a-kind trips should be designed by someone who dedicates their livelihood to the business. You can research as much as you like, but an agent like me can help you make sense of that overload of knowledge you’ve read. Also, leaving the trip organization to me reduces the stress of the planning process and gets you into the travel groove quicker (not to mention getting you out of a pickle while you’re abroad)!