I’m about to go on a six month travel adventure through the tropics (with some skiing in between). I wanted to gather some advice for myself and others about how to travel well.
- Don’t treat travel like a holiday
Make the most of it. Treat travelling like a skill to master; time spent travelling and not working is precious and travelling well is an art. You’re in somewhere amazing, different and unique and it’s all around you. If you want to sleep in, sit around reading a trashy novel or watching TV during the day, do it at home. It’s much cheaper to be lazy at home than in a hotel.
- Be present where you are
Don’t worry about what’s happening at home; don’t spend your time on your phone messaging people about the minutiae of your trip. Travel is for you. Meditate on your surroundings. Watch what is happening around you in the forest, at the café, in the city square. The little details that make the world. It’s hard to leave behind the worries of home; try telling yourself “I’ll deal with that when I’m back” or keep a list of things to do – write it down then it’s out of your mind. If you do need to work whilst travelling, plan a fixed time not just whenever you get the chance. After dinner is usually ideal – often it’s when there’s not much else to do.
- Find a sustaining travel pace
You don’t want to rush from place to place; you don’t want to waste your time. You don’t want to return home exhausted but you do want to feel like you’ve made the most of the precious experience. Everything you do and see, you want to really feel. That’s not the same as ticking everything off a list. A good pace is usually one thing in the morning and one in the afternoon but find out what works for you.
- Feel physically the best ever
You want to return home feeling the best you ever have. Away from the pressures of home life, you’ve actually got the time to go swimming in a tropical sea or walking the back country. Traditional cooking is generally healthy. Why overindulge in food, alcohol or laziness whilst travelling? No need to ruin that awesome new tan with a big new belly.
- Learn something new or practice your passion
Travelling is about growing as a person. Sure, every new experience adds to this, but if you consciously take time to learn something new or improve at something you do, a few hours spent this way will give you something forever. What about a local cooking class or do yoga every morning? It’s not often we have more than two days in a row free to practice and improve at something. As a friend pointed out, the best thing you can learn is the local language.
- Talk to people; listen more than you speak
People make a place and people know a place. Find out the best local restaurant or a hidden waterfall, get other travellers’ tips or just understand local life. To avoid awkwardness or local taboos, aim to talk with people of similar age/gender to you. Just make sure you listen more than you talk and ask lots of questions. What are you getting out of telling a local about boring suburban life back home? I have no idea why people do this. Travelling can be lonely though – if a single traveller talks to you, treat them with grace.
- Plan well but be open to opportunities
By planning you are being intentional with your travel and taking control of your life. If you don’t do the research about the good places to see and stay, you could be round the corner from the experience of your life and you’d never know. The best restaurants are often booked out leaving you to eat second grade. You also avoid that terrible feeling of not knowing where you will sleep tonight (always book accommodation at least one night ahead). But remember, planning is about knowing the options rather than drawing up a fixed schedule before you leave – sometimes you get crazy opportunities or new tips on the road and these often become the most memorable times of your trip.
- Photograph for your 80 year old self looking back
Photograph for the long term, not for Facebook. Your photographs help bring back memories, so don’t feel guilty for pulling the camera out. Photograph for telling a story – you will want to remember where you stayed, what you ate and who you met. Photograph the details as well as the vistas – go big and small. The best times for photographing are the hour after dawn and the hour before sunset. You might not make every dawn, but it’s worth taking a wander in the golden hour to take some beautiful snaps.
- Live at home the way you travel
You’ve had the experience of your life and you feel the best you ever had. Before the wave of normal life hits, take some time to reflect on your trip. What did you learn about yourself? And what do you want to do going forward? Life is a journey and everything that made travel special you can have at home. Keep carrying that feeling of empowerment with you after the trip.