A few months ago, we wrote an article about the 5 Life Lessons We’ve Learned From Travel. That article was very personal to our journey and a testament to our relationship, so we wanted to create a more general list that other people can find inspiration from.
While we don’t believe there is ever a “right” way to travel, there are certainly some simple concepts that we think can deepen one’s journey.
10. don’t pack too much
It’s just not necessary. Pack staples and mix and match. Leave room for a souvenir. Research says that travelers are guilty of the 80/20 rule: wearing 20% of the clothes you packed for 80% of the trip.
9. limit planning
Some travelers feel as if every hour of a trip should be planned out, while others claim to fly from the seat of their pants. Personally, we are a combination of the two. A little research and education can help your trip run more smoothly and lower costs, but it’s important to leave plenty of room for spontaneity.
8. limit expectations
We all have high hopes and expectations for a trip – especially when we’re using our precious vacation days and savings. Chances are though, the fewer expectations you hold, the better (and more exciting) you’re travels will be. Certainly get excited for an upcoming adventure, but don’t expect everything to be as you imagined in your head. You will be pleasantly surprised by chance discoveries instead of stressed when everything doesn’t go the way you planned. Our last trip to Morocco was one of our best because we had zero expectations. Along the same lines – be weary of Pinterest (or any web) travel images. While they serve their purpose for inspiration and daydreaming, know that Photoshop can be deceiving and inaccurate.
7. be patient
Things will go wrong on your trip. It’s probably best to just accept that now. Planes will be delayed, the weather won’t cooperate as planned, and inevitably you’ll forget to charge your camera battery or pack that one item that would really help you in that moment. In the end, it really won’t matter too much. I know it’s easier said than done, but rolling with the punches is the only way to go. Basically, you have two options: A) make the best of it and move on, or B) let it get you down and ruin your trip. Which do you choose?
6. be a good representative
While negative opinions of the US of A can make your blood pressure rise, remember that you cannot be the ultimate defender of every American. There’s some truth to all stereotypes – don’t act to reinforce the negative ones. Seek out opportunities to educate and inform without chastising. Some comments and actions are just better left unacknowledged. Most importantly, don’t let one negative person or experience discount all the positive.
5. eat local food
Try something new. Even if you end up hating it, at least you tried and put yourself out there. Local dishes are the window to another culture. Don’t cheat yourself out of a truly authentic experience. We don’t discourage indulging in a pizza from Italy or a glass of wine from Portugal. These are must do activities! What we are saying is that we also encourage trying local dishes that might scare you at first. Street food. Non chain restaurants. Meat on a stick. You know, what the locals are eating. You might be hesitant at first, but in our experience it has proved to be a highlight of several of our trips. Why leave the house if you’re not willing to take yourself out of your comfort zone?
Or ride a bicycle. But, really, you should just walk.
Particularly coming from two people that live in a city that doesn’t encourage walking, this is probably the thing we miss the most about being on the road. There is no better way to explore a city and notice the unexpected little things. It is the easiest (and cheapest) way to experience life as a local and if you were in a taxi, you could easily miss out on a memorable interaction.
3. know when to splurge and when to save
Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. Don’t believe me? Check out our previous articles on How to Save Money While Traveling and Countries to Visit on a Budget. You don’t need to spend thousands on nice resorts, private transportation or package ‘deals’. (No judgement if that’s your thing. It’s just not our way of travel.)
That said – why go somewhere new if you’re not willing to shell out some cash to fully experience the place? In the beginning of our travels, we were constantly seeking out the cheapest room no matter how bad it was, and opted out of many “tourist” activities to save money. We wanted our budget to last as long as possible. In order to do that, we had to make cuts and be careful of what we spent our money on. While we both agreed to pass on the $30 Eiffel Tower keychain, there are times that we probably missed out on opportunities, activities, and experiences that would have made our trip more enjoyable and memorable because we were so hesitant to spend money. Since then, we’ve made a point to splurge on experiences that are meaningful to us, such as camping in the Sahara Desert.
In reality, when will you ever get the chance to visit that city again?
2. be open
For many, traveling gives us a chance to escape our normal routine. Use this as an opportunity to shake things up! On the road, you are no long Sarah from Accounting. No one knows who you are or where you’ve been. Open yourself to new experiences, new people, new cultures, new foods, and possibly a new you. Refer to rule #9: limit planning.
1. be grateful
Traveling around the world is not a right. While many people in the Western world have the ability to travel freely, (that is if they make it a priority) for others it can be impossible. Considering expenses, challenging visa processes, and economic statuses, not everyone can travel. Appreciate that you are given this opportunity and make your travel experiences that much more meaningful.