You have travelled, made mistakes, stepped out of your comfort zone a couple of times, right? Well, me too. And I realized I also learned very useful things about travel along the way in the past few years. Here are some of them – from mindful advice to practical tips. Read on and let me tell you what you can do to get more out of travel. Maybe you already do these things, but even in that case – I believe it’s good to be reminded.
- JUST STOP FOR A MOMENT, WON’T YOU?
Once in awhile, stand still in the middle of a busy sidewalk or a bustling bazaar. Take a deep breath and take the moment in. Use all of your senses. What do you see? What do you smell? Do you like it? What’s the melody of that language? Or maybe you can hear someone singing? Purposely create a vivid memory that you can go back to in the future. Your future-self will thank you for that.
- TALK TO PEOPLE, WHENEVER AND AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN
And I don’t mean the fun crowd in the hostel (though, admittedly, those can be great and informative conversations too). I mean the lady who sells you fruits, your rickshaw driver or the other passengers in the local bus. If you’re like me and not always brave enough to start the chat, don’t worry. Very often it will be your counterparts who’ll initiate the talking. Just make sure you go along with it and you might be surprised how much inspiration you’ll receive by hearing the stories of others.
- BUY A COMPASS
Now that’s a practical one and comes from my own experiences after getting lost in one of Morocco’s medinas for the hundredth time. I kept thinking about how much time I could save (and use to see more of the city), if only I were able to figure out the directions in that maze of tangled streets, instead of asking random strangers “Ou je suis?” all the time. A map is not enough when narrow lanes turn in different angles and you can’t even see the position of the sun behind the high walls… And that’s surely not the only situation where a compass may come in handy.
- LEARN TO LOVE PLANNING
“Wait, what? And you call yourself a true traveller, Paulina?”, you might wonder. Well, as much as I admire all the spontaneous nomads wandering for months without any fixed agenda, let’s admit that most of us have to squeeze our travel experience into a limited slice of time. So, a) planning everything in detail saves you a lot of time for actual exploring and enjoying on site and b) planning your trip weeks before your departure is a lot of fun and builds up the excitement. If you don’t want to have a fixed itinerary, that’s ok. Instead of booking accommodation in a certain destination, write down 2-3 options with phone numbers and keep them just in case. Check local transport prices on-line to budget properly. And don’t forget, plans can always be changed for the right reasons. Just saying.
- ASK FOR LOCAL EVENTS
Let’s assume you just talked for some time with your driver. Listened to his story, exchanged some opinions, established a somewhat friendly relationship. Now would be a good time to ask if he knows about any interesting events taking place in the area. Chances are, he’ll mention a wedding party of his neighbor, a village festivity, a religious ceremony or something else that may be an amazing opportunity for you to become more familiar with the local culture. Obviously it doesn’t happen every time, but more often than you may think. There’s no harm in asking.
- KEEP AN OPEN MIND AND QUESTION YOUR BELIEFS
In other words, don’t judge a book by its cover. It might be an obvious truth for all of us, who consider themselves mindful travelers, yet in practice we all make this mistake, me included. And that’s ok too, because making mistakes is part of the learning process. But, what I really want to say, is that travelling is one of the best methods to verify your beliefs about the world, about people, about stereotypes.
Sounds great, but how to make it an actual part of your travel experience? Easy. Every time when you make an unconscious judgement, f.e. based on someone’s looks, ask yourself – “Do I really believe it? Or did I just unconsciously copy this belief from my family, peers or from some random people on tv? What is my intuition telling me?”. Trust yourself enough to form your own beliefs.
What are your ways to get more out of your travel experiences? I’d love to know them. And if you enjoyed reading about mine, please share this post with anyone you think might benefit from it.