It is so many things for so many people. For some its a lifestyle, for others it’s a dream and for many more its a temporary escape and indulgence.For me it is something that always makes the updated ‘life goals list’ and has since a young age. I always have a list of places I want to visit next…there is always the top 5 at that moment. I surround myself with travel books and guides and ambition of living from my suitcase and waking to find myself in a foreign location, blindly navigating through the back streets of cities and burying my feet in the sands of the land, watching waves hit the different shores across the world.
Travel and exploration hit deeply into my soul. It gives me a buzz and a warmth like nothing else. My memory bank is filled with adventures and experiences that I pinch myself at having, yet a lot of my desires have come from blind courage…they have been the best experiences to date!
I am a child of parents that left their homeland solo at the tender age of 16 years and resettled millions of kilometers away – they didn’t even remain on the same continent. My grandfather was a traveling salesman who regularly left his family for work. My father use to say that my grandfather believed that all he needed was a passport and a suitcase under his bed – it was a motto I wished to live by. While I haven’t done a lot of traveling in comparison to others, I have traveled a reasonable amount. Further, while I love writing I am by no means a travel blogger… let’s leave that to those who do it best.
However, my most recent European escape had me reminiscing over the reasons for the invisible pull to travel and what knowledge I have gained. As a result, here are my top 10 wisdom’s drawn from my overseas travel experiences.
1. Throw out all expectations – Placing pressure on any situation puts it in a disadvantaged starting point. Travel shouldn’t be about expecting instant relaxation or expecting perfection as it was sold to you in a glossy ad. You are traveling because you are in search…all the experiences to tumble in as you are ready to receive them…
2. Throw away your narrow vision – You have embarked on travel because you want to experience something different – let’s be honest, if you just wanted rest you would check in locally – that plane ride invites different experiences.
Mark Twain once said,
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”
This quote could not sum the experience up any better and should be part of any travelers’ bible of experience.
Examples: If you see a fish tank full of fish on the floor in a beauty type shop with a sign telling you to pay to stick your feet in, don’t stand there questioning it – the better question is what’s taking so long to get your feet in there!
If you enter a toilet facility that is on the floor (ie no actual seat), pray your thighs are strong enough to hold the squat position until you finish your business!
If you are out to eat, there is no cutlery and everyone around you are using their fingers, pause before you ask for cutlery… try to widen your mind and try. Yes you may not eat like this at home but then what was the point of leaving home if not to gain experiences!
3. Do not assume – Assumptions need to be trained out of you – replace assumptions with asking the actual questions. For example, I thought ‘red’ was universally the sign for hot water. Wrong… or one particular hotel I stayed at is breaking all rules against conformity (respect!). I showered in freezing cold water because I assumed the red tap was my only option – until my husband took the chance to try instead of assume… his shower was much much more pleasant. Assumptions that the way things are done at home are the expectation in other lands is flawed. Universal understanding of things may be right in some instances but not in all. Traveling is a sharp reminder that there are other ways for things to be done and there isn’t a superior race or country…
4. Throw away fear – (please note that does not refer to throwing away common sense).
On your travels do not be afraid to eat from that street vendor – yes it may look weird but it may also taste amazing! Or not your taste at all! Heck you may start talking to the person selling the food and be amazed by who they are!
Don’t be afraid of language barriers, it simply makes for interesting conversations to be had. An important reminder to pack in your back pocket at all times is that locals world wide respond to kindness and trying. If they see you are genuinely trying to communicate with them in a kind manner, people will attempt to help. It may result in a level of frustration for all but you may also get to the final point of shared communication.
Another common fear is whether you have packed everything. If you forgot it, you don’t need it – no fear required.
5. Don’t watch your holiday through your camera lense. It’s important to capture your memories to play back over and marvel at the beauty you have captured and the great things you have experienced for the long term, but your memory should equally be a photo album, capturing mental photos of what you see, how you felt, what you heard and what you smelt. The tastes and the touch. The feelings of being happy, content, amazed, overwhelmed. The emotions are endless. Enjoy the moments as you are there. Soak it in. Marvel at where you are at that moment.
6. The locals are your best information source – use it! Don’t be afraid to approach a local to ask about bus routes, best visiting destinations or even hotel information. They are often armed with the best knowledge and more than willing to assist. You may even get their story…
7. Flexibility! Some degree of planning is important but to plan every day takes out the fun of ‘anything can happen’. You may learn about different activities or locations that weren’t in your original plans – what then? Miss out? I find holidays are best when they are left to fate and planned a few days at a time – that also allows for all sorts of unexpected things like unexpected dinner plans with locals or random bus trips to discover parts not on the tourist map!
8. Down days – While we want to fit in as many things into our travels as possible because we reason that we have spent a lot of money and invested a lot of time in a place that you may not have a chance to return to, it’s just as important that our life battery has the time to recharge. Down days are perfect. You don’t necessarily know when one is required but some days just need to be set aside for things such as clothes washing and strolling around the area doing not much at all. You don’t want to come home needing a holiday from your holiday. You equally don’t want to be exhausted as you struggle to keep up with a walking tour or too tired to listen because you would much prefer to sit in the shad and rest because everyday is packed to capacity with activities to tick off your list…remember to listen to your body…
9. Reviews! Read them, Use them and Write them!
There is an abundance of webpages that have traveler contributions that could be vital! Take caution in acting on bad reviews (ie avoiding somewhere you actually want to visit) because not everyone’s views and experiences are the same, however reading through reviews can identify common treads – ie. The place isn’t clean… when that review is appearing in most reviews, take note. Other tips can be things such as ‘where to find a laundromat in’ which may be exactly what others need…
Don’t be afraid to pen or more modernly referred to as ‘type’ your own reviews. The sharing of information can only remain updated with traveler contributions and can be vital to the sanity of a fellow traveler who is down to their final clean pair of underwear.
10. Holidays are a sanity saver ~ they are vital for your mental health. They should be planned into each year just as we prepare for Christmas or another holiday. Working until you crash and virtually burn wastes the first few days of your holiday because you need the recovery time. Holidays are an important time to drop your guard on life and just be. Regardless of whether you are traveling to an exotic destination or merely taking day trips close to home – it all counts…
Those are my top 10… there were a few more that spring to mind but there is a Mediterranean ocean awaiting for me to jump into; an amazing pizza waiting to be eaten and some sun to soak up before it is my turn to return to my life’s routine in Melbourne.