I’ve been doing a lot of planning and dreaming since we’ve returned from Europe and I’ve been especially enjoying the site bootsnall.com ; a great resource for long term international travel. It has really useful tips and info for families, gap year travellers, backpackers and international volunteers as well as many more. One article in particular really jumped out at me. It’s meant for New Year’s, but since September is the start to the new year in a teacher’s family, I thought it would be very appropriate for this week. I especially like the ideas for living like a traveller when you’re at home. It’s always a little sad to come home from a big trip and it’s nice to be reminded that just because the trip is over it doesn’t mean we can’t still be explorers where we are. Enjoy!
1. Take your travel in any portion you can
At BootsnAll, we believe that the life-changing experience of extended travel is possible for almost anyone. But we also understand that it’s not always the right fit (or the right time) for every traveler. If you can’t get away for longer trips, take your travel in small chunks. Taking weekend trips, booking red-eye flights, and planning your trips around holidays to take advantage of extra free days off can help you get more out of limited time, but remember that not every trip needs to be epic. Pick destinations that seem manageable for the amount of time that you have, don’t worry about “seeing it all,” and expect that you’ll return at some point in the future.
2. Earn your experiences
Maybe it’s the endorphins or the adrenaline that kicks in during physical activity, but some of the best travel moments are the ones that are earned with sweat, tears, and a few small bruises. Get active and experience the world on a human-powered adventure. Go hike, kayak, swim, run, climb, ride, row, push, pull, hang, crawl, jump or whatever else gets you moving.
3. See less, experience more
You know the traveler type….the one who is running around from monument to museum, pausing for a moment to snap a picture, and then scurrying off to check the next item off a packed itinerary. It’s easy to recognize the most extreme examples of this type of whirlwind traveler; it’s harder to recognize the signs of trying to do to much in your own travel behavior.
Travel shouldn’t be about getting it done, but about savoring the moment.
If you find yourself needing a vacation after your trip, if the only conversations you have with locals involve ordering food or buying museum tickets, and if you come home with more photographs than memories, you may be forsaking the experience of travel for the accomplishment of it. Travel shouldn’t be about getting it done, but about savoring the moment. Slow down, unpack, relax, stay awhile.
4. Invest in good gear
We’re always extolling the benefits of packing light; it makes travel easier, cheaper, and more convenient. But without the proper gear, traveling light is much more difficult. Just try going two weeks with three shirts that aren’t quick-drying, and after spending all your time waiting for your sink-washed clothes to dry or hanging out in the laundromat, you may give up on packing light altogether. Investing in gear that is designed to help you travel with less can make all the difference. Compression sacks, quick-drying and lightweight clothes, and the right toiletries are worth the investment.
5. Protect yourself
No one wants to think about something going wrong on a trip, but nothing ruins a trip faster than unexpected illness or injury, and the financial strain that can come with them. Most travelers won’t need insurance on their trip; they’ll return home with only happy memories. But for those who do encounter unexpected problems, insurance can be a literal lifesaver. From replacing stolen goods to getting you home in the event of major injury, insurance is one of those things which, when you need it, you reallyneed it. Protecting yourself, your family, and your financial investment in your trip is worth the minor expense.
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6. Get past the “once-in-a-lifetime” roadblock
“Going on an African safari is a once-in a-lifetime-experience, so I want to do it right.”
“I’ll probably only go to Europe once, so I want to see it all.”
“This will be our last trip before we have kids, so it needs to be amazing.”
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to splurge on a trip you’ll remember forever, and of course there are some destinations that you will probably only go to once. But the problem with the “once-in-a-lifetime” mentality is that it leads to “all-or-nothing” thinking. Too many travelers think that they don’t have enough time or money to “do the place right” and so they keep waiting until they have more time or more money. Except it never comes, and so they never go.
Snap out of it! One week in Italy is better than none, and going on a budget safari is better than never going at all. Compromise on your dream trips and you’ll find it’s easier to make them a reality.
7. Change up your travel style
If you’ve been traveling for any length of time, you probably have a well-defined travel style. You might be a budget-backpacker, a mid-range traveler, or a slow traveler; you might crave adventure, prefer the beach, or stick to cities. Change things up a bit!
If you usually go budget, splurge a bit on your next trip – book one night in an ultra-luxe hotel, or bump up to business class, or spend big on a multi-course gourmet feast. If you prefer the finer things in life, seek out some street food or try a night at a hostel. If you’re an adventure junkie, take a break on the beach for a few days, and if you’re a sun-worshipper, add some active adventures off the beach. Solo traveler? Plan a trip with your parents. In a couple? Go it alone next time. Changing things up can help you discover more to love about travel.
8. Save the planet you love to explore
We travel to meet people, to experience things outside our normal life, to eat, to drink, to do. And we travel to explore this big, beautiful planet we call home. Yet, there’s no denying that the very act of travel is effecting the planet’s ecosystem in a negative way. Planes, trains, and buses all add pollution to the atmosphere. The hotels we stay in and restaurants we eat in also require energy to operate. And if we’re not careful, the tours we take and treks we go on can actually harm the local environment and peoples we’re going to visit.
You can’t eliminate the negative impact your travel has on the Earth, but you can reduce or offset it. Travel slowly, go by foot or take mass transit as much as possible. Respect the local culture and environment and only support businesses that do as well. Give back to the local communities you visit, and encourage others to do the same.
9. Boldly go solo
Traveling alone for the first time can be scary. You might worry if it’s safe, if you’ll be lonely, who you will talk to. But what you’ll quickly discover is that solo travelers are never really alone unless they want to be, and that there is always someone to talk to, eat with, or explore alongside. Many solo travelers also say they meet more people than when they travel in a group, as they are more approachable alone. If you’ve never gone on a trip by yourself, make this the year you do, even if it’s just for a weekend. And if you have taken a few trips alone, go bigger this year, traveling solo longer or farther than you have in the past.
10. Learn something
The best trips teach us something, whether that be something about ourselves or the place we’ve gone to explore. Embrace more opportunities to learn on your next trip by taking a class in something that interests you. From one-day cooking or dance classes to week-long lessons in art, culture, language and activities, studying around the world is one more way to make a deeper connection with the local culture.
11. Be a traveler at home
Part of travel is about experiencing new places, seeing and doing new things, and meeting new people. So many travelers are open all these things when they’re on a trip to a foreign place, and yet they quickly forget the traveler’s mindset as soon as they return home.
Be a traveler no matter where you are. Be a tourist in your own town. Try a new restaurant; head to a side of town you never visit; find a new event, festival, or parade you’ve never attended; go to a museum you’ve never explored. Look at your familiar environment with fresh eyes and try to see it as you would a new destination.
12. Eat something that scares you
Chances are, you probably try a few new foods on every trip – spicy curries in Thailand, the local fish in Colombia, a traditional dessert in Italy. It looks good, it smells good and it’s local, so you try it. Why not go beyond that a bit, and try something that you actually don’t think you’ll like? You don’t have to start chomping insects or rotten shark (unless you want to), just sample something you wouldn’t normally expect to enjoy. If offal isn’t your thing, at least try the tripe in Rome, and don’t scoff at lentils without at least tasting them in an Ethiopian berbere sauce. You’re mom was right: you don’t know if you’ll like it until you try, and if you don’t, you may miss out on something delicious.
13. Find your quest
The earliest adventurers didn’t travel to “get away” from something, they were searching for something. You don’t have to go in search of a new land or a new trade route in order to follow in their footsteps. Plan your own quest, whether it be an ambitious goal like biking from North America to the bottom of South America or a more personal journey, like tracing you family history. Having a greater purpose to your goal can give you more motivation to achieve it.
14. Talk to strangers and make meaningful connections
One of the best parts of travel can be the connections you make with locals and other travelers. If you tend to be on the shy side, focus on making more meaningful connections on the road. Strike up a conversation with a stranger in a cafe, on the bus, or in your hostel common room. Try a home exchange program to get a better look at local life, or Couchsurf for the first time. And don’t forget the connections you already have; keep up correspondence with people you’ve met on your trips, and plan more visits to family and friends who don’t live locally. Visiting someone you know in another city gives you a built-in local guide and helps you save money.
15. Be impulsive
Some of the most memorable experience are the ones we never expected to have. This year, vow to be more spontaneous. Book a last minute trip or arrive somewhere with no plans and just see where the wind takes you. On a longer trip, leave one day (or week) or one destination up in the air, or plan a mystery day trip where you just get on the next train and see where it takes you in an hour’s time. You can even apply the same idea locally. Pick a nearby city and just drive or hop on public transit and get off at a new stop. With no time to prepare, you can be more open to serendipity.
16. Be an inspiration
Think back to the time before your first big trip. You may have wondered if someone like you could actually do this. Could you study abroad, could you go on a trip alone, could you travel for a whole year? Maybe what pushed you over the edge and made you finally just do it was the advice or inspiration of someone who had shared their own story with you. Pay it forward by inspiring someone else to take a trip, to travel more, or to accomplish their own travel goals.
17. Ditch the technology
Smartphones and easy access to the internet have been great for travelers. We can stay connected with home, easily make travel arrangements, and get local information at the touch of a button. But all this technology can also keep us from truly being present; we’re too busy tweeting about the moment to really appreciate it. Take some time to disconnect. Spend at least one day on your trip without tweeting, Facebooking, or texting. Go a week without checking email. Or really take a tech-break by traveling to a destination where you won’t have any internet or cell service at all.
18. Make this the year you do it
How many times have you said that this was the year you would visit that place, or save for a round the world trip, or travel solo? Stop putting it off! It doesn’t get any easier, you aren’t getting any younger, and there will never be a perfect time. Don’t let five, or ten, or twenty years go by before you know it. Whatever your travel dream is – to sleep on the Great Wall of China, to dive in the Red Sea, to ride a horse in Mongolia, to stomp grapes in France, to haggle in the markets of Morocco, or to take a round-the-world trip – make this the year you make it happen! Come up with a plan to achieve your goals in small steps and make 2014 the year you realize your travel dreams.
It doesn’t get any easier, you aren’t getting any younger, and there will never be a perfect time.