Here are the rest of my current travel tips. This is what works for me, but clearly not for everyone. Still, if you’re used to traveling “on the beaten path,” try one of the tips from this post or the first one in this series and you might be surprised how it changes your view of travel. Or perhaps you’ll sign up for one of my tours someday.
When possible, take the bus or train instead of a flight. Walk or bike instead of taking a taxi. Ride on a motorbike or tuk-tuk and enjoy the fresh air and smiling faces of the people you pass in the street. Stay in a place for a week or month or three months. Immerse yourself in the culture by volunteering or working. Learn to live there and learn some of the language.
Whether traveling solo or with a friend or group, I quickly grow bored hopping from hotel to hotel and city to city every two-three days. Vicky Ann and I are doing that now and after one week already felt the need to slow down. We will continue to see as much as possible, but overall the balance of my year abroad will be spent by living for weeks or months at a time in specific places.
Use and Reuse Everything
“This is last night’s restaurant napkin,” she said as she wiped off her glasses after a long night on the train. Vicky Ann saves sugar packets, all of the hotel toiletries, and reuses every single plastic bag we have encountered. As a matter of fact, she gets excited when she gets another bag from the store and already plans its use before she empties it. She has been carrying around the empty shampoo bottle I left behind three weeks ago, just in case. (Correction: I’ve just been informed that the bottle is now carrying conditioner siphoned from various hotels we’ve stayed in.)
I’ve realized that I’ve become a lazy traveler in some ways. I don’t want to save things because I think it will weigh me down, but more than once I’ve had a snack of cranberries from Connecticut, or airplane cookies collected on the journey here, or used an extra bag Vicky Ann had on her. I did have a chuckle, however, when I caught her stuffing her used wet wipe from the restaurant back into the plastic wrapper. “It’s perfect for wiping my feet off after the beach.” I don’t know if I’ll ever be that resourceful, but I’m getting better thanks to my travel companion.
Live in the Moment
I’ve never seen anyone do this better than Vicky Ann. She wakes up talking about how excited she is to walk on the beach or get on a train. She may fret over whether or not she has the right change for the taxi, or some days she asks me repeatedly where we’re going the next day and how we’re getting there, but usually she just takes deep breaths and talks about how happy she is. Her positive energy is infectious and I’m learning to not think so much about everything else and to just enjoy the moment. Granted, that’s easier now that I am officially finished with my Fulbright work, but it’s something I’ll try to take with me in the future.
I like my time alone, but some of the most memorable travel experiences I’ve had are when I’ve met people on the road. Talking to locals or other travelers makes me feel more connected to a place and usually makes me want to return to it. It’s easy to do this with someone like Vicky Ann, who talks to just about every person she encounters, from hotel staff to children, train conductors, cafe workers, street vendors and more.
You will be ripped off. Some people will be rude. Drivers will cut you off or nearly run you over. You will be charged more simply for being from another place. Don’t let these experiences lead you to form stereotypes about the people of that place. Remember, all of the negative things that happen when you travel probably happen in your hometown. Understand that you will not always be happy and feel respected, but remember that these moments are temporary. There are amazing people to meet all over the world!
Cut Your Losses
I love a bargain as much as anyone, probably more than the average person. Sometimes, though, there isn’t a bargain to be had, or the lady on the corner charges you triple what it should cost for a bottle of water. Let these things go as soon as they happen. It’s not worth the energy to be angry over missing a cheaper deal or getting ripped off. And sometimes, these experiences lead to unexpected things that would never have happened otherwise.
Coming soon: Some of my favorite sites and apps for travel research and deals.