Throughout my times traveling there are a few personal tips I’ve learned that I try to remind myself of as I start off on new voyages. Little lessons I carry with me to each new place I explore. Whether going on a quick work trip, a year long backpacking trip or anything in between, it’s important to be conscientious of how your traveling can be meaningful and beneficial to not only yourself but to the people you meet along the way.
Everyone’s style of travel is unique so what works for me might not for you, but I just wanted to share some of the things I find have helped me to make the most out of my travels. If you have any of your own feel free to add them in the comments!
COMMUNICATION & CONNECTION
Depending on the length of your trip and the amount of time you have beforehand to prepare, trying your best to learn the language of your destination is invaluable. Don’t feel like you need to become fluent, or even close! But spending some time getting comfortable with the local language is an amazing way to connect to the culture and the people of where you will be going. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself, just the fact that you’re trying will help you engage and respect the local life. For those less language inclined, be conscious of other ways to connect with others. Whether with locals or fellow travelers, sharing music, a laugh, a friendly gesture or a good deed are all universally appreciated.
‘NO PLAN’ DAYS
It’s tempting to plan out every day of your travels with a detailed itinerary. You don’t want to miss anything. But some of the most memorable days of my traveling life have been when I wandered across experiences that were ‘off the list’ so-to-say. Giving yourself a break from pre-planned days not only keeps things surprising, but helps you discover things off the beaten path. For example, instead of visiting all the ‘Lonely Planet suggestions’ try asking a local what their favorite restaurants/parks/events are and see where it takes you.
TUNE DOWN THE SOCIAL MEDIA
I wouldn’t be lying if I said that when I’m traveling the thought ‘ooh that would be a good Instagram photo’ pops in my head quite often. But I’ve learned the hard way that wanting to ‘share’ your experiences with the interwebs can disconnect you from actually experiencing what’s right in front of you. It sounds cliché but it’s true. I’ve found that allowing myself only a small block of time a day/week to be on social media (literally setting a timer) helps keep me more connected to the real world around me.
The world of travel can often feel like one big contest for who can see the most places and do the most things in their time. I used to jam pack my travels, never spending more than a few days in each place and whizzing through my days. While this is no doubt exhilarating, it leaves little time to make meaningful connections to other people and feel grounded in a new place. If you’re travel time is limited you can still embrace slow travel by consciously using every minute to it’s most. For example, instead of impatiently waiting for transportation, try journaling, sketching your surroundings or try practicing the language with someone else in line.
KNOW YOUR IMPACT
The travel industry has immense power to transform communities across the globe on both societal and economical levels. Use your impact as a traveler for good by being conscious of who and what you are supporting. Everything from your transportation and accommodation to your shopping and tour choices directly impact the communities you are visiting. If possible, try to support marginalized workers, businesses and beneficial causes through your travel choices. In turn, be aware of how these experiences impact you and what takeaways and lessons you can bring home with you.
I can't think of any experience better than getting to explore new cultures and countries. There's so much to learn and ways to grow through traveling. By being mindful and meaningful in our travels we can generate lasting impact for others and ourselves long after the trip is through.