Human beings are strange beasts, especially in the 21st century. In so many ways, we’re our own worst enemies whether it’s professionally, romantically and yes, even when it comes to travel. Today I want to share a few ways in which you might be (probably are) sabotaging your own best intentions to travel more often and to enjoy the experience for what it is.
The world is dangerous – this is a misconception expressed especially by my fellow countrymen and is oh so wrong. I think some folks have a natural inclination to distrust anything foreign, and every news story about any issue, no matter how trivial, only feeds into that false mythology. With some notable exceptions, the world is on the whole a fairly safe place. Does that mean you should travel carefree? No, you always need to take precautions to both protect your money and things, as well as yourself. Basic common sense should help though, and as long as you aren’t overly foolish you should be fine. Regardless, you should never let a false threat (real ones are ok) of danger to stop you from traveling. The fact is that in many cases where we live is more dangerous than the places we want to visit. I’ve traveled all around the world many times but the only time I’ve been pickpocketed was right here in the U.S. So no, the world on the whole is NOT a dangerous place and you should start seeing it as soon as possible.
You think only challenging travel experiences are worthwhile
The travel world can be a strange place, full of people desperate to add to their portfolio of unusual experiences and others who want to visit as many countries as they can, if only the airport, just for the bragging rights. None of that need bother the average traveler, except when these same people put pen to paper and offer travel advice. Sadly, they really can’t. They’re not average travelers, they’re some strange class of super-tourists and 99.9% of people just can’t relate to them. I heard a TV interview a few months ago and the travel “expert” on the panel recommended destinations so remote and unlikely, that it was actually laughable. It makes me sad though, I don’t think that there’s any real place for arrogance in travel and ultimately it doesn’t help anyone. No, instead what we need is a legion of humble travelers. We need more folks who instead of looking for the most difficult to reach places, visit places that are accessible and in the process help us better understand them and inspire us to also visit. None of this is new, TV programs and print magazines have followed this train of thought for a long time and it is just common sense. Most people travel to certain places, so let’s offer them advice on how to better visit these places. YES, there is a need to broaden people’s horizons, to teach them about destinations they may not have known about and encourage them to visit. But that must be done in moderation with everything else; it can’t be the only song in your playbook. So bloggers, take a cue from our friends the travel magazines and yes, travel to and write about fantastical spots, but also visit and write about more manageable destinations as well.
You’re taking the fun out of it
In spite, or perhaps because of, these more philosophical mutterings, it’s also important to point out that travel is just a whole lot of fun. I have been on hundreds of flights and yet each time I board a new plane I get excited. The night before a trip I still have trouble sleeping, like a kid on Christmas Eve. The basic joys of travel are still very real for me, and they are sensations that I covet above almost everything else. It’s not just the anticipation of course that’s fun, but almost every aspect of the travel experience, from new hotels to exploring beautiful cities – these are amongst the most joyful moments in my life. However, we tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to enjoy the perfect vacation that we many times become our own worst enemies. Either we overplan to the point of exhaustion, or we stress about details we can’t change. Either way, it’s always refreshing for me to see people out there traveling and having a great time doing it. While sailing on a river cruise, there was an extended family onboard of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. They were all ages and when I first saw them I groaned because I thought the kids would get bored and start acting up within a couple of days. I was very wrong though and instead of ignoring their kids, the parents engaged them, had fun and by the end of the trip the entire family was about as content as any I have ever seen. It was great to see teens put down their phones to play Scrabble and for their parents to take time showing them around new cities. Travel is a gift, and that family knew how to deliver it – with a smile and a few laughs. When we travel it’s always meant to be fun, so open yourself up and allow for some opportunities to relax, go slow and enjoy the moment.
Smartphones are great and tablets even better. In the span of just a few years (hard to believe) we went from being dependent on actual computers to stay in touch to using our phones as mobile workstations. Sadly, our jobs have kept pace and that means we are all always working, all of the time. Even if it’s not your job trying to reach you it’s kids, parents, friends, dogs, cats, neighbors, you name it. Everyone knows that an email or text will reach you within milliseconds and they usually get cranky when you don’t respond fast enough. I sometimes find myself walking around a new town more interested in my next Instagram pic than actually absorbing the scene. That is wrong. So, pledge with me that on your next trip the phone, camera or laptop will be put away for at least a few hours a day so that you can vacation in the way God intended, happily and with attention focused entirely on discovery and exploration.
You’re not experimenting
I’ve seen this a lot and have had it happen to me on more than one occasion. Even the most independent traveler can be sucked into a travel bubble when we visit new places, on a predetermined route to see certain sights and to enjoy particular experiences. I’ve found though that the most memorable and fun experiences happen when we least expect them. Don’t be afraid to go off the path, to get lost and to try something new when you travel. Presumably, that’s why we travel in the first place, for the opportunities to do things that are unexpected or even unusual, so don’t waste the moment. This is particularly important when it comes to food. I rarely plan where I’m going to eat on a trip, instead I wander or ask people who live there for recommendations. I let my nose guide me through the streets and as a result I’ve almost always had great experiences. So get out of your comfort zone and experiment with the destination.
You’re not traveling
Ok, I find myself lapsing into metaphysical travel blogger mode, but I can’t help it. I’ve been through this, I’ve lived a life I wasn’t happy with and through great effort made changes so that I could be happy. I see countless others, many of them my friends, who don’t do this and walk through life with a sack full of regrets. “I wish I could”, “that would be nice,” and “it’s too hard,” are their go-to phrases and each one is a cop-out. I’m a firm believer in the fact that if you want anything in life, if you work hard enough you can make it happen. Most people don’t want to put in that work though. This doesn’t have to mean an epic, around the world quest for self-enlightenment. It’s as simple as visiting any new place, but visit it you must. The benefits are too many and the risks too great to ignore that siren call of travel.