There are countless articles on how to see New York in a day or the best restaurants in Paris, and they‘re generally very helpful. Regardless of where or how you travel though, there are a few things that everyone should do when they visit a new destination.
1. Talk to cabbies – Wherever I travel and happen to be in a cab, I always make sure to strike up a conversation with the driver. Some of the most fascinating people I’ve met around the world have been cab drivers since they are usually outgoing, slightly eccentric and always entertaining. More than just the sociology of the experience, cab drivers are also a fount of information about the local destination. No one has a better grasp on what’s hot or not than a cab driver and they are also the best resource to get the real insider information on where and what to eat. So instead of ignoring the kind individual whisking you across town, always take the time to talk and learn more about them and their lives.
2. Get lost – There’s a lot to be said for having a clear understand of what you’re doing and where you’re going when you travel, but there’s also a lot of value in discarding all of it. Last year I interviewed Pauline Frommer at the DC Travel and Adventure Show and her advice was that everyone should get lost at least once on a trip. The more I thought about it, the more I realized she was right, not surprisingly. Wandering off on our own in a foreign and alien place is both a little scary and liberating. We discard the comfort of knowing what to expect and instead enjoy a few moments of exploration at its best. It’s usually by getting lost that we find some of the most valued travel treasures, from quirky restaurants to out of the way parks and refuges that transform a trip into a great memory.
3. Be uncomfortable – This is somewhat related to getting lost, but placing yourself in uncomfortable situations while traveling usually produces fantastic results. I’m not talking about unsafe or dangerous travel, I simply mean traveling outside of one’s comfort zone. For some this may mean trying a regional delicacy that is either repugnant or unidentifiable and for others it may mean trying experiences that frighten us a little, like the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. Travel and vacations are about relaxation and enjoyment, no question there, but they should also expand our horizons and help us grow personally and intellectually. We have to let the destinations do this for us by engaging in activities or experiences that we probably wouldn’t try at home. I promise, whether they are epic successes or failures, you will never forget the attempt.
4. Disconnect – Last year a survey showed that more than 80% of American travelers checked their work email at least once on vacation. That fact at once deeply disturbs and shames me as I am definitely guilty of this inability to disconnect. Earlier this year I was camping in a Bedouin tent in the middle of Wadi Rum desert, which is centrally located in the middle of nowhere, and still I was checking email. Clearly I have a sickness and I’m not alone. I understand the argument that checking in with work while away actually reassures people that there’s nothing awry, but at the same time we all have to make the point to actually disconnect and enjoy our travels. Most of us don’t get a lot of time off from work and we have to ensure that we enjoy our time away and use it as it was intended, to get away from it all and relax. It’s increasingly difficult to actually accomplish this feat, but it should be a goal for which we all strive.
5. Spend a little more for amazing experiences – While I believe it’s smart to save money in certain areas, I am a big proponent of not skimping when it comes to unique experiences. We travel to see and enjoy new places, and sometimes you have to pay a little more to do this. In some cases this may mean hiring a tour guide or joining a day tour to learn more about the destination, in other cases it means the experience itself costs a little more. It doesn’t make any sense to travel far away from home at considerable expense only to skip the activities and experiences that made you want to travel there in the first place. Just make sure you budget for these activities when you’re planning the trip so there aren’t any unexpected surprises.
30 thoughts on “Five Things You Should Do on Every Trip”
I read an article that suggested asking a taxi driver to take you to the place were he has lunch. It will be a good value, ethic eatery most probably!
That sounds like a great idea!
I think disconnecting is important to really see what is in front of you when you travel, and getting lost is one of the best ways to see a place, especially if you want the ‘real’ place, without the gloss!
someone else i like to talk to about finding good food for cheap are cops. they haven’t steered me wrong yet – in any country! :)
Great advice Matt… I just cannot seem to disconnect though. I also like to jump in to political rallies especially in Europe to hear what the local union is complaining about, kind of the “beef of the week”. I usually prepare a couple of weeks in advance by reading local papers on line. I also like talking to farmers in the market but that is because I have a back ground in agronomy.
I just wrote a post about a bunch of essential tech travel, but at the end I did note it’s still important to disconnect and absorb the setting around you while you travel. I love talking to cabbies too, but sometimes you should also be aware if they are being tipped off by other local businesses so they may not give the most authentic suggestions.
All great tips that you should keep in mind while traveling. Especially, getting lost. Cabbies are often interesting to talk to, but in many places they are extremely dishonest and at times the most annoying.
Good tips, couldn’t agree more! There’s a lot to be seen once we step out of our comfort zones.
These are all great suggestions. I always love getting lost, although I prefer to call it “wandering without a particular destination in mind.”
Some great suggestions. I really like the one about getting lost. What a great way to add some unplanned adventure to the trip.
#3 and #5 are my favorite tips here. I agree that travel SHOULD sometimes force us out of our comfort zones and challenge us. It’s the best way to learn about ourselves and about the world. And I also agree that you shouldn’t scrimp on everything while traveling. It’s one thing to travel on a budget, but another entirely to turn down amazing experiences just to save $20. I’m all about a worthwhile splurge here and there!
Could not agree more, otherwise why travel?
Love the talk to Cabbies suggestion. Always a wealth of information and surprisingly well educated. Usually some amazing stories as well if good advice fails.
You are absolutely right on every count–although getting lost and uncomfortable is almost always better in retrospect than it is at the time!
Well, getting lost on purpose :)
I especially liked the disconnect suggestion. I did it for days at a time, and am thinking of doing it more…as soon as I twitt
It’s really hard for me to do. The only place where I truly disconnected was in the Galapagos, and even then I checked email a few times.
I love getting lost! Great ideas
Nice article, Matt.
I disconnected in the middle of the Italian Alps hiking for several days and it was a brillian revelation. However, when I returned I saw that my KLOUT score had dropped nearly 20 points! But I would definately do it again. We cannot let our work or KLOUT dictate our lives.
Best to yu,Sonja
It’s so true. I love to be connected, but when it really improves the experience to put away the technology and just enjoy the destination.
Seems like mostly everyone loves getting lost in a new place. I love it, too! :)
Brilliant post – I’ve been saying talk to cabbies for years but love your other points too – do I have to disconnect though? Really?
I like number one, but i would substitute bartenders for cab drivers. Actually, not substitute,because cab drivers are interesting too, but maybe do a bartender/cab driver entry. Regardless, good list of things to do while traveling.
Very true, bartenders are great people to chat up.
Yes I agree with you guys, get lost is just something “liberating” in our digital GPS-World. Don’t you think? Besides, I like the post and know now, that I should speak more with cab drivers (there’s my lack)
I definitely agree with getting lost. I love just wandering around not really knowing where I’m going. You get to find places you’d never normally go. Normally I travel on a budget but it is important to splash out on an unmissable experience. The most expensive experience I’ve purchased while travelling has to be my helicopter trip over the Grand Canyon. It’s something I’ll never experience again and I’ll never forget get it. Should I have decided it was too expensive I would certainly have regretted it.
Great post Matt! I love talking to cabbies and purposely getting lost – these are things I instinctively do while traveling. Depending on where you are, disconnecting can be an easy one to follow through on with connection not being great everywhere, but choosing to disconnect for a while is key in actually doing things when abroad. I’d say your last point is the one that most grabs my attention though. I’ve never been what you would call frivolous…so I’ve not missed an amazing adventure because I’ve deemed it too expensive…but others might, and I have to agree that frugality can be placed elsewhere – the point of travel is to try something new, so you might as well ball out on something that you’ll be able to remember and talk about for years to come – save on something you won’t regret missing out on later.
Nice piece. Reckon gen Z may have a tough time with the disconnect part.
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