As I get older and travel more I keep finding new ways to fine-tune the experience to make it more efficient and ultimately fun. Being a good traveler is an evolution and absolutely no one does it perfectly, but here are some ways I’ve improved my travel abilities to make the most out of my trips.
1. Packing – This is an area where I’ve seen the most improvement over recent years mostly because of how much I pack. I’m a much more efficient packer than I used to be and by that I mean I take less crap. It started last year when I worked with the travel clothing company Scottevest on a light bag challenge. The idea was to survive a week in New Zealand with only my Scottevest and a small, very small, duffel. Even though I was doubtful it would go well at first, by the end of the trip my entire outlook on packing had changed. Not only did I survive with less stuff, I didn’t want for anything. It taught me that my over packing was a type of emotional travel crutch and most of the stuff I usually drag with me is completely unnecessary. Have I fallen off the wagon once or twice since then? You bet, but on the whole I am a much better packer and the fact that I no longer lug around a virtual steamer trunk of STUFF has made life on the road a lot more enjoyable.
2. Different style of research – A big apology to all my guide book friends, but I find myself relying on them less and less. Instead, before I go on a trip I tend to consult friends and travel blogs. I know, this sounds self-serving but it’s true. Many travel bloggers try to write about creative ways to visit new destinations and cover sites that often times don’t make it into guidebooks. That doesn’t mean I ignore the popular tourist sites, but I combine them with new and interesting ways to sightsee for a more well-rounded experience. As a personal side note, I firmly believe that this is the future of how people will look for travel advice – socially.
3. More spontaneity – This personally has been a tough habit to break and I struggle with it every time I travel, but the ability to not over plan a trip is the key to having an amazing time. Believe me, I well understand the desire to make sure every trip is perfect and logically one assumes that the best way to accomplish this Sisyphean feat is to plan every minute of every day thereby excluding the possibility of disaster. Sadly, this presumption is a fallacy. Over planning tends to make everyone miserable and you exclude any possibility of genuine, random moments. It is these moments of travel incertitude that will always be the most memorable. Whether it is chatting with someone at a cafe or discovering a secret spot no one else knows about, random travel moments are ultimately the reason why we all travel.
4. Trusting my instincts – I’m a tourist when I travel, as most of us are. There’s no shame in this instead there should be pride. We get out there and we discover the world around us! Sadly though I find myself trusting other people’s instincts more than my own. What does this mean? Well it usually means I fall into the trap of being a travel lemming, following the droves to sites I know won’t interest me but which I feel I must see. Instead I’ve had to make a conscious effort to say no to the guide books and travel experts, admit I don’t want to see my 1,000th cathedral and instead do and see what truly interests me. Life is too short and so are our trips to be anything but entirely true to ourselves when we travel.
5. Local experts – This may shock your but I don’t know everything, and neither do you. After researching a new destination we may even feel like we have an intimate knowledge of the new locale, but we do not. That’s why I always try to seek out local experts whenever possible, usually in the form of unique and fun day tours. I always learn much more on a three-hour guided walk than I could ever have learned on my own. One of the best walking tours I’ve ever been on was the Lanes and Arcades Hidden Secrets tour in Melbourne. The tour itself is unique, customizable and a lot of fun. Our tour guide led us through little laneways and arcades we may never have found otherwise and we had a blast doing it. That’s the beauty of a well done day tour, discovering a side to a destination you’d never find on your own.
These are just a few ways I’ve improved my travel skills lately, what are some of yours?