I get a lot of questions about how I specifically travel, where I go and what I see and do. Mostly people are just curious about my favorite places to go, where I would go if money were no object and so on. But sometimes they’re also curious about the mechanics of travel and as someone who travels a lot, I have also learned a lot over the years and in the process refined my own travel experience. No one is really a travel expert, but there are people who travel more frequently than others and as such have learned a few things along the way. I’m not saying that the way I travel is perfect, far from it. Every trip I take is an opportunity to learn and I’m always changing the way I do things, making plenty of mistakes as I go. There are a few things though that I do on every trip that help me and I hope will help you as well.
Granted, given my horrible sense of direction this is pretty easy for me to do, but even if you’re a pro at directions try to ignore them once in a while. When I check into a new hotel, typically the first thing I do is to go for a walk. Principally I’m searching for a convenience store to feed my Diet Coke addiction, but it’s also an opportunity to see where I am, what’s around me and the best way for me to spend my time in the area. Whether it’s on arrival, or later on in the trip this also includes for me getting lost. I put down the map (which just confuses me anyway), turn off Google directions and start walking. Along the way I always discover little things I would never have found otherwise and, more importantly, I start to get a feel for the real city away from the tourist bubble. I love touristy areas, they’re popular for a reason after all, but there’s much to be said for wandering away from them and learning about the new destination on a much more personal level. As a side note, the best food and restaurants I’ve found have always been a result of my random wanderings.
Exercise & eating right
I’m not going to be preachy, but staying in shape when you travel is very important. Several years ago I remember listening to an interview with some CEO who said that no matter where he goes or the length of the trip, he always finds time to work out. I found that curious, but the more I thought about it the more I realized how smart a practice it is. It doesn’t have to be every day, but finding a few opportunities on your trip to spend 30 minutes in the hotel gym will give you more energy, make you feel better and help burn off those huge meals you’re doubtlessly eating. Speaking of huge meals, food is an important part of the travel experience and I definitely not only eat more on the road, but I tend to not eat in a very healthy manner. Delicious pastries, fancy desserts and 3-course dinners suddenly become the norm, whether your body likes it or not. And that’s fine, in moderation. You should still eat all of those things, but not necessarily at every meal. When I travel I have a very light breakfast, maybe a snack for lunch all in the attempt to save room for nicer dinners and random food finds I discover along the way. Filling up midday means I wouldn’t be able to sample some of the regional snacks and delicacies, a part of the travel experience I really enjoy.
Visit grocery stores
This is a tip I’ve been doling out since I started my web site more than five years ago, and it’s still one of my favorites. There are a lot of ways to quickly learn about new cities, countries and cultures but one of the best is to simply visit a local grocery store. You may not always notice them, but they’re always lurking, even in bustling city centers and spending a few minutes in them will teach you not just about the food habits of wherever you’re visiting, but what the locals value as well. Food and travel go hand in hand and it really is the best way to become a part of a new culture, rather than just a voyeur. Whether it’s seemingly endless rows of olive oils in a store in Madrid or the chocolate and dessert options in Australia, grocery store experiences have been very important in my own travels. They’re also a great way to stock up on drinks and snacks at the lowest possible prices or even to grab the ingredients for a fun picnic out on the town. You save money and have a better time in the process than eating at a generic café all the time.
Talk to people
I’m a people watcher. I could sit in the airport for hours just watching folks walk by and be perfectly happy. In watching people, including my fellow tourists, so carefully when I travel I have noticed one thing; very few of them actually talk to anyone else. Whether it’s a family or a couple traveling around, we all tend to stay fixated on our own packs, rarely engaging other travelers or locals. For me, travel is about personal enrichment and growth and to do that I need to talk to people. I’m highly extroverted, so it may be easier for me but even if you’re not, find ways to learn about the people you’re visiting. One of the best ways to do this is to join a tour, either a private one or a free public walk. I nearly always walk alongside the guide, peppering them with questions along the way. “What do you love about your city? Where are your favorite restaurants? Where are you from? what’s your background?” and so on. It’s a friendly interrogation, but a good way to understand how places tick. It’s not just locals I question though, I love chatting with fellow tourists as well. On a recent afternoon boat cruise in Queensland, I was joined by a group of 3 couples, all traveling around Australia. They had all recently retired and were kicking things off with a dream trip around the country. After a few minutes of chatting a gentleman told me that he had watched the movie “The Bucket List” and he said that it changed him. After watching that he decided to go ahead and retire and do the things he really wanted to do while he was still able. It was a wonderful conversation and really drove home the importance of travel in people’s lives and made a significant impression on me. It was a brief, simple moment but one that I know I’ll remember for a very long time.
So there you go, a few things I make sure to do on every trip. There are others, but I thought that this was a good start.
What are some things you make sure to do on every trip?