I can be, at times, a fairly random person. Whether you call it being eccentric, quirky or just weird, it’s who I am and I’m good with that. At times though my thoughts are a bit scattered; smatterings of ideas and concepts coming and going at breakneck speed. That’s ultimately what led to this post today. I had a lot of random thoughts, none of which would make a particularly great post in their own right but, when added together, I think are fun to read. As I go about my days, I jot down ideas and concepts as they come to me. I do this for one simple reason – I forget nearly everything. So, it was when reviewing these copious notes that I decided to expand on some of those thoughts and share them with you today.
Importance of Travel Rituals
Maybe it’s because I travel so often, but I have come to appreciate the small rituals I enjoy on every trip I take. It doesn’t matter if you travel once a year or 20 times a year, we all have these rituals whether we realize it or not. I know that I do many of the same things before, during and after a trip no matter where I go and I believe that they ground me. They help me better navigate the travel experience and bring some order to what is necessarily a spontaneous and unpredictable experience – travel. Whether it’s the charcuterie board I enjoy at the airport before I board a flight or my first purchase in every country I visit – a Diet Coke – these are all actions that bring solace to me. I think we all need these rituals. We need to have a few aspects of the travel experience that we can control, which allow us to be more comfortable even in the most alien of environments. My favorite ritual is the first thing I do in nearly every new city I visit. I drop off my bags at the hotel and make a loop around the neighborhood. I want to see where I am exactly, I want to understand the neighborhood and I want to have that all-important first impression of a place created by my own random wanderings and not with a guide or on a tour.
I’m a luxury traveler and so this is something I think about more than I should probably. Lately though it seems that almost everywhere I go, businesses are trying to latch on to the luxury moniker as a way to boost their own bottom line. That’s fine, that’s probably smart advertising, but it means that we all need to be very skeptical when someone offers a luxury experience. I remember when I was in Tanzania driving along a dirt road somewhere in the middle of nowhere. We passed a tree with a piece of cardboard nailed to it and something scrawled in marker. It read: “Luxury hotel this way.” No offense to the proprietors, but I seriously doubt it was a luxury hotel as I would define it. The problem with something as amorphous as luxury is that there is no one standard against which to judge it. It’s personal, it’s subjective and it varies from person to person. More often than not I think to myself, “No, no that’s not luxury,” and so it’s something we should all be aware of. Ultimately though, luxury is more than the finishings in a nice hotel or a glass of champagne offered upon arrival. It’s about service and personalization, how travel entities not only make us feel but how they bring new destinations to life in ways not easily replicable. That’s luxury and to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, it’s something I know when I see it.
Be Nice To Everyone All The Time
I love travel and I believe that it is an immensely positive experience, but like anything else in life bad things of course happen while on the road. This, combined with the stress of travel, makes people cranky, sometimes very cranky. No matter what though, it’s important to remember to always be as nice to everyone as you possibly can when traveling, no matter how you feel. You never know what a kind word or a simple smile will do or what doors they will open. When I was traveling solo in Jerusalem I said hi to the people at the table next to mine and before I knew it, I had joined them for a wonderful evening of stories, conversation and food. This would never have happened if I hadn’t been courteous. I know it’s not always easy and believe me, I have lashed out at people when I never should have, but on the whole if you can keep up a good attitude, your experience will be made all the better for it.
No Shortcuts in Life
I write about self-improvement a lot on this site. The posts have become very popular and I love the feedback I’ve received over the years. Truth be told, I write them as a way to help myself get through difficult times and circumstances and if they help others too, then great. They usually start off with either something I’m trying to accomplish or something I see trending, which is how this topic percolated to the top. I love my self-actualized profession and wouldn’t do anything else at this point in my life. Many others feel the same way and many more would love to have it as their career, and many try. But what many fail to realize beforehand is that while it’s an amazing job, it’s still a job. It’s work, hard work actually. Those of us who are professional travel bloggers are small business owners, and as any entrepreneur will tell you the work is rewarding but it’s hard. So, many try to take shortcuts. Rather than have new and creative ideas, they copy the success of others or, even worse, they try to cheat. Buying followers and engagement on social media is just one example of how these snake oil salespeople lie and cheat their way to what they perceive to be success. I’m happy when others in my field are successful, a rising tide lifts all boats and this isn’t a zero-sum game. Their success doesn’t limit my own, so I cheer them on as they do for me. But only when it’s accomplished honestly is that the case. I can’t stand cheating and dishonesty drives me crazy. Ultimately, there are no shortcuts in life. Anything we want, be it a happy relationship or successful career can only be gained in one way – through hard work. Remember that in your own life, even though it can be frustrating at times.
Travel Blogs Aren’t Guide Books
I love the fact that more and more of us are getting our travel information online from digital resources. The problem with that though is many people are shifting their expectations from print materials onto digital and that shouldn’t always be the case and it should never be the case for a good travel blog. A good travel blog should not be a digitized version of Frommer’s. No, a good travel blog is all about the personality, it’s about following an individual with whom you can either relate or understand their unique voice and so you read their work. It all has to start with the person or in some cases multiple authors. That doesn’t mean practical and useful travel advice can’t be imparted in a blog, it can. But it absolutely should be biased. I usually explain it this way: People don’t visit blogs to find the Top Ten Things To Do In London. That’s been done a million times and probably better than any new blogger will manage. No, instead, people visit travel blogs to read more about how a certain individual experienced London. What they saw and did, and what their individual takeaways were. Why? Because they like that person, they’ve developed an affinity for their writing and they can relate to the ways in which they travel. That’s ultimately why people visit travel blogs and we would all do well to remember that.
Everyone Should Spend More Time Exploring Where They Live
Ever since I was a little kid I’ve had an intense and fierce desire to learn as much about the world as I could. That’s what led me to get my M.A. in International Relations and ultimately start this web site. That inexplicable draw to leave the country has meant I have done a somewhat poor job of properly exploring the United States, and that’s a shame. The U.S. is massive, almost unimaginably so, with so much to see, do and experience that many lifetimes would be needed. In recent years I’ve learned my lesson though and have tried to spend more time seeing my own country; learning to appreciate it for all the things that make it so great. I actually think that’s good advice for all of us, no matter where we live. Instead of planning that next trip halfway around the world, why not spend some time exploring your own city, region, state or country? Don’t save it for later, when you’re older, instead do it now. Even though you think you understand the place you call home, I guarantee that once you put on the mantle of local tourist, you’ll not only see your home differently, but you’ll start to appreciate it that much more.
So there you have it, some random thoughts I’ve had lately. Hopefully you’ve found them interesting, but it was more important for me to reason these things out, get them down on paper and out of my brain for a while. Thanks for indulging me and let me know what some of your own random travel thoughts are in the comments section below.