Travel is one of the most searched for topics in the world, which should come as no surprise. Everyone wants not just more information on the places where they plan to visit, but also how to be a better traveler. Travel though, at its base, isn’t that complicated. Most times it’s just common sense, but to help everyone on their next adventure I thought I’d share some ridiculously simple travel tips that you may have overlooked or just overthought. This year I’m working with Allianz Travel Insurance to share my thoughts about travel, what makes me happy when I explore the world and why I even travel in the first place. This post is done in partnership with them and I’m excited for the opportunity to share some ways to help you improve your next trip.
Granted, in some cultures this probably isn’t a good idea, but in many places around the world it’s a simple way to demonstrate that you’re a positive person. We’re communal creatures, and subconsciously we are drawn to those with whom we think we can get along. A smile is a simple way to communicate that to strangers. But, as I said, be careful, not all cultures feel the same way about grinning like an idiot.
Talk to Everyone
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 walking 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. Once on an 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.
Visit Grocery Stores
I’ve written about this several times, but one of my favorite ways to learn about local culture quickly is by visiting the nearest grocery store. Instantly you will learn what they eat and what importance they place on certain foods. The multiple aisles of olive oil in Madrid says something about Spanish culture. Grocery stores are also a great place to get cheap snacks, drinks and even meals.
Travel Power Strip
I’m not trying to sell you anything here, I won’t even provide a link, but purchasing a small travel power strip was one of the best decisions I ever made. Several companies make them and they fold up to easy to stow sizes and better yet, allow you to easily charge multiple devices with just one outlet. Many times I’ve camped out in airports charging everything using only that one rare outlet.
I’ve said this before, I’m saying this now and I will most likely say it again – don’t be afraid to be a corny tourist. None of us are Anthony Bourdain or Rick Steves and we shouldn’t try to be. We’re on vacation, traveling and we need to make sure we enjoy the experience. This means that it is in fact OK to be a camera toting, crepe eating, Colosseum visiting tourist. Don’t let the hipsters and egocentric travelers tell you to always get off the beaten path and to only go local. Sure, this is good once in a while as I just wrote about, but on the whole don’t be afraid to embrace your inner tourist. There’s a reason why everyone who visits Paris goes to the Eiffel Tower, in London Westminster Abbey and in Rome the Forum. They’re awesome! They have always been awesome, they will always be awesome and you should see them. So ignore those nay-sayers and instead go, see the famous sites and enjoy yourself.
I’m actually a horrible packer but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the importance of packing lighter and smarter. Be very realistic when packing and take only what you need. Stop creating scenarios that will never happen, instead pack for each day and nothing more. If you’re checking a bag, then be sure to include at least one day’s worth of clothes in your carryon. Having had an airline lose my bags before, I know from experience what a pain buying a new wardrobe in a foreign city can be.
Don’t Be Afraid
If you stop to think – really think – about your life, I believe like me you’ll realize that a lot of what we all do is fear based. We’re afraid of making our significant others angry, so we don’t criticize when perhaps we should. We’re afraid of being wrong, so we don’t always speak up at work. We’re afraid of making big decisions, because of the ramifications they could have; and so on. A lot of what we do, from the small stuff to epic, life-changing decisions are all based on fear and that is especially true when it comes to travel. Whether people admit it or not, what keeps many of my fellow Americans from traveling more isn’t budget or time off from work, it’s fear. It’s a fear of the unknown, fear of the other and fear just for the sake of fear. The great thing about the travel experience though is almost immediately you realize how silly all of those fears are, but you have to take that all-important first step. We also fear making mistakes. Travel experiences are an investment, big investments, but investments all the same. We want the vacations we take to be perfect, and it’s this fear of disappointment I think that keeps many folks off the road. They think that a dream trip is too far fetched a concept, when in actuality there really is no such thing. Every trip can be a dream trip if we plan it right. So don’t be afraid, save your money and book those tickets – believe me, you won’t regret those initial baby steps into the wide world of travel.