I see and hear so many people complaining about places they travel to.
It makes me want to cringe...that place is beautiful, I think.
They are just doing it all wrong.
I am a globetrekker. A cultural anthropologist. A writer. A world traveler. A mommy. A teacher. A professor. A dreamer. A happiness-finder and outdoor adventurer and respectful human being. And conscious traveler. And conscious travel has changed my universe. From India to Australia, Mexico, Fiji, Indonesia and the Marshall Islands, I have adapted my soul.
Short-term or long-term travel, this guide will help. Print it out and throw it in your pack. Or study and remember it before you go, so that when you are in the present, in this new land, you can really be in the present. Change from the inside out. Think of it as more bang for your buck. An amazing new place to see and become a better person, all at the same time.
Here are some tips I have developed along the way that may help you to have a better travel experience.
No, not better, amazing.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with this one wild and amazing life?” ~ Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
So get your notebooks out and jot this quick list down. Carry it in your heart on your adventure. Or honeymoon. Or study abroad. Or island wedding or business trip or world tour. This applies to everyone.
1. Abandon materialistic philosophy. The second my foot stepped off the plane on this journey, I made a vow to abandon the idea that things and people are judged by materialism. I began to see the world in a whole new light and not clouded by a materialistic philosophy.
2. Keep an open mind. No judgment. Of anything. Even when required… Sometimes abroad, it is easy to race to a judgment about how some things are crazy, unsafe, unsanitary, stupid or don’t make sense. I do myself a favor and don’t, because it’s not fair. For every unrefrigerated chicken, there is a life lesson to be learned. For every hot dog slice on a pizza and family on a moped and spearfished shark and bucket bath and scheduled power outage, there is a lesson.
I spend some time figuring out that life lesson and try to view the world through their eyes and their reasons. I keep an open mind.
3. Embrace everything. I try every food, talk to every person and embrace my amazing travel opportunity. I don’t take it for granted. I don’t say ‘I hate this place’ or ‘If only the had… No.
If I wish it was different, then I would go home.
If I accept it for what it is and seek out the beauty and freedom and embrace the unique opportunity, then I connect in my heart and mind and will be impacted, even more than I can dream of.
4. Immerse in the culture. I challenge myself to learn, grow, adapt and excel by being fully immersed in the culture. This provides for new adventures and lessons every day.
5. Adventure every day. My daughter and I are always ready to go conquer some new world, fulfill another dream and live out another adventure. My adventure bag has been packed since we got here. It never gets a chance to get unpacked. I have it down to a science. Sunscreen, snorkels, masks, water shoes, water bottles, camera, sunglasses. We are always ready for anything: climbing ancient ruins, jumping and swimming in new cenotes, free diving, snorkeling turtle pathways, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, island hopping, kayaking, scuba diving, beachcombing, camping, boating, biking or dreamcatcher shopping. Or having a sandcastle contest with local policia who should be manning the taxi stand but are instead loving life too much to be bothered and enjoy a faceoff with a six year old in a mermaid sandcastle contest.
Every day the sun is shining. Well, even when it’s not, I am thankful for the clouds and rain. Every day a new adventure awaits: a new country, new people, new places, new food, new random conditions. I don’t sit around on wifi. I don’t lay around and get high all day or mope about missing McDonald’s. I get off my ass, go on an adventure and take ever last drop in.
6. Eat the street tacos and coconut sashimi. I hear many people are scared of these things. Herein lies the heartbeat of a nation. Tortillas, empanadas, burritos, enchiladas. It’s all the same thing: tortillas in various form. All greasy and delicious. All local and all better than the fancy steakhouses lit up brightly for the tourists too scared to venture onto the side street. Here in the Marshalls, it is freshly spearfished fish, coconut rice and breadfruit, cooked over a fire and eaten by hand.
I eat the street food to fulfill a physical need, as well as a psychological one. Eating the local food is the rite of passage to becoming a legit traveler and more open-minded human being. Food is an immense part of the local culture. And I know it won’t kill me.
7. Make local friends. They show me a different way of life. Different culture, activities and perspective on the world. I get the inside scoop. If I don’t do this, then I don’t really travel. Because the people of a nation are its life. I open my mind. I open my heart. I open my tortilla. I open my naan. I fill them all with some amazing new friends who will turn my value system upside down and show me a different life that exists a world away.
8. Take advantage of the freedom. There is a beauty in leaving home, in being away, in another land. It is the beauty of independence, self-regulation and right choices. The freedom to think and believe and do and achieve, whatever you want, without being herded and molded and restricted. That is so liberating. I feel this freedom. Lick it, love it. It empowers the mind, body and soul. I will never forget the time that I actually lived how I wanted.
9. Try your best to learn the language. Not fluently. Not even great. But I am open to learning what I can. I don’t hold up a wall to learning and adapting to different ways of life. When you understand the concepts of the local language, I thereby understand so much more about the culture. And I can earn respect as well, even if the product isn’t great, for caring, respecting and trying.
10. Stay positive. Through all the trials and tribulations, which there are, I stay positive.
I keep my horchata glass and coconut always half full, rather then half empty.
11. Stay strong. Similar to #10 yet different. I not only stay strong, but I grow stronger, everyday. Sometimes I am not sure I will make it out of the pen, but I always do. And as an offset, things in my life have been more amazing than I ever could have imagined. It’s not all glory, some guts. But I am proud of those guts that I have suffered to get to this glory.
The open world is an amazing place that has the ability to humble me to the basement and watch how I crawl, all with the mastermind plan that the process will place gratitude and humility into my heart like never before, where it will stay for the rest of my life. The hard is hard, but the lessons and the good are far beyond excellent.
12. Seek out life lessons. Every day while abroad, I make sure to live consciously in order to gain the necessary life lessons that I am supposed to learn that day. Every good, every bad. Every challenge, every palm leaf, bike ride, atoll trek, bead of sweat, cockroach, magical cenote, beach cabana, coconut, remote island, sun ray, rain drop, grain of sand, sunrise, sunset, new friendship and old memory. It all happens for a reason. Every day is a life lesson.
I am thankful to be out on the global road (ocean), living this life and having these lessons. I have realized that life lessons aren’t just found when we travel. Lessons also lie in everyday life. In the beauty of flowers and children and tears. Even though they exist, sometimes we don’t tap into these lessons because we are too busy or tired or just truly don’t care.
I came to live these lessons and see for myself. I share them all with my daughter. And now I see that conscious travel is the best gift I have ever given myself. The world is very big and we are very small. There is so very much to see and feel.
No better time to start but now.
When you do, keep the experiences close to your heart and then take them home. Use them there, too. Tell others. Maybe we can start to change the world. End the judgments and hatred, increase the respect and understanding. I know it’s a leap, but maybe it all starts with conscious travel.
Get out there. And enjoy the ride.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Crystal Blue
Apprentice Editor: Yaisa Nio / Editor: Renee Picard
Photos: Author’s Own