January 6, 2015

10 Tried & True Rules of Travel.

There’s no right or wrong way to travel…

but there are a few things everyone should keep in mind while on the road.

Traveling is an experience that will either scramble your brain or focus it so clearly that you notice more of what’s going on around you than ever before.

After traveling and living abroad for three and a half years, I’ve realized there are several practices we could all put into place to fully appreciate our travels. While there’s no right way to travel, following these golden rules can help you mindfully make the most of your trip—whether you’re traveling solo through South America or taking a week-long all-inclusive cruise.


1. Be patient.

Things will go wrong, planes will be delayed, the weather won’t cooperate and you’ll forget to charge your camera battery. In the end, it probably won’t matter too much. Really. Just relax and let things play out.

2. Be open.

Open to new experiences, new people, new cultures, new foods, new plans. Traveling gives you a chance to escape from your usual routine—let it!

3. Know when to splurge and when to save.

Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t need to spend thousands on nice resorts, private transportation or package “deals.” That said, why go somewhere new if we’re not willing to shell out some cash to fully experience the place?

I’ve backpacked before where I would constantly seek out the cheapest room, no matter how bad it was, and opt out of activities to save money. I wanted my traveling budget to last as long as possible, and to do that I had to be careful of what I spent my money on. But because I was so hesitant to use the money I spent so long saving, I also missed out on opportunities, activities and experiences that would have made my trip more enjoyable and memorable .

(And if you’re traveling in a country where things are cheaper than your home, don’t expect everything to be dirt-cheap or try to low-ball the sellers. It’s one thing to be ripped off; it’s another to haggle down to the last penny, leaving the other person in a bad position—everyone needs to make a living.)

4. Walk.

Or ride a bicycle. But, really, just slow down and walk.

A lot.

I have found there’s no better way to explore a place and notice unexpected things you would easily miss otherwise. After more than three years living in the same small town I still walk the familiar streets and recognize different things for the first time or make connections that I hadn’t understood before.

Walking connects us more with the moment and our surroundings than simply speeding by in a car.

5. Limit expectations.

It’s so hard not to have high hopes and expectations for a trip—especially when we’re using precious vacation days and savings. However, chances are the fewer expectations you have, the better your travels will be. That way, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the way things work out instead of stressed when they don’t go the way you planned.

Some of my best trips happened when I didn’t expect much from them, and some of my most disappointing when I built them up too much ahead of time in my head. Certainly get excited for an upcoming adventure, but don’t expect it to go exactly as you imagined…it may be even better. And don’t believe all the travel porn photos you see on Pinterest. While they may serve as travel inspiration, the stylized, Photoshopped places in the photos often don’t actually exist quite like that.

Soak up the real world, not the idealized one.

6. Plan ahead… but not too much.

Some people feel like they have to have every hour of a trip planned out, while others boast about flying from the seat of their pants. Personally, I think a little planning and research will help your trip run more smoothly and often minimize costs (instead of getting stuck needing a room or transportation at the last minute), but leave plenty of room for spontaneity, unplanned experiences and changed plans. (Refer back to Rule #2.)

7. Eat the food.

Why go somewhere new only to stress about what to eat or refuse to temporarily change eating habits? That just sounds exhausting and no fun. Try something new!

8. Be a good representative of your home.

There’s some truth to all stereotypes—don’t act to reinforce the negative ones.

9. Don’t pack too much…

…or buy too much to take back home. While it may seem challenging to limit packing, it’s even more difficult to lug around heavy bags when on the move. You can probably get by with less than you originally think, and if you forget something you can either do without or buy it on the road.

Relish in the freedom and flexibility that comes with being responsible for less stuff.

10. Be grateful.

Traveling and going on vacation is not a right. While many people in the world can travel—if they make it a priority—for others it’s impossible. Between expenses, difficult visa processes and different economic statuses, not everyone can travel. Appreciate that you can.

What are your golden travel rules?



Author: Alana Morgan

Apprentice Editor: Toby Israel/ Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: emilyrachelmartin / Flickr


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Pam May 10, 2015 8:29pm

Your advice is so accurate!! In my vast travel experience my favourite moments include bicycles, local food, and taking calculated risks in just trusting people around you sometimes. To add to your list – dont sir in hotel rooms … get out and meet local people. Find out a little about them and you will be surprised at how much they will enhance your travel experience.

Mark Jan 7, 2015 7:24pm

This is great information. I have traveled in the military and my wife and I have been over seas many times. I think I pack light and still come home with things I never wore. As we get older we get better at traveling. We realize that enjoyment mostly comes from the inside and having reasonable expectations. We tend to aim for safety in places where people can get snagged up. We were in Jamaica a couple of months ago and avoided getting out and wandering around. We chose a tour group and had an awesome time. The people who go off of the ship and walked around had a terrible time. When we were in Turkey, several times a few years ago we were part of a group and we walked around on our own. It was good both ways. In Greece you can walk around on your own any time, day or night, same with Italy. In Israel you can walk around all you want during the day time. At night it just depends on where you are. In the bigger cities I wouldn't walk the streets at night.

Gary Fagg Jan 7, 2015 10:00am

I have traveled 50,000+ air miles for 35 years on business and pleasure. This list says it all; it is concise and its advice is spot on. I particularly concur with the value of walking, particularly foreign cities. And consider getting up early to walk the streets and watch a city wake up in the morning.

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Alana Morgan

Alana Morgan is a twenty-something traveler trying to figure out life one place at a time…and blogging about it at Paper Planes. Originally from Seattle, she’s been living, working, and traveling in Thailand and Southeast Asia for the past three years with no plans to ‘settle down’ anytime soon. You can see more of what she’s currently up to on Instagram and Facebook.