Travel. What feelings or emotions does that word evoke in you?
Until a year and a half ago, travel meant peer pressure to me. Seeing photos and blog posts, hearing tales of adventure and craziness, meeting friends after they returned from their trips made me yearn to travel myself. So when I finally got the opportunity, I was mindless in my planning.
I know now that I was doing it to accumulate stamps on my passport, for the “I went there, too!” selfies.
Mindless travel kept me happy for a while. But soon enough I realised I didn’t have real stories to share, or memories that excited me to travel some more. My trips were expensive, too, because I wouldn’t think the trip through.
I was not travelling for the joy of it, I was travelling to show myself and others that I loved travelling.
So I took a break from travelling. Yes, really! I chose not to travel until a destination called me. Maybe this was my New Age of travelling. I waited it out. I would check flight deals and read travel articles regularly, read blog posts of regular travellers, listen to what friends were saying when they recounted their travel tales. Gradually, thinking of travelling brought me honest-to-goodness joy. I started receiving ideas of activities I would enjoy when travelling. I found destinations that made me want to see and experience them, and not just because I would have another stamp on my passport.
A good couple of years later, I am happy to report that I do love travelling. Recently, I completed a multi-city trip I planned over just two days and had an absolute blast. I am writing this article to share the key lessons that I have learned about travel. These are personal lessons, but I think there’s something here for everyone:
Be mindful: Like I mentioned, may be this is my New Age of travelling. But once I figured out that I was travelling for me, to a destination that called me, and not to impress others or listen to their opinions about the destination or timing, I realised that I enjoyed the trip a lot more. Being mindful also brought me many more opportunities to travel as compared with when I would force myself to book trips because I wanted to be able to say that I had travelled.
Be present: Overwhelm is a common feeling associated with travel. You want to be able to get the maximum bang for your buck, and try to fulfill a packed agenda. However, this can be counter-productive. Prioritise your activities according to the time being spent in a place, and allow for time to process your experiences. I don’t enjoy every museum in every city, but if the theme or a particular exhibition is appealing to me I will prioritise a visit over, say, a trip to the shops or a relaxed lunch. And once I am out of that museum, if I enjoyed it, I like to take some time to reflect upon what I experienced and perhaps write in my journal or about it in a post card to dear one.
Take it personally: It’s your trip, after all! Having lived in Paris for more than half a decade now, people watching from cafés is an integral part of my travel activities. If I am staying for more than a couple of days in one place, I like identifying a café I would like to return to and enjoy my time. What would you like to do? Would you like to incorporate a tiny part of your “normal routine” into your travel time or become a different person altogether? Give it a thought. It really does make a difference to your experience. How do you record your experiences? One of my friends likes to send me, by post cards, journal entries during travels. I like to send post cards about that place or experiences I would like during future travels. A backpacker I met keeps a notepad about conversations he had with people he met and liked during travels.
Travel alone (if you must), but don’t be lonely about it: I enjoy travelling alone, as I am at my best when I am living at my own pace. However, this did not mean I could not discuss my travel until after the trip had happened, which is what I used to do. Most people love sharing their tips on travelling to or experiencing a destination, more so if they are native to the place. Ask around, there’s always a friend or an acquaintance who has been where you intend to travel. Maybe you even know someone who can rent you a couch for your stay, or has a friend who can show you around. Imagine walking around a city during the day, and being able to have a drink with a friend of a friend and sharing your views. If you hit it off, that person could be another familiar face in a foreign city. Google reviews of hostels and hotels you plan to stay in, ask the hotel or hostel lobby for a city map or guide and their insider guides to the destination, look around for friendly-looking fellow travellers willing to share their tips or a meal. You are travelling, be exciting and excited!
Prioritise, prioritise, practise: What are the most essential things you need to pack? Pack basic clothes and accessories that are multi-purpose. Even if travelling in winter, you can pack buildable basics instead of bulky jumpers that will increase baggage size. If you really must shop, and are on a multiple destination journey, wouldn’t it be best to shop just before the end of your trip? Most youth hostels offer computers in their lobbies, and all popular destinations have cyber cafés for internet access. Besides, with smart phones and accessible WiFi, do you really need a computer during travel? When you carry too many gadgets, you spend a lot of energy and time worrying about their security. Invest in quality, suitable pieces of luggage. Reflect upon what worked for you on this trip and what didn’t, so you can have a better trip next time.
I have travelled a fair bit now, and I am still working on learning from previous trips. At the end of a
travel day, you don’t want that “different places, same travelaches” feeling.
Do you have any lessons you have learned to share with us?
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Sofia Sforza/Unsplash