I’ve always been a lover of travel. The new smells, sights, sounds and experiences that come with venturing from home into the great unknown is an unparalleled experience. It’s probably why I gambled my future in college and switched my [very brief] Psychology major to Anthropology, spending summers and semesters abroad. I learned some crucial lessons very early on in my traveling career- things that you don’t realize until you’re stuck in the middle of monsoon season in Thailand and your last good pair of flip-flops have bitten the dust.
Recently on a business trip to California, I spent the entire five hour plane ride pouring over the book What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, and it changed how I looked at travel. In this funny and insightful memoir, the author discusses the pros and cons to both marriage and travel, ultimately understanding the divide that can be remedied between the two in time, and if you find the right person to travel alongside both at home and abroad.
If you’re lucky, and healthy, and live in a country where you have enough to eat and no fear that you’re going to get shot when you walk out your door, life is an endless series of choosing between two things you want almost equally. And you have to evaluate and determine which awesome thing you want infinitesimally more, and then give up that other awesome thing you want almost exactly as much. You have to trade awesome for awesome.-Kristin Newman
First things first, do yourself a favor and research everything you can about your destination.
This applies to literally every destination, even if it’s domestic or you’ve been there once or twice before. Even if you’ve been to Little Rock, Arkansas before, it’s possible some really cool events will be going on during your three day stay that you would have no clue about had you not Googled it. Never been to Wichita? Well why don’t you look up the best restaurants and must-see destinations in the area?!
And, of course, if you’re venturing to Klaipeda, Lithuania, try to at least figure out how to say one or two things in Lithuanian, and maybe even research what their national dish is… (I’ll give you the answer: Kepta Duona. The most incredible fried bread with cheese you’ll ever find. And it’s served in every bar you visit!)
Not only will you ease the initial culture shock that comes from being in a new place, but you will most likely enjoy your experience more thoroughly than just asking your hotel for local recommendations for pizza places nearby.
Also, if you’re going to a destination that is not remote, pack light!
One of my biggest regrets on every trip I take is that I never have enough room in my suitcase to take more things home with me! I wish that someone had told me very early on in the game that I could buy literally anything in Thailand and it would be much better suited for their climate and so much cheaper. I always ended up trashing my American clothes a week into the trip so I could “more authentically experience the culture”. I may also have a shopping addiction…
Try the local food! Seriously, I promise you won’t regret it (but also be smart about it!)
I am one of the pickiest eaters around, but when I’m visiting somewhere new, I know I have to set aside my differences and just try it all. If you’ve got allergies or moral beliefs that restrict this freedom of taste, try your best to adapt the menu to your needs, but be as adventurous as you can within those limits! And worst case scenario, just don’t ask what you’re eating until after you’ve finished it. Sometimes you won’t like the answer, but it’s the experience that matters!
Go ahead. Be a tourist- take ALL the pictures.
While I would never trade any of my “live in the moment” moments throughout all of my travels, I never take enough pictures and wind up
regretting the lack of physical proof that I swam in the Indian Ocean. Be a tourist, snap pictures constantly, and maybe even a video or two so that you can relive that moment on a Tuesday morning while you’re sitting in your cubicle, depressed as hell.
There’s so many more things I want to depart, so many mistakes and exciting ideas and endless discussions about what exactly to pack (believe me, I check Pinterest every time I travel to make sure I’m not forgetting anything).
But the most important travel tip of all is to go.
Stop putting it off. Book that long-awaited trip, pack up your boots, and go. Stop saying, “Next month” or “Next year”, and take a risk. Use up all of your PTO. Go alone, go with a friend, go with your mom, but make sure that you go.
You will never regret it- and whoknows? It could be the trip of a lifetime.