People travel many different ways. Some like to party or gamble, others want to relax on a beach, some want to hike the highest mountain or go on wild adventures like sky diving. Regardless of how you travel, the memories made are always a priceless experience.
One thing I have learned is that each trip will be exactly what you make it. In all my years of traveling, I have seen some people get the most out of their trips and others who seem to miss out. Even I have learned my fair share of lessons through trial and error over many trips. I believe that no matter who you are, where you go, and how you like to travel there are some very simple things to do and not to do in order to maximize your time and have a more soulful experience.
Here is my list of 10 ways you can get the most out of your trip:
1. Pay attention to the little things. No matter where you go and how busy you are, don’t forget to stop and admire every detail. This includes the flowers in bloom, the architecture of a building, street signs, how locals interact, or other things that many people may miss or disregard. Be observant and try to notice those little things that uniquely set the destination apart and add to its charm.
2. Stay off your phone. Save your phone battery for taking pictures and using GPS to navigate. You can chat with people, check emails and post on social media later. The entire point of getting away is to unplug and experience the country you’re in. But you won’t be able to do that if you’re glued to your phone or talking to people you can talk to when you’re back home. With the exception of my husband, my worrisome mother and whoever is watching my dog, everyone else can wait so that I can enjoy my trip. I understand that many, including myself, tend to be addicted to our smartphones but do your best to be present and live in the moment.
3. Take lots of photos… but not too many. I am the type that loves to look back at memories and reminisce for years to come. So I absolutely love photography and usually take tons of pics whenever I travel. I don’t, however, take photos of any and everything. I try to selectively capture particularly beautiful or meaningful images that I want to remember. Otherwise I end up with thousands of photos and I am overwhelmed trying to go through them all later on. I also like having my photo taken just like anyone else but at the same time, I realize it’s pretty obnoxious to constantly ask others to snap pics of me so I save those shots for particularly special places. I don’t need to be in every single photo. On that note…
4. Be authentic. Stop being consumed with what will look best on your Instagram feed or get the most likes. If that is your sole motivation for what you do, why you travel and the photos you take, then you’re doing it all wrong. This is all too common among my generation since we’ve been inundated with the need for validation via social media platforms. It is truly tragic because you will miss out on valuable and unforgettable experiences. While I love photos as I stated above, I will admit that my fondest memories weren’t always captured or shared. Some of the best times I had remain only in my memory because I was having too much fun to care if anyone else knew what I was doing. We should do things with the right intentions of enjoying, experiencing, learning, and actually living our lives…. Not for impressing others or proving how fabulous our lives look. If you are truly living authentically in the moment and savoring your trip, it will ultimately show in your content. But if you’re simply trying too hard to show off, that will also show.
5. Plan your activities around the sunset. I am addicted to beautiful sunsets and I try to see them whenever I can. There is something about the day ending and the sun retreating that is a spiritual experience for me. So every time I travel, I always plan what I am doing around this. When I hiked in Sedona, I timed it so I would be at the top of the mountain to see the sun setting in the horizon and the sky change colors against the beautiful red rock canyons. When I was sightseeing in Tokyo, I saved my visit to the top of the Mori tower until sunset time so I could enhance the incredible view with sunset hues. And in Paris, I was delighted to see the sun set behind the iconic Eifel Tower. I highly recommend this practice for the best views, photos and memories.
6. Give yourself time to wander. You may be crazy like me and try to jam pack as much as you can into short periods of time. But even still, I try to make sure I leave a little wiggle room so I can be spontaneous. Perhaps I’ll discover something along the way that that is not in my agenda but that I would like to do or see. Maybe the pool will be calling my name to lounge around for a few hours (and this happens often). Or perhaps something comes up and I miss something else I planned to do. Allowing a little extra free time in even the busiest itinerary always comes in handy.
7. Buy souvenirs. I do not mean for your entire family who probably won’t even appreciate them. But for yourself. Find something from your destination that you can treasure for years to come and that will always remind you of your trip. Some people try to pick up the same souvenir from every place they go so that they can build up a collection, such as a shot glass, postcard, Christmas ornament, or (like me) a refrigerator magnet. But I also like to bring home something unique and different from each place too. Some examples are a protective mask from Bali that is hung over my door to ward off evil spirits, a traditional tea kettle from Japan, or a shawl from Madrid like the ones flamenco dancers wear. Once a trip is over, it’s over. But I will always have these special items to cherish.
8. Take care of yourself. That means staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest, and wearing comfortable shoes. You will get more out of your trip when you’re feeling your best. I have learned this the hard way myself. If on the other hand you’re tired, dehydrated and sore, you will not only enjoy your trip less but you are more susceptible to getting sick or injured.
9. Talk to locals. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with them. They can recommend restaurants and activities that they enjoy and which are much more authentic than tourist traps you’ll be prone to try. I can’t tell you how many times I told tourists what to skip and what they can’t miss during my time living in Hawaii. Also locals are usually happy to tell you about their country and what their life is like there. I always ask them how they view Americans because I find it fascinating to understand what the rest of the world thinks about us. Locals are the best teachers and guides to learn from.
10. Be open minded. Too often I see people disappointed because they are stuck on some expectation or perception they have that may not match the reality. People usually say authentic Italian food in Italy sucks but really, it’s just more simple than the unhealthy Americanized version we know. I also hear people struggle with language barriers because they somehow expect everyone to know English everywhere they go. I am not saying you need to learn Vietnamese before visiting Vietnam but definitely be open to the fact that they may not be as Westernized as you thought or cater to you like you expect. You must keep your mind open to experience a country for what it is and appreciate the differences. If you want everything to be familiar and just like what you’re used to, then sorry to tell you but there really is no point in you traveling abroad and you should just stay home. The whole point of travel is to see foreign places that change your perspective and take you out of your comfort zone. Embrace it.