Today is the first day of 2020. Yep, a new decade. Every year you see lists about the best, cheapest, most unknown places to travel [this year]. This is not that list.
This is about how to travel well. What does that mean? It means that your travels mean more than just checking attractions off a list. Most travelers start out by trying to see everything, take a thousand pictures, and do it all as quickly as possible. We all want to hit the highlights and have something to talk about with our friends, coworkers, and families when we get home. This is not traveling well.
Below are 5 resolutions on how to travel well and have a fulfilling trip. Become a traveler and not just a tourist.
Try Local Food
Yes, there probably is a McDonald’s wherever you’re traveling. That doesn’t mean you should eat there. One of the best things about going somewhere new is trying their food!
I get terrible heartburn from most things with seasoning, so I know to bring TUMS everywhere I go. That doesn’t stop me from trying that Spanish rice, or that Thai fried chicken doused in spicy sauce. It shouldn’t stop you either.
PS: It’s OKAY if you don’t like the local food, but give it a shot before you hate on it. We almost starved in Hong Kong because we don’t like Chinese food or dim sum.
PPS: it’s okay to eat at a chain restaurant if you’re worried about food safety, but try to find the best local chains. For example if you want chain fast food in Atlanta, Georgia, I recommend stopping at Zaxby’s for excellent fried chicken!
Meet New People
It’s so easy when traveling as a couple or a group to never really interact with anyone else. That includes locals, hotel staff, and other travelers. Even if you’re traveling with someone, you should still reach outside your bubble and try to meet others from different walks of life.
You might be surprised by how much you have in common.
Here are a few ways to meet new people while traveling:
- Take a group day tour (like snorkeling) and actually talk to the other people
- Volunteer – for example at a place like Lanta Animal Welfare in Thailand – you’ll never forget that week where you volunteered to help take care of fluffy kittens in paradise
- Take a group vacation with strangers – it’s not as scary as it sounds
- Hang out at a local bar/restaurant/coffee shop/watering hole/hotel bar
- Consider staying in hostels or using sites like Couchsurfing to stay with other travelers
- Book a room in an Air B&B, and meet the other people who are staying there
- Take a local class (like cooking) – check out Air B&B’s experiences or find something on Groupon
- Go to a local event
- Walk around town without staring at your phone, listening to your headphones, or reading a book
Embrace Local Culture
You are probably used to your home culture, and anything outside of it seems WEIRD. We have a series of YouTube videos and articles that show the “things nobody tells you” which is meant to point out the differences in culture. None of these things are wrong or bad, just different. For example, in Thailand they revere their king and in Mexico PDA is common.
Okay, so maybe the PDA is a bit much. But they’re not hurting anyone! Embrace the local culture, and respect it. Remember that you’re coming from a totally different world and the idea of a “wrong culture” is extremely subjective.
From 9-9:30 AM we eat breakfast, and 9:30-10:30 AM we travel to the museum, and from 10:30-12 PM we look at the art, then lunch from 12-1 PM.
Does this sound stressful to you? Type A personalities might LOVE this type of schedule, but it can be exhausting and hectic to stay on track. It’s fine to plan out a few things here and there, but don’t time your whole trip because you lose the spontaneity of it.
Whatever you think you know about a place – get it out of your head. It’s smart to do research beforehand to know the best things to do, how much they cost, where to stay, etc.
However, when you read up on every place and know every fact before you even get there, it takes the fun and discovery out of it.
It’s just like modern movie trailers – in an effort to pique your interest, producers often give away too much of the story. Let yourself find out the story in person!
Your Actual Resolution: Be Open to Exploring
Above all else, try to be open. When you open up your heart and mind amazing things can happen!