9 ways to get the most out of your travels
I don't know how many small minds I've encountered on my travels but if somebody asked me I'd say far too many! and each one is as frustrating as the last. It blows my mind when I hear people complain about other cultures, comparing them to their own with shaking heads "the pizza here isn't as good as home" "the beaches here are s**t compared to home" "the people aren't as friendly as at home" "the weather here is so crap compared to home!" the list goes on and on... a never ending list of things filed in the negative compartment simply because they are different to home, errr you do realise you're not at home right? When you've paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars to travel abroad isn't the whole point to experience something new?! Apparently not for some... some travel to foreign countires expecting no less than all the comforts of home *sigh GET OUT OF YOUR BUBBLE!
If you want to get the most out of the money you've spent to travel then you must leave the tunnel vision at home. Because honestly, if you're totally unwilling to extend your mind in order to accept and embrace new cultures, cuisines, landscapes, people, architecture, and history then you're better off staying at home and saving your money. If you do it right, travel is an investment which you can reap huge rewards from. But if you do it wrong, it's a total waste of money and time. You'll be able to say you went there but you won't have genuinely experienced it. So here are 9 ways you can ensure you're getting the most out of your travels...
1. Embrace the weather
I live in London, I have done for the last 4.5 years. I moved here from sunny, warm Australia but you don't hear me complaining about the weather. I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard *cue whiney voice "the weather is so bad here, it rains allll the time" (which is a huge exaggeration) Sure it's nice to be in a warm climate for majority of the year but would I let one, not so desirable factor blind me to everything that is amazing about London? no! this place rocks. I can deal with a bit of cold rain in order to enjoy everything that's great about it. It's all about perception! When it starts drizzling on a spring day that's 2 degrees and blowing a gale you won't see me with my head down and a sullen look on my face, rather you'll see me giggling despite my fingers being numb from the knuckles down because I'm thinking how stereotypically 'London' it is, that's called keeping an open mind!
2. Always remain respectful
Every country has its own unique customs, some are even lawful. Most however are simply practiced by locals as ancient and cherished traditions. It's important to respect these traditions, a lot of tourists don't and it leaves the locals with a distaste towards tourists. An example of this is that in most churches across Europe it is custom to cover your skin, it's deemed inappropriate to enter a sacred place with bare skin. If you plan on visiting a church, wear a maxi dress and take a light shawl to cover your shoulders, fellas you should be ok in a t-shirt (no singlets) and knee length shorts. Of course the worst that will happen in most cases is you'll get shot some disapproving looks and might be refused entry, but I think if you're a genuine traveller you want to learn about and take part in local traditions so you respect and follow them regardless of knowing that you won't go to prison if you don't.
3. Eat the local cuisine
I have travelled with the type of people before who will eat at McDonald's when they are in Italy. If you are anything like me you're probably shaking your head right now. It's just as annoying when people make the effort to go to a local restaurant and then proceed to order a burger and fries, seriously?! That kind of food in non English speaking cultures isn't even good! the local cuisine will be far tastier, it's what they're good at. Envision yourself making sushi, you might be able to make it but it won't be the same quality you'd find in Japan or at a Japanese restaurant. I suppose some people are cautious about trying new things... but if that's the case, why bother travelling? just stay at home and eat a burger! at least it'll be a good one. One of my favourite aspects of travel is trying new food, and some of the best meals I've ever eaten have been things I've ordered without even being able to read what it was on the menu! so try something new, it can be hit and miss but more often than not it's hit.
4. Learn the basics of the language
I always find it rewarding speaking to a foreigner in their native tongue and having them respond. They know very well you're a total amateur but they appreciate you trying and respect you for it. You don't need to know full sentences, just basics like thank you, sorry, hello and goodbye which are easy to learn and memorise. It's also cool knowing how to order a beer in a new language! that always gets a laugh. Some places you visit may not appreciate you trying to converse in their language as much as others, I found the French didn't entirely appreciate it! but in most other places I would get a warm smile and a response in the native tongue. One more thing, if you immediately start speaking English to a local in a non english speaking country, it's a big indicator that you're travelling with a narrow mind. If you don't know even the basics of the language at least ask if they speak English first before you start talking, it's rude not to.
5. Note the positives, not the negatives
Instead of complaining about everything that you find undesirable or annoying about a new place, try replacing those negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, you might think "It's way too humid in Thailand" put that thought aside and instead remember how beautiful it's beaches are. Instead of thinking "French people are so rude" remember how good the food is! Instead of thinking "the weather in London is so crap" remember the incredible vibe of the city. There is a positive for every negative and in my opinion the positives ALWAYS outweigh the negatives - by a long shot. With a closed mind though you will only be able to see the negatives.
6. Learn about and get involved with local customs
Every culture has its own unique way of doing things, whenever the opportunity arises I strongly suggest getting involved in local traditions - provided of course that it's safe and humane. Some local customs involve terrible animal cruelty; Are you saying yes to animal abuse? be aware on your travels La tomatina in Spain is a fantastic tradition to get involved with, as is plate smashing in Greece, carnival in Rio, a football match in England, Australia Day down under, 4th of July in the US, making pho soup in Vietnam, you get my drift! Get involved with and learn about the way other people from other places live! you might find yourself thinking "this is awesome! why don't we do this?!"
7. Don't compare to home
Such a blatantly obvious but seemingly necessary point to make. You've left your home country for the time being and are now in a entirely new and different environment, don't forget that! Of course it's different to home because it's not home! and different is a good thing.
8. Think of your trip as a learning opportunity rather than just a holiday
I'm always excited to have a break when I'm going away somewhere, yay for sleep-ins! But more than that I'm excited at the prospect of experiencing and learning about a place that I know virtually nothing about! it's exciting venturing into the unknown, knowing that you will leave with new knowledge and experience under your belt and a broader perspective. You'll leave being able to say 'I know that' 'I've seen that' 'I've been there' isn't that the core reason for travel? To see and experience the new and unknown? to learn about the world? travel is a never ending quest for knowledge in my mind.
9. Don't be a typical tourist, venture off the beaten track
There's no doubt you're going to check out big tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, and Buckingham palace. I'll be the first to say they are definitely worth seeing! they're not major tourist attractions for nothing. But I urge you to venture a little farther than that, a little off the beaten track and onto the road less travelled because when you do you open the gate to extremely unique and rich travel experiences. One way of doing this is to try and find authentic, non touristy resturants to eat at; 5 invaluable travel tips you'll be glad you knew! other ways of moving away from tourist hourdes is to simply just go for a walk without a plan! get lost... take a map in case you need it to find your way back but only use it if you really need to. It's so rewarding when you're not sure of where you are but eventually, and all on your own you figure it out. So go and see what interesting things you can find away from the hectic crowds. A cute little local coffee shop, a beautiful unfrequented park, an art exhibition, a local street market...
I hope I've managed to inspire you with this post, I truly believe that the most rewarding travel experiences are had when you move outside of the box, so venture and discover! dare to be a little different.
Over and out x
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