When you take that plunge into ultimate adventure and decide to finally satisfy your wanderlust, it can be overwhelming. Planning for everything in an organized fashion, making sure you’re not forgetting any important steps like getting your passport, visa, and vaccines if applicable, and everything else in between, can be harrowing to say the least.
The big trip you’ve been anticipating may be a once in a lifetime experience. It may be your first time out of the country, out of state, or your last big expense for a while.
Maybe you just graduated college and you’re using your last scraps of that little thing that makes the world go ’round (you were probably betting a little too heavily on all that graduation money you were expecting) before you enter the real world and become a full-time adult. That last piece of freedom is riding heavily on a successful trip and on everything going smoothly.
Whatever the case may be, it means something to you and no one wants to come home from their travels only to tell person after curious person asking “How was the trip?” what they wish they had done or how it went wrong. Worst of all is when people don’t realize how amazing it actually was to be in the moment in a completely new part of the world, until they touch back home.
“It was nice but I’m glad to be back,”
“The weather was terrible,”
or my favorite, “It was dirty.”
Besides all of that, it costs a lot of money to travel! I know we tend to get a little spoiled with what we’re used to, what we’re comfortable with. Traveling out of the country puts everyone through a little culture shock. Even going out of state has an element of surprise sometimes. But it’s vital that you prepare yourself physically and mentally to get everything out of your trip as you possibly can. It’s equally important to not focus on the negatives. So here are some tips to soak it all in and fully appreciate your travels.
1. Do some thorough research
Make sure you look into every element that would affect your experience. This includes weather patterns during that time of year (so you don’t look like an ignorant tourist freezing to death and consequently having a miserable time), sites you want to make sure you hit and a plan for how to manage your time well, any currency conversions and amounts of money to plan on bringing, and your obvious stay and transportation plans. People often forget about the little details which can make all the difference on your trip.
2. Make a list
Write down all the things you know have a time limit that you need to get ready. It sounds like common sense, but I think people do overlook the power of simply writing things down. It’s a great form of mental organization–it inspires motivation when it’s set in writing somewhere. This puts it into existence. Make a list of things you need to accomplish in order of importance and time sensitivity.
3. Wait to buy excursions until you get there
This may go against planning ahead for you, but I can tell you from experience that it’s better and financially responsible to wait until you arrive to start buying tours and excursions. The reasoning for this is that often times tour guides and local excursion companies are offering much better pricing than when you buy them online ahead of time.
You can negotiate with people right there at your final destination, where you want the tour. Most of the time these people are natives to the area and can offer a more authentic experience anyway. These are good ways to get great knowledge on your tour and have fun!
4. Try to moderate recording your experience
This might contradict a lot of people’s beliefs in our technologically swarmed society, but try not to spend most of your time taking pictures and videos, etc. Instead, really be in the moment. Open your eyes instead of looking at your surroundings through your phone screen or camera lens. Look at the beauty around you. You truly may never see it again. Note the smells and the feel of the air, the way the sky looks and the aura you get from the local people.
There’s something magical about a place that gives you memories for just a temporary time. We take for granted what we see every day where we’re comfortable in our home towns, but in a foreign city we are touched by its culture just long enough to miss it when we leave. We cherish it as our little escape when we get too settled into daily routines back home.
It’s true that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Travel allows us to appreciate home when otherwise taken for granted–just like a relationship. The same rules apply. So yes, take pictures at notable places and times. But don’t forget to be there, too.
5. Mingle with the locals
It’s sometimes easier said than done, but make a point to talk to people native to the area. If you don’t know the language of where you’re going, learn as much of it as you can before your trip arrives. At least get some basics down because it’s such an empowering feeling to be able to self-sufficiently communicate with people in a different part of the world.
To figure out directions when you’re lost, engage in customer service transactions efficiently, and even have friendly conversations with strangers creates a new feeling of independence. It can also lead to figuring out the fun places for a night out or, if you’re lucky, making some life-long friends.
Talking to locals helps you have an authentic and fulfilling experience. People are the heart of any city, so experiencing what they’re like is an important part of experiencing the place and its culture.
So there you have your five tips for really getting your fill out of a city as much as you can. I promise you that even if you think this isn’t your favorite place you’ve been, you’ll always look back and miss it in some way later. It’s best to always focus on the positives of your experience and enjoy it in every way possible.
Appreciate what it gives you. Let it broaden your mind and understanding of people. Lastly, roll with all the hiccups because yes, they will definitely happen unless you’re just an awesome planner and have really good luck.
Things happen. Let those things be stories you can tell those curious people. As long as you can laugh about them because you know you planned as well as you could have, bumps in the road are what make the journey. Don’t take them for granted, either.