Travel. It’s more accessible than ever, but its still an investment of time and money that you want to get the most out of. Here’s a few things I suggest to maximize your growth and experiences through traveling.👍
Put some time into researching before you go somewhere. Don’t only look into silly things like hotels and transport (necessary, but don’t over complicate it…). Rather, research things like the history of an area or some of its cultural practices. A personal example of this: this previous year I visited Turkey and before I went I listened to some podcasts on the history of the Turkish empire and Istanbul. I ended up falling into a rabbit hole learning about the fall of Constantinople (now Istanbul) which was immensely interesting. Who doesn’t like a good story about overcoming the impossible, young sultans proving themselves, massive cannons, and pulling ships over hills on rollers!?!
"The learning I had done before my trip revealed greater meaning and detail to me when wandering the streets of Istanbul. I'd have missed so much by just showing up and 'seeing the sights'. I get that it might not always be possible to do this in preparation for a trip, but intentiality makes it possible. Maybe swap out your typical netflix show for some historical documentaries and throw on a history podcast on instead of music?
(Me in front of the Hagia Sofia Church/Mosque/Museum in Istanbul)
So I understand that this is totally a personal thing, everyone has their own special preference for the amount of planning that should be put into a trip, but I’m going to tell you the right way to do it 😉. To optimally experience travel I recommend a flexibly planned trip; find the big things you want to do for sure, do your research for those locations (the more boring stuff like transportation, accommodations, etc…), and if you really want, plan out a couple things you want to do without a doubt.
(Cinque Terre, Italy. Highly recommended!)
But, don’t plan everything. Leave it a bit open, leave yourself some flex for adventure. When I was backpacking Europe this last year I had some solid dates and locations predetermined before I left, but I left a lot of space open. I had possibilities lightly researched and then approximately every 3-4 days I would plan for the upcoming 3-4 days (book hostels/air bnb’s, plan trains/flights, etc...). This was great because it left me with the ability to stay longer in a location if I wanted, plan for a shorter visit somewhere based on the recommendation of a fellow traveler or go to a new location completely outside of my original plan. I believe this balance between planning and spontaneity is optimal and it’s what I recommend. If you disagree I would also love to hear what you think in the comments!
You didn’t go traveling internationally to just have a more exotic location to browse Instagram right? You’re likely addicted to your phone like the rest of us… but quit it, at least for a little bit and talk to some people. Touristy behavior is a little bit sickening to me at times. I think this idea of going from one location to the next, headphones on, glued to our phones, and then arriving, taking a few photos, wandering around a bit and then moving on to the next thing is weak sauce. I know not everyone does it, but it is a easy mentality to drop into. A great way to break out of this is to start talking to strangers.
Forget about being awkward, just go for it! You’ll likely never see them again anyways. Crazy things start to happen when you start to talk. This last July, I was sitting in front of the fountain of Trevi in Rome (pictured above) and I started a conversation with the lady next to me. She studied the effects of terrorism in Europe (interesting!), and she invited me to join herself and another guy, an Argentinian who had been studying in Rome for several years, in touring around the city. It was quite the day! The guy had also trained to be a tour guide and was an avid history buff, so he shared tons of interesting stuff and showed us some of the greatest local food spots. Later in the day, through these new friends, I also met a guy who worked in some ministry of the Italian government and pick his mind on the politics of Italy. All of this because I started a conversation with someone sitting next to me.
(Fountain of Trevi, Rome. Not my photo)
It is a great blessing to be able to travel, make the most of it! Cheers to exploring the world, new experiences and the great stories that unfold as a result. 👍