I am excited. Finally, after over two years, my family is embarking on an international vacation. Each time this happens, I count my blessings; I am immensely grateful for the countless unforgettable trips my parents have allowed me to experience and I truly feel that it is the best gift they could have ever given me. Not only has traveling given me the chance to see new sights and bond with my family, but it has opened my mind and overall shaped who I am as a person. The past two years have put a dead stop on our exotic vacations, and while in some ways it was nice to explore nearby wonders, I also have come to more greatly appreciate the rejuvenation of foreign travel.
Over the years, flying to locations ranging from two-hundred miles away to seven-thousand miles away, I have picked up a few skills and tips. To both share with you and to refresh myself, I have decided to write them out here. All around, people are traveling more. It seems as though lockdowns and isolations have given everyone the itch to get out of their bubbles because you honestly never know when that chance will be taken from you. My tips are not to get a deal, or to be as safe or quick as possible. I have learned through many unprecedented situations that it is nearly impossible to rely on strict guidelines to ensure the perfect travel experience. It is supposed to be a little rocky– that’s what makes it fun. Instead, these tips are meant to help you get the most out of your travels, so that you can return home treasuring the memories you made throughout your journey.
- BE FLEXIBLE
I am the first to say that planning and organization are key to having unforgettable trips. Luckily, my dad is an absolute pro at that, planning our itineraries and days down to the hour. However, while it is important to have a plan, it is also pivotal to understand that not everything is going to go to that plan. Have the plan of changing plans. Sure, a supposed three-hour train ride in Peru turning into a ten-hour expedition may have been frustrating, but it is the card games I played with my family and the exploring of the railroad tracks as they fixed the engine that I will remember the most. Don’t let small setbacks ruin what can be a new, exciting experience.
2. LEARN FROM THE LOCALS
I guess this is my way of saying “don’t be a tourist”. At the same time, that is not exactly the point I am trying to make. Sometimes, you can’t avoid being a tourist. You can’t not see the Statue of Liberty in New York, or skip the Great Wall of China, or even say no to a picture leaning against the Tower of Piza. But, you can learn about how the locals live and emulate that culture to fully immerse yourself in the area. What I mean is — stop trying to hold on to what you think you know. Try the local food. If the city is designed for biking, rent a bike. Learn a few phrases of the native language. Do whatever you can to infuse yourself with a little bit of that place’s culture.
With the prominence of social media these days, this tip may seem like common sense. Naturally, people document their vacations… they have to post on Facebook and Instagram and prove to the world that they are living an exciting and unique life. The difference is that I am not saying to document for other people, I am telling you to document for your future self. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with posting on social media, and it is the thousands of photos my dad has filed away that allow me to recall each of my trips with such clarity. Just do not forget that there is more than one way to document your travels. As you can probably guess… I like to write. Every trip I have taken over the past six years has been penned into a journal and stowed away for later like little nuggets waiting to be re-lived. I thank my younger self for doing this because it allows me to reminisce and find joy in the small daily occurences that, over time, have slipped from my memory. There are countless ways to document your trips — from journaling to videos to even buying souveniers, whatever you resonate with and will enjoy the most in 5, 10, or 15 years.
4. DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN
As previosuly mentioned, most vacations are once-in-a-lifetime opportunites. Even if not, you can never know when you will get the chance to take up many of these opportunites again. My advice: do everything you possibly can. Sometimes certain things can be daunting or uncomfortable or may even seem unnecessary, but as my mom always says — you don’t know unless you try. So, challenge your fear of heights and take the hot air balloon ride. Swim in the waters of Hawaii even if it’s cold. Walk around Kyoto in a kimono despite your fear of looking ridiculous. You will regret not taking that chance. Of course, be the safest you can be… but also do the things you know are worth it.
5. TAKE A LITTLE BIT HOME
Each place my family has visited has come home with us in some way. No, I did not pack the entirety of Iguazu Falls in my suitcase, but the Brazilian fish stew, Moqueca, has become a staple comfort dinner in my family. Each bathroom in my house now houses a Toto toilet, which originates in Japan. And, hanging in my closet is everything from an Egyptian Galabia to a Peruvian poncho. Whether it is souvenirs or a cultural practice or even a life lesson, bring something back from your travels. It will make you smile and pause, remembering the way a simple trip can change who you are.
Thank you for reading my top travel tips. First and foremost, I want to remind you to always be safe on your travels and to practice each tip in a way that serves you. I wish you joy and fulfillment in your future endeavors, and would always love to hear about the impacts they have made on you.
HAPPY LIVING xx
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” -Mae West