Travel, especially to an exotic foreign location, is extremely exciting but many people have a tendency to pack too much into one trip. It’s important to know when to stop and just be in the moment—enjoy your cultural surroundings; get a feeling for everyday life in a new place, and give yourself time to absorb the experience.
When you’re traveling on a schedule, you have a tendency to rush through meals, ignore your surroundings, and become hyper-focused on checking off the next stop on your list of tourist attractions. People often forget that it’s the journey that makes it special—the people, the food, the language, the different mannerisms, even the smells. All these things help us enjoy a richer and deeper experience when we travel. If you’re always on the go, you’ll miss out on these things and you’ll never even scratch the surface of what makes these places so special.
Here are a few tips to help you stay in check.
Visit the tourist attraction NOT the tourist trap
Before you go sightseeing, ask some locals where to pick up some traditional snacks for the day. You’ll get a taste for local snack foods and avoid the overpriced tourist-fare found at local attractions. Avoid international restaurant chains if possible and eat local. The bakery down the street from the hotel is almost always better than the cafeteria/snack bar at the museum.
Try to sit down for meals whenever possible
Sitting for meals helps you decompress and will give you time to talk about your recent experiences. Maybe someone saw something you missed or maybe you’ll want to reschedule your day because you’ve seen enough. A good sit down meal will help you rest and recharge for the next stop on your agenda.
Whether it’s food or drink—or even walking—know your limits. There is nothing worse than having stomach issues while traveling. The only thing worse would be getting injured on the first day of your ski trip because you went too big your first day out. Have fun but be conservative. If you really want to pull out all the stops, wait until the end of your trip. You can always sleep it off on the plane ride home.
Don’t just see the sights—experience them
When you go to just see an attraction, your just using one of your senses. To experience something you should try to use all your senses. That’s the difference between being a tourist and being a traveler. A traveler immerses themselves in the experience using all of their senses. Many of us often sterilize our travel experience by viewing sights form a safe and comfortable distance. As tourists, we try to see the sights while still hanging on to the familiar. We only eat foods we recognize and refrain from touching things from fear of germs. We even cover our noises to block unfamiliar smells. In doing so, we block out the full experience. If you truly want to maximize your travel experience, take it all in. Be a “traveler”.
Get to know some locals
Many travelers have stories of life-long friends that they met through chance encounters. Take some time to get to know people—especially folks that share your interests. Introduce yourself to some locals and ask for advice. If you both share the same interests, chances are they’ll know the perfect spot for you to go to. Typically the best places to go are slightly off the beaten path and you’d never know about them unless you asked a local.