So you’ve just moved abroad into a brand new and exciting country; perhaps you’re simply leaving home with some friends for an extended trip to see what the world has to offer. Whatever your reason may be when you step off that plane you’re going to begin a journey that will both mold and define the person you are to become. It would be easy to sit here and list off “must see,” locations along with highly rated restaurants to eat at, but that isn’t what this article is about. Rather I’d like to provide a few travel tips derived from personal observation and experience. I’ll be updating this series on a weekly to biweekly basis so check back for more.

Travel alone

Often times I will ask friends where they plan to travel and why. Their answers always seem to gravitate towards a country where they already have a friend that can hang out and show them around. Now I’m not saying that visiting your friends is bad, hell maybe you haven’t seen them in years and this is your highly anticipated special reunion. Sure, your friend will give you a sense of comfort and a close companion; but did you really leave wherever you were to stay in your comfort zone? You’ll find that traveling alone, while a somewhat terrifying prospect, can be unfathomably liberating. No one to confer with on what to eat, what to see, and where to go; you are in control of your own schedule. Being alone gives you a chance to reflect on yourself as a person; the silence and solidarity do wonders fortifying your mental state and adding a fresh perspective to a life that’s often filled reading status updates and thinking up new hash tags.

Put the travel guide away

Remember those sights and restaurants I mentioned before? That’s what travel guides are for. Use those guides and make a list of a few “must see,” locations. Otherwise, invite some uncertainty into your travels, talk to the employees at the hostels or hotels you’re staying at; make new acquaintances and ask their opinion on what you should see and do. You might even make a new travel companion to take in the experience with. There is a wealth of information you can derive from people that aren’t offered in the books. Things like busiest times, alternative routes, special deals, and local favorites are things that locals and fellow travelers are key for. You may also be the source of some very important information to your new friend as well, share you stories, and create new ones.

Take some time to enjoy the journey itself

Take out your headphones, put your sunglasses away, and maybe for a few minutes tuck that camera back into its case. The road on the way to each and every destination is full of the sights and sounds you left home to experience. You’ll have plenty of time to take photos once you reach whatever palace, temple, or monument you’re on the way to. Soak in the atmosphere and perhaps strike up a conversation, those conversations will be the memories that attach themselves to the pictures you’ll be taking home.

Don’t lose your head just because the trip isn’t going as planned

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans right? Don’t get too stressed out if things tend to go awry and you don’t get see everything you had planned to. In my experience something will always go wrong; make the best of it. Lost luggage, rude hostel-mates, cold showers, debilitating mosquito bites, bad weather, food poisoning, devious cab drivers, and spending way too much money; these are some of the things that everyone will experience to some degree. Don’t let one or two bad experiences taint the overall trip; make the best of what you have and readjust your plans accordingly. If your trips’ success is dependent on a particular number of tasks being achieved then you’re missing the beauty of traveling. Get out there and take the good and the bad together and make it a story you can look back on with fondness. Happiness is a state of mind not a checklist.

In case you were expecting some pictures…here I am with a deer in Nara, Japan.

Excuse the expression

Excuse the expression

Also the greatest cup I’ve ever encountered in Kyoto, Japan.

greatest cup 2 Greatest cup

 

Any travel tips you’d like to share? Comment below.

Cover Photo cred: captainkimo