As I wedge myself into the back of a top-heavy bus winding up the hairpin-turns of the high Atlas Mountains of Morocco, I realize….. this trip is not for me. It’s not the location or the food or the culture that’s the problem. The problem is the way I’m experiencing it; cramped on tour bus going from stop to stop with no free time. To me this is the worst travel has to offer and my days of tour buses and calculated tour experiences is over!

Oh and it’s so liberating!

After two decades of travel, I’ve honed in on few travel secrets. With the face of travel changing across the globe there are some new and exciting adventures out there waiting for you! And it’s easier than you think. Gone are the days of one-option flights, bus tours and hotel rooms. A new world of travel is emerging allowing us to take advantage of how, when and where we travel. Travel is a skill I have learned over time and there is a definite ART form to it! Trust me, not all travel is created equal.

1. My First Piece of Advice: Make the Trip About YOU!

After all, you are spending your hard earned money to see the world. Follow your heart and follow your dreams. Go places that inspire you, that give you a sense of adventure and magic. With so many options from hotels to houses and tour companies that bike, hike and fly, you can see the world like never before. Find what you love and make the trip about you. Figure out HOW you like to travel; alone or with a group, to big cities or the country side, action packed or leisurely. What is most important to you? History, food, culture, architecture, landscapes or sites?  It’s about the experience, the people, the adventure, not how many things you can see at once!

Here’s what I’ve learned about me: I like to travel in small groups 2-10. I prefer small villages or the country-side with tons of leisure time to photograph in the mornings and evenings. I love shopping experiences unique to the country or region. I like to be in a prime location and in 4 star comfortable accommodations, usually a house or apartment. I love panoramic views and sites within walking distance. Culinary options for food unique to the country are a must.  I seek for awe and wonderment! I travel for the sensory experience and these are the rules I live by.

2. Second Travel Tip: Have an Open Mind

WOW, as a western culture, we have a tendency to think our way is the best way and we want things IMMEDIATELY.  I got the best advise from a Rotary mentor as an exchange student. They said, “Things are not better or worse, they are just different.” By-and-large that is a true statement and has stuck with me through all my years of travel.

Travel quite rudely pushes you out of your comfort zone. You are most likely experiencing a language you cannot understand or read, a location you’ve never been to, with completely different food, in a culture COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from your own. Throw in some jet-lag, indigestion, a drastically different religion, set of rules, and that can be disconcerting to the best of us.

My advice; when you step onto the plane, leave your Western mindedness behind and enter the world you are visiting with humility, a sense of learning and a large dose of patience. No one runs on our timetable! And remember, things are not better or worse, they are just different.

3. Third Travel Savvy Hack: Travel Comfortably

We may not all be able to travel first class, but there are a lot of things you can do to travel comfortably.

I put a lot of stock in location and accommodations. To be honest, I will never book a house/apartment if the beds are not the right size or look uncomfortable! I always read the reviews. Keep your location in mind. If you’re booking a beautiful room, but it happens to be across the street from the train station, on the ground floor, next to the elevator….well you won’t be getting much sleep.

Travel Pro Tip: Most beds around the world are double. I don’t know about you but I need a little space when sharing a bed. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you book.

There are ton of travel products that can make your experience better. My number one is bring comfortable clothing and shoes. I like to look nice, but when traveling, comfort will trump every time. Pick clothes and shoes that can serve as both. Be prepared with layers, rain jackets, etc. We have tons of tips for traveling comfortably in these posts: How to Travel Like You’re in First Class, A Complete Guide to Carry-On Essentials, How to Avoid Jet-Lag.

4. Fourth: Research Where You Go

Sure you can jump on a plane at any time, with little-to-no-knowledge of the history or culture you are entering. People do it all the time. But I GUARANTEE that you will have a more fulfilling experience that will leave impressions for a lifetime, if allow yourself to learn about the country’s history and culture. Pick up a biography, history book, historical fiction or even a travel book. And if you are going to a location with a drastically different religion, please do yourself a big favor and read about it before hand with a mind to learn. One of my favorite sources of information is The Great Courses for various history and religion topics. Check out Good Reads for reviews on novels.

So dream big, do your research, open your mind and the world of possibilities will flood in! This is the ART of travel.

Happy Travels!

The Art of Travel by Shelley Coar

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