International travel is one of the best adventures. I love JRR Tolkien’s quote; “It’s a dangerous business…going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” And more likely than not you will be swept off to untold adventures and priceless memories!
To travel and travel well are two very different ideas. Here are a few secrets I’ve picked up along the way for traveling well.
Side note: I will just come out and say it, if you are an American, you will always stand out like a fox in a hen house! I don’t think it’s in our nature to blend in. So to that end, just own it, and try not to ruffle too many feathers along the way.
Travel Tip #1 Relax and smile.
As Americans we tend to want what we want, when we want it. I hate to break it to you, but in other countries they are not on our time frame or plane of logic.
Take for example the time, me and several hundred of my closest friends, waited an hour in sweltering heat to go through customs in Paris with only two lines open and 10 other customs officers standing around chatting. My husband always says, ‘It makes sense if you don’t think about it.’ I apply that principal a lot when traveling.
Travel Tip #2 Stop talking and start listening.
Listen to the sound of the new country. Listen to the history. Listen to the culture. Ask questions and then listen. Oh, and turn off that cell phone. My favorite vacations are the ones where my cell phone doesn’t work.
Travel Tip #3 Get off the beaten path.
You can see a lot of great things from a tour bus window, but you won’t experience much.
The best part comes from meeting and interacting with the people around you, and no, I do not mean that weird older couple from England. Go to a local restaurant, coffee shop, or garden and just sit, watch, and listen. (Order something too, so the waiter won’t despise you!)
**Extra Tip: One of the best places to do this is Venice. The women there are incredible dressers, and it is soooo much fun to watch them as they go by! Have some coconut gelato while you are at it!
Travel Tip #4 Repeat after me; “______ is not better or worse, it’s just different.”
Fill in the blank; Mass transportation, Buddhism, Parisians, religious ceremonies, ideas, customs, languages, food, etc.
You may like your way better, but that doesn’t make it right. You will be amazed at the world you will find when you take off your western-minded glasses and see life through a different lens. I like to think mine is rose colored.
Travel Tip #5 Learn.
Please, please, please, do a little research before you go and be mindful and conscience of the culture and country you are visiting. Read a book… or two. Listen to a lecture on Cd. Ask a native. As someone who has been there. You will thank yourself later.
Oh and don’t forget every wary and tattered international traveler packs an extra outfit in their carry-on bag and owns a good pair of earplugs…