Coming from an international school background, I’ve had my fair share of jet-setting. It’s no coincidence that travel culture has become extremely popular, since fascinating destinations are just a few clicks and steps away. And with travel comes new cultures, new experiences and new people that await us. However, it’s tempting to let ourselves loose and seek an escape by bringing out old habits that inhibit those excitements. That doesn’t mean we can’t be ourselves, but there’s certainly more to travel than validating our experiences. So here’s how to make the most of your travels.
Set a realistic budget so you don’t regret on it later
Probably the most unsexy of points, but it can make a significant difference in your experience. It’s nice to splurge beyond means (we already bought a plane ticket right?), but if you end up mega-stressing over financials afterwards, your overall impression of the trip can be ruined.
See what you want to see, not what others tell you to see
It’s OK to seek advice of places to go from whichever source you prefer, but do filter attractions out if they don’t fit your taste. Just because it’s famous or a national landmark doesn’t mean its a mandatory destination. Choosing to visit spots that excite you will make your trip more fulfilling.
Stop making comparisons to what you’ve known from past experiences
I’m certainly guilty of this, since it’s tempting to seek comfort when we’re in new and unfamiliar environments. But learning to limit the “This reminds me of..”, will help you appreciate the culture and people more. Remember every culture is unique regardless of how similar it may be to neighboring or historical affiliations. It can be quite rewarding to find patterns and trends amongst places from an academic view, but while you’re abroad, enjoy the new adventures during the moment.
Learn the language and interact, even if you don’t know much of it
“Hello” and “Thank you” will make the interactions that much more fun. It may be mostly a sign language or dictionary situation, but people for most parts appreciate your effort. And who knows, that awkwardness may lead to unexpected smiles of camaraderie.
Put the phone and IG down when you can
As much as I semi-believe WIFI is life, putting your phone down will open your eyes to unexpected details. Taking photos for memory is wonderful, but don’t let it consume the majority of your time. Unless you travel professionally for work that is.
Skip the souvenirs if you don’t have the time for them
Purchasing vanity goods as tokens of your travels can be fun, but don’t feel pressured to do it if you don’t have the time or resource. The best memories can come from photos (a reasonable amount) and even better yet, within ourselves. Sharing our stories as opposed to gifting commodities to friends and family can make relationships even more meaningful.
If you’re not having a good time, examine why and surprises may ensue
Not all travels are going to be what you expect. In fact, when it’s a trip you’ve planned for so long, you may end up having sky-high expectations. But don’t let that or other inhibitions get in your way. Learn to understand why you’re feeling unsatisfied and learn to let go. After all, you are in a different city, different country, or even different continent, and the worst case scenario is you not letting in the new experiences.
This is by no means the full list of how to make the most of your trip; it all depends on your preferences of enjoyment. But I hope this will help guide your future travels and happy jet-setting!
Photos from Trip to Paris ’15.