Travel should get you outside your comfort zone. That’s where all the learning happens!
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there”. -Anonymous
I have thirteen rules or things that I like to do when I travel. If you can do these 13-things you will find that you truly got to know the place you visited a little better, met some wonderful people and you’ll have unique stories to tell about your travels.
1. Meet new people.
You’re traveling – it’s a good thing! Smile and say hi to people. Take the time to talk and get to know the person sitting next to you on the bus or the server at the restaurant. You’ll find it much more interesting to tell about your adventures if you can share stories about the people you met. Who knows you might make a lifelong friend or find a buddy to share part of your journey.
2. Take a walk – through town, along the beach or even through a field.
Walking through a little village or taking your shoes off and getting your feet wet in the sand is so worth it. Take some time to walk around – you can’t see or appreciate the place you’re in from inside a car or bus – you need to get out on your feet and see thing up close and personal.
3. Check out the night life.
Even though your days may be filled with walking and sightseeing, don’t miss out on staying up late and finding out what happens to the city or village after dark. There is a different crowd out after hours. They are more relaxed and less hurried – these are great people to meet and you might find some pretty fantastic entertainment; music or just people watching.
4. Do something spontaneous.
I always have a number of things planned – more than I can usually accomplish. But I also leave room to do something I didn’t plan, something I didn’t know was on my list. Last month I drove to Canada to see Niagara Falls, it wasn’t on my list – but it was suggested and I thought; sure I would love to see Niagara Falls. In 2013, while in Belize I went camping on a little island with new friends and good food – I didn’t know I wanted to do it until it was suggested.
5. Talk to locals – get suggestions for what to do and see.
I like to go somewhere social, a pub or coffee shop and just chat with local folks. I’ve met some great people this way and heard some amazing stories. This is also a good way to find out where the good food is, what events are happening locally and what not to do. Ask where they go when they want to have a great meal or a night out. Find out where they go on day trips.
6. Do not eat at chain restaurants.
This is really my only “do-not-do” on my list. I try to avoid fast food and any chain restaurant that I can eat at when I’m at home. What’s the point of traveling if you just do the same things you do at home?
7. Eat something grown local, preferably something you can’t get at home.
Like the one above, step outside your comfort zone and try something new. What is the local dish or what is locally grown? Even if it sounds terrible, looks terrible and smells terrible. You have to try it…you can’t have an opinion if you didn’t try it. Who knows you might find you actually like it.
8. Take public transportation.
Take a bus, a train, a trolley or subway. Riding public transportation will get you out there with the people. Knowing how to navigate the public transportation in a new place will make you feel more like you know the place. You will have to become familiar with landmarks and directions. It will help later when some local is trying to tell you how to find that amazing restaurant they are suggesting you try out.
9. Eat somewhere or some food recommended by a local.
Like in number 7, here you want to ask the locals where is the best food? It might be empanadas or some locally brewed beer. Try the local suggestions. Don’t just check out Yelp for what’s good, ask around.
10. Spend an entire day doing nothing.
Sometimes when you are trying to squeeze an adventure into a two-week vacation you can find yourself running from place to place and you’ll need a vacation from your vacation when you get home. Don’t stress about spending a day doing nothing. Walk around town, get lost, sleep in, take a nap, read a book, just lounge about – it’s good for your soul!
11. Skip some of the big touristy thing and do something different.
Many of the touristy things are money suckers. They are hyped up to make you feel like you must do it. I’ve skipped many of the tourist excursions and opted for a personal tour of a local waterfall, a trip to a local theater or an afternoon walking in the park. You will enjoy your trip more if you do something no one else has done.
12. Find local music.
This is a MUST for me. I love live music and I am a huge fan of local music. Check out places with open mic night or find a local band playing at a little pub. Even street performers can be amazing. I’ve found some amazing music in the subway in New York City and on the Santa Monica pier.
13. People watch.
Sit in a park, grab a bench on the street, ride the bus from one end of the town to the other. Get a good cup of coffee or a local treat and enjoy the people. Watching people living their lives can be so fascinating. I enjoy watching families with children, hearing couples chat, listening to young people talk about their day, or watching people coming and going to work. It is all part of life – part of their life and for a moment you are there with them – just getting a peak at their world.