Traveling is one of life’s great joys. It’s a way to see the world and learn about places you’ve never been before. Here are some ways to help you make the most of your travel experience.
1. Plan for the unexpected
An itinerary can be helpful, but you won’t be able to plan everything down to the smallest detail. How could you possibly have known about that little restaurant at the back of that alley before you arrived, or that friendly local who invited who into his house to hear him play the santuri? Often, the best parts of a trip are a result of an adventure.
2. Not getting what you want or getting what you didn’t want can be a blessing in disguise
When you have to take a later bus or a different ferry, you have no choice but to accept it. This is how a lot of successful people learn to be happy when things don’t go their way.
3. The best things can come from the worst experiences
Once, when I was in Sicily, I was swindled by a stranger for a hundred dollars. At first I was devastated. I spent the entire next day thinking about what I should have done to keep my money, and what I would do if I had it. But what I learned from this about humanity, about the nature of good and evil within people, and how circumstances force them to do bad things showed me a lot about myself and how to cope with misfortune.
4. Price and value are two different things
The cost of a trip may be a couple of thousand dollars, depending on how big you go. But the value it could have on your life and your memories could be priceless. Think about how much you are willing to spend, sure, but also consider what else you want from your vacation, who you want to meet, what kind of experiences you want to have, and how you want to remember it ten years from now.
5. Don’t follow others’ footsteps and find your own path
Traveling in a guided tour can be informative and fun, but I look forward to wandering away from the group, down labyrinthine alleys, into falafel shops and sectarian neighborhoods, to experience my own understanding of a city and its environs. The same applies to when I come home from my trip.
Traveling is kind of like being in love. Except instead of being intimate with another person, you become intimate with a place. Those moments of pleasure when the sun hits your face and you look out onto a foreign countryside, or arrive at a new train depot in a bustle of taxis and hawkers—those are the moments you, or at least I, remember, and live for, again and again.
7. Seeing how other people live
We’re all part of a human family, but it’s easy to forget that when we move through our daily routine, seeing people who live just like we do. But when you see people going about their daily existence in ways very different from your own, it can open your eyes to how similar you are to them, and how different.
8. Appreciating what you have
When you see a family eating rice for dinner and sleeping on the street under the open sky, it can help you think about how lucky you are to have a home and warm clothes you can go back to. Chances are if you’re reading this right now, your probably in the top 20% of the world’s wealthiest people. Don’t forget it!
9. Discerning tiny differences
When you travel to a country that speaks a different language, it’s easy to spot what else makes it different. From the way the sunlight falls across a valley to the different flora and fauna in the surrounding forest, use your senses to determine what else is different in your foreign destination.
10. Be more comfortable alone
Even when you’re traveling with others, it can be isolating when no one speaks your language. Too often, you will have to make do thinking thoughts in your head, which is what many great thinkers, philosophers and artists have long known and practiced.
11. Learn how to tell a better story
Inevitably you will see or hear things worth telling friends about when you return home. After traveling enough, you will have all the practice you need to become a master story-teller.
So keep traveling with these lessons in mind and learn more from your experiences abroad.