How to Travel
There’s no ‘right’ way to travel. And, as long as basic steps are taken to respect the people and places you visit, I’m not sure there’s a ‘wrong’ way to travel either. I’ll always emphasise how travelling is different for everyone and part of its beauty is that we have the ability to make our own decisions, chart our own course, plot our own paths and write our own stories.
Simply, when you travel you tend to create your own rules as you go. As a result, it would be unhelpful to try and tell you how things should be done. Remember, this is your trip, meaning that you have the power to decide how you go about things.
So much is learned on the road that it isn’t particularly helpful to step into your first trip (or any for that matter) with a set of preconceived ideas on how to do it.
Equally, I don’t think it’s fair to propose any set of fixed guidelines for what constitutes the ‘correct way’ to travel- your personal style will develop as you go and will be unique to you.
Having said that, certain approaches to travel may be more conducive to positive experience than others. At a micro level, travelling can be mind bogglingly amazing, yet equally complex and challenging; it can entail whirlwind adventures and extremes of emotion- both high and low; it can present culturally nuanced predicaments and uncertain situations, all far away from the safety and comfort of home, family and friends.
What’s more, you want to make the most of every single second.
Thus, at a macro level, having a few basic principles, to act as something like a guide, may be helpful for a first time traveller to keep in mind as they embark on their adventure.
The following values are those that I recommend travelling by, which I personally try to keep in mind while I’m away, and that I think ensure any adventure is lived to its fullest. This is by no means my ‘rule book’ for how to travel and I offer them only as suggestions for how to navigate your own individual journeys.
They also fit into a satisfyingly relevant acronym...I hope they help!
My ABROAD principles for how to travel:
Travel with your eyes open. It isn’t always easy, but where possible, try and make the effort to actually see, hear and feel what’s around you. It is scary how infrequently we actually attend to our environment.
Have you ever driven home, pulled up in front of your house, and realised you have no memory of the preceding drive? So automatically have you driven home- so caught up in your thoughts- that you’ve effectively been on autopilot and noticed nothing of your environment (at least at a conscious level).
Well, when you travel, try to turn autopilot off. Stop, take notice, observe what’s around you; drink in your environment. Otherwise, like arriving home from the drive, at the end of your journey there’ll be nothing to show for your time.
There’s a lot about travel that takes guts. From the very outset, in spite of all the excitement, it’s likely that you’ll feel some trepidation too. After all, it’s a big thing to step away from the known safety and comfort of home, into the uncertainty and ‘what ifs’ of the wider world.
When you arrive in country you’re out of your comfort zone a lot of the time, navigating new places, cultures and customs, meeting new people and constantly fending for yourself. There’s excitement here too, but a whole lot of challenge to boot.
Acknowledge the discomfort of it all and be brave. Challenge yourself, jump into the experience wholeheartedly and embrace everything the day has to offer; make ‘yes’ a go-to response when faced with new opportunities.
This one should be high on every traveller’s list of priorities. When you’re visiting new places, interacting with new people and experiencing new customs and cultures, try to start from a point of respect.
This is wide and far reaching in its implications but quite simply, endeavour not to leave a negative mark, whether literal or figurative, on the environments in which you spend time and try not to impose your views and/or way of life onto those you encounter.
O- Open and open-minded
Be open: make ‘yes’ a go-to response. Explore, seek adventure, fulfil wishes, tick items off bucket-lists and make memories; allow personal change to take place. Be open-minded: step into your experience with an attitude of receptiveness and humility.
Try not to judge customs and cultures based on your personal views or from a standpoint of ignorance. Practices in foreign countries can test your understanding of the world and are therefore great tools to expand and alter ideas and preconceptions about the way things are/ should be.
However, open-mindedness is the only way for this to happen. Try hard not to be critical, cynical, judgmental, callous or careless; be sensitive to social, political and historical contexts when making assertions about a place.
Awareness is a big one for travellers as it feeds into a lot of the others ways I recommend we travel. For instance: being aware in the present moment is part and parcel of being awake to your environment; being aware of the potential dangers therein will help you be careful and may facilitate bravery as a result.
Being aware of social customs enables you to show the necessary respect expected of you- knowing whether to take shoes off in houses, or to cover knees and shoulders in temples, for example.
A first step towards open-mindedness is the awareness of that which you need to be open to; self-awareness is a crucial skill required to counter ignorance and personal prejudices. Thus, for a traveller, strive to be aware in as many ways as possible.
Allow some flexibility and spontaneity when it comes to travel. Make loose plans, but don’t stick too stringently to them. It’s a fine line: obviously you don’t want to miss out on something unnecessarily by planning nothing, but adventure is often stymied through adherence to a plan and conversely, instigated by its absence.
It can be scary to travel in this way- there’s comfort in a well organised plan; uncertainty reigns when a plan goes awry. However, where there’s uncertainty there’s possibility, and where there’s possibility, anything can happen.
This is the breeding ground for adventure.