Before we begin, I do not claim to have travelled extensively. I do, however, remember being enthralled by hearing about the adventures of others while I was planning my first trip to Europe. Since we have started travelling more frequently, and to somewhat more distant locales, I’ve been asked a number of questions about where, why, and how we make things happen. This post, I suppose, being to sum up my ethos of travelling.
1. Book it today.
Do not wait. There is no good reason to wait, only excuses and procrastination. There is every reason to do it now. Today.
For no compelling reason I waited 32 years to take my first trip to Europe. There was always an excuse I could use to defer; the Canadian dollar would get stronger, flights will go on sale, I’ll have more vacation next year, I cannot leave work right now. Finally, I just bought the ticket and that was a life changing experience. We picked a date (I travelled with my sister Cathy and we randomly picked May 1st) and bought a ticket to London, England, and booked 3 weeks off work. Once you have picked a date and bought the ticket everything else falls into place. It has to. Trust me.
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen”. Ralph Waldo Emerson
2. Conquer your fear.
Travelling can be scary but only if you let it be. One of my first trips to New York City involved a long Greyhound Bus ride from Bangor, Maine, which arrived at the 42st Port Authority Terminal in Manhattan at about 12:30AM. This scared the hell out of me. I was much younger and had real reservations about arriving in NYC at that hour. I do realize now that it was an irrational fear based on an outdated impression of the city (do not watch Taxi Driver before your first trip to the Big Apple). Instead of being terrifying, it was exhilarating to arrive in the bowels of mid-town Manhattan as the evening was just beginning. Fear kills great experiences. Don’t let it.
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark
Ummm, but don’t be stupid though like I may have been in Zanzibar.
3. Be flexible.
It very easy to fall into the tarp of over thinking, over planning, and thus killing spontaneity. It is hard to shake off the
shackles you wear everyday as routine, the rhythm and flow of everyday life. I’ve take a number of trips where nothing was planned (I do mean nothing …. nothing) except the first one-way plane ticket. You don’t have to be that flexible to have a great time. Flexibility means that getting groceries in Amsterdam in the middle of a trek becomes a unique excursion instead of a mundane chore. Flexibility turns a must-do diversion to laundromat in Victoria, BC, into a come-by-chance espresso break with another couple finishing a once-in-a-lifetime dream Alaskan tour. Flexibility allows you to spend that extra day in Seattle before catching a different train to Portland and who really knows what that day may bring. Flexibility creates possibility.
4. Dream big.
Why would you ever dream small?
5. Spend the money. (even if you don’t have it)
This is always a tough one but it may be the most important of all. Money, or perhaps more importantly worrying about money, can ruin even the best of possible trips. During a three week anniversary getaway in which we rode trains, planes, and cars along the American West coast from Seattle to LA, I began to stress over the cost. The Canadian dollar was losing value to US dollar everyday while the hotels seemed to be getting more expensive the further south we travelled. At times I became overwhelmed. Exhausted. Stressed. Then I remembered a golden rule I have for myself; money spent travelling is always money well spent. I have never taken a trip where I have regretted spending the money. I have borrowed money to travel, I have spent more than I expected on trip, but I have never regretted spending and I suspect I never will.
6. Think local.
Seeing the world does not just mean seeing remote parts of Asia and Europe. It doesn’t mean checking every Caribbean Island off your checklist. It doesn’t just mean your exotic climb to the top of Machu Picchu. Exploring doesn’t just mean visiting the most exotic location you can think of. This year I’ve taken two trips within my native country of Canada and they have been two of the most wonderful vacationing experiences I have ever had. I had passed through Toronto a thousand times while flying to other destinations but hadn’t stopped to visit in 20 years. As it turns out a lot can change in that time. Toronto is a world class city and I can get there in a couple of hours for the price of a $300 plane ticket. Better yet, living in Atlantic Canada presents an excellent opportunity to explore some of the most pristine coastline anywhere in the world. Even so, I spent much more to vacation on Canada’s West coast just a few weeks back (that is going to be a different post!). Don’t ignore your own country, province/territory/state, or even your own city. There are gems out thee for you — you just can’t see them because your focus is somewhere else.
7. Make the time.
The most common question I’m asked about travel is how do I find the time?. If a had a nickel for every time someone asked me how I could possibly take a 3 week vacation or how I managed to steal away for 4 days in the middle of January, I would be doing very well for myself. Secondly, hearing how it is impossible for anyhow else to do it makes my heart sink. I do realized that I am blessed. I have a job which provides me with 4 (yes, only four) weeks of vacation a year but on top of that there are long weekends, stat holidays, Christmas break, and the possibility of taking leave (*gasp*) without pay. Using these wisely can mean stealing away for a short jaunt or combining these opportunities into a longer vacation. I once spent 4 weeks travelling Africa (December/January) followed by a 3 week backpacking adventure (May/June) in Western Europe using only my allotted vacation. I will let you ponder how.
8. Use your resources.
There are so many. I used to buy every Lonely Planet guide I could find; at yard sales, garage sales, library books sales, Amazon.com. I still love Lonely Planet guides and find them absolutely invaluable when travelling, or preparing to travel, especially on a budget. But now there is so much more. An almost an infinite supply of travelling resources. TripAdvisor has ratings and reviews of nearly everything. Don’t you want a to know what the best combined Beer Pong / Mango Tour in Thailand is? I have stayed at some of the nicest hotels because of deals I’ve encountered through Hotwire and Priceline. Feeling slightly more adventurous? Rent someones house, or perhaps the upstairs flat in their mothers house, in Rovinj, Croatia through the AirBnb community website. Use the plethora of resources at your disposal to research, plan, and save money on your adventure.
9. Read, talk, and connect.
Read about places you want to visit. Talk to your travelling friends. Follow this blog. Watch great travel movies (I think this might make a decent blog post … yeah?). Allow yourself to be inspired. Enjoy great wine? Visit wine country California … or Australian vineyards. Always been a fan of literary genius James Joyce? Visit Trieste, Italy to find our where he lived and wrote. Fan of The Doors? Visit Jim Morrison’s grave in the famous Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise in Paris. My recent trip to Portland Oregon was fuelled by a borderline unhealthy obsession with the Portlandia TV series.
It doesn’t matter why, or where, but allow yourself to be inspired then act on that inspiration.
10. Book it today.
Thought I had mentioned this already. What are you waiting for?