There are some things that just make life easier – like dry socks on a rainy day. The following hand-picked, personally tested mini changes to your travel habits will make a difference to how you experience life abroad. If not, you’ll get your money back.
1. Use the local language even if you don’t feel confident at it. There are a bunch of free translation apps (including the free and offline Google Translate, which will translate not only text but also speech and photos) to help you nail that street vendor who tries to sell you a fake Armani T-shirt for ten times more than the, um, official price…
2. Pack light. Nothing will improve your travel experience more than getting rid of that human-size suitcase that weighs more than you and insists on being pulled over bumpy sidewalks and dragged up endless staircases. Living this sort of minimalist existence is not everybody’s cup of tea, but you can at least give it a try.
3. Wake up early (because most tourists don’t). This is a major game-changer. When you find yourself in a huge tourist city overflowing with cruise day-trippers (and, let’s be honest, just other normal visitors like you), you have two options. One, you take your time, have breakfast and coffee and when you get out of your hotel, you are swept away in an unknown direction by the crowds. Or two, you wake up early and tour the streets, taking photos of the main attractions with no people in front of them (i.e., you can actually see the attractions). Then, when the night owls wake up and stream down the streets, you can comfortably go back to bed and catch up on sleep.
4. Stop planning your next trip while you are still on your current one. Instead, practice some mindfulness – that means savoring and being present in the here and now instead of always dwelling in the past or in the future.
5. Add meaning to your trip by helping somebody. There are a few things that every study into happiness seems to reiterate, one of them being that helping others adds meaning to your life and actually makes you happier. There are endless volunteer opportunities wherever you travel, but even if you don’t have time for volunteering, you can do a good deed – work on an organic farm, stay at a family-owned guest house or join another local initiative that represents something close to your heart.