When you are young, you are eager to see the world and often forget to experience it your way.
After years spent traveling, I reached a deep understanding of my own reasons for traveling – what is my personal motivation to travel tens of thousands miles around the globe every year. Now I have travel rituals I wish I’d had years ago.
Here are three of the most important.
1. Tourist attractions are not all worth it
When I was younger, I made my travel plans according to a list of attractions. Visit museum A, visit gallery B, eat, visit castle C… At the end of the day all you have is a crazy mixture of centuries, kings and painters in your head, with no way to remember who was who and when they built that church. And no real feeling for the place.
What I do today: I no longer go to a place only because everybody else does. Climb the Eiffel Tower? Thanks, but no thanks. I prefer to spend time at its bottom, lying on the grass and gazing at the ant-sized people lining at its top. You have a better bird’s-eye view of Paris from the Montparnasse Tower than from the Eiffel Tower. I read about the attractions and I choose only those that are relevant to my interests. One castle for the day is enough. 2 hours or more in a gallery? Yes. But only in the one I really like. The rest of my time is meant for local markets which I really love.
2. You can’t really feel the place on your own
Get a map, randomly roam the streets, eat the local food… but still something is missing. Or someone. The last piece of the puzzle is a local who will spend a few hours with you, explaining what to see and why it is like that. Plus you make new friends all over the world.
What I do today: Get in touch with locals every single time. In order to be sure that you will have a local to talk to and to walk with, use websites such as Global Greeters, Couchsurfing, join a free tour, ask friends who have aquaintances in the city you are visiting.
3. It’s not scary/lonely/dangerous to travel alone
For many years traveling alone was seen as a vice – an occupation which only people with no friends found fun. Actually, solo traveling is for those who crave and appreciate time by themselves.
What I do today: At least once a year I embark on a trip designed to fulfill my and only my expectations, pace and mood. Sometimes it’s a week abroad, sometimes just a weekend with my bike and tent, no destination, just letting myself experience life. I decide when and where to sleep, eat or star-gaze on the spur of the moment. It’s fantastic!
Do you have your own travel rituals? What are they?