5 Simple Ways to Make the Most of Your Trip Abroad
For me, travel is a natural passion. It seems intuitive to want to explore as much of the world as I can. In 2012 my travels shifted from that of a “vacation” to true “travelling”. I embraced an open mind and immersed myself in different cultures. I pushed my limits, gained perspective on life, and opened my thought process. I am now wiser, respectful, confident, easy-going, flexible, and more grateful. I gained more than I could have ever hoped for. And I’m not done yet.
It was only when I transitioned from being a vacation-taker to a life-long traveller that I learned how to tap into the kind of life-changing experiences that make travel so worthwhile. Here are 5 tried-and-true ways to make the most of your trip abroad:
Say “yes” when an unplanned opportunity arises
My friends and I were in Luang Prabang in Laos visiting Kuang Si Falls, a three-tiered 60-metre waterfall just south of the city. It’s a beautiful spot but it tends to be dripping with tourists. On our way back, our tuk tuk driver asked if we wanted to stop by a village to meet some locals. We jumped at the opportunity. What we figured would be a 15-minute stop turned into a day-long adventure. We spent the day playing with the children and left radiating with their positive energy and gratitude. The locals taught me you don’t need a lot to be happy, just the right attitude and a big smile.
Travel with a purpose
The next time you jet off to a destination, think about it. What do you want to get out of your trip? Are you looking for a vacation to switch off, or are you looking to experience the world? For me, travelling is always an experience. When I travel, I’m there to learn with an open mind and to better myself. That’s not to say you can’t combine elements of both the travel and vacation approach – why not do a bit of both? When you travel with a purpose – whatever it may be – you come ready to make the most of your experience.
Set motivating goals
I’ve always believed that travel is easily the best form of education out there, and I encourage you to view it this way. Setting goals can help orient you towards positive learning opportunities and provide direction and motivation on your trip. Remember there are no wrong answers, and your aims needn’t be lofty. Your goals could be anything from learning a language to trying five of the top local foods, or simply taking the time to clear your mind.
Talk with the locals at every chance you get
At any chance you’re given, strike up a conversation with the locals. Ask them questions and listen to their stories. If there’s a language barrier, try practicing a few words in their native tongue. Exchanging a few words shows a conscientious and friendly effort on your part, which can be a rewarding cross-cultural experience. At the very least, a smile goes a long way, I promise. The further you stray from the beaten path, the likelier you are to get to know the locals. Travelling during off seasons will also increase your chances of meeting welcoming residents.
Keep a journal
My key to meaningful travel? My journal, hands down. The best way to keep a journal is to treat it as a creative reflection of your experience rather than a chronological database. Experiment with a mix of drawings, anecdotes and reflection pieces. You can even turn it into a scrap book with collected mementos. Your journal is your safe space—write it how you like. Journaling can help you develop a greater appreciation for yourself and the path you’ve taken. Plus you’ll give yourself one of the greatest souvenirs you can get—a keepsake with some of the best memories of your trip.
On your next trip, I dare you to travel. Explore. Try. Challenge. Change. Learn. Ask. Meet. Conquer. Give. Share. Live your life. I promise you won’t regret it.
Originally published on Anew Traveller on July 14th 2015.
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