Travel Enhancing Tips for Habitual Runaways and Compulsive Travellers
10 Tips to get the most out of ‘flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’.
1. Know a little about what’s currently happening where you are going. Is it festival time? Tourist season? Monsoon season? A special holiday? Will anything interfere with or enhance your traveling style? A simple internet search will answer all of your questions.
2. Learn what your destination has to offer. Learn about the history. There is nothing better for enhancing your tours than having a clue about the history and culture of the places you visit. List the name/number/address of multiple sites you would like to see – it doesn’t matter if you make it to them all. You never know what might piqué your interest once you have arrived.
3. Always have a back-up plan. Have an idea of more than one place to sleep at night, unless you have everything securely booked ahead (and sometimes even then, depending on where you are). And if you really want to travel like an habitual runaway, you might want to be ok with a night or two without sleep at all. What will you do if you run out of money? Miss your flight/train/bus/boat? The solutions can be simple – miss a transfer? Read a book and wait for the next ride, walk and photograph the area around the station – no need for stress. I have seen some wild reactions to the simplest issues during my travels – frantic tears, angry shouts and panic attacks over missed trains – when another is just 20 minutes behind! Figure those things out ahead of time so you don’t need to panic in the situation, far from home. Do some research!
4. Pack extremely light. Never take more than you can carry yourself over a long distance. You don’t want to be held down by your luggage for any reason. Don’t bring anything you aren’t willing to lose or have stolen. If you can handle it, bring only carry on luggage (check out my packing tips). Wearing neutral colours and black can help for painless packing success. You need very little more than enough underwear for your trip.
5. Use your common sense. Don’t do things you wouldn’t do at home. Not a mountain climber? Make sure you have done the required (years of) preparations before climbing abroad – or don’t do it at all. Never eaten shellfish? For goodness sake do not try it overseas for the first time. Not a great driver? Maybe it isn’t the best Idea for you to rent a car and drive on the opposite side of the road. Now this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have new experiences – that is the whole reason to travel! But know your own limits and capabilities and stay within them. Don’t expect a foreign country to be responsible for your well-being. You probably shouldn’t expect your own country to be either!
6. Be on your best behavior. Not a drinker? Don’t inflict your drunken self on someone else’s home land. Follow the local laws – find out what they are before hand. Always be respectful of other countries, cultures and people. Don’t take intentional photos of people without asking (pointing to your camera and waiting for a smile or nod will suffice). You are representing your country, and in some cases, you will be one of only a few people from your home that they will ever meet. It is likely they will remember their interactions with you and speak of them in their community. Wouldn’t you rather leave people with a love for you and your country, than a revulsion?
7. Stay in Hostels. Hostels sometimes get a bad name, but there are many that are very nice and perfectly located. My favourite are the HI chain. At a hostel you can meet and interact with other travelers, have kitchen amenities to cook and store your own food, choose to be a part of pub crawls and/or historical tours and decide on what type of rooming situation you want. Many of them have double room occupancy in addition to larger capacity dorms – so if you are traveling with one other, you can get your own room together – cheaper than the cost of an impersonal hotel. When you are an habitual runaway your goal is to travel as much as possible, which (unless you are wealthy) means being frugal. A penny saved is another tour!
8. Stay on and off ‘the beaten path’. Balance your destinations list. I like to say ‘the path is beaten for a reason’, and I think that is true. I have heard many a traveler say that they avoid the main attractions of a destination for whatever reason, and have often thought they were doing themselves a great disservice. Generally a much adored site is so justifiably. To miss them simply because they are ‘full of tourists’ would be unfortunate – and ironic! Having said that, many of the most moving and memorable things that have come to pass on my journeys have been purely by chance – and well off of the ‘beaten path’. Balance!
9. Photograph and journal. Your photos don’t have to be good and your notes don’t have to be detailed or legible. Even the blurriest misaligned photo can remind you of a moment you are grateful to have not forgotten. And when in unfamiliar territory, a few photographs of your return points can really help if you find yourselves ‘turned around’. Traveling is a luxury that we often take for granted while adventuring. Truth be told, you don’t know at that moment if you are having a once in a lifetime experience – there is no way for you to know for sure if you will set out again (life, it gets in the way). Additionally, you don’t know if your children/grandchildren/siblings/parents will ever experience said location(s) and culture(s) – which makes you an ambassador of that place to those interested. As the only known gallavanter to said whereabouts, it is you that helps develop the opinions and ideas of those you are close to. This is an important job!
10. Fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants! But do so ‘professionally’. Always make sure you can handle what you have gotten yourself into. No one wants to be stressed or scared on their journey. Sometimes it is as simple as accepting whatever happens gracefully, and making sure you are safe – both are a choice. And remember that just because you don’t want to follow an itinerary or plan, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one (that you don’t follow!). Be open to meeting locals and taking travel tips from them. No one knows what is better about the place you are in than the people who live there!