A typical traveler rushes from the airport to their hotel or apartment booked via their favorite booking platform after which comes the mad rush to check off must-see places listed in the itinerary. A few days pass by, then it’s all about getting to the airport in time for the return flight or the next destination.
If this is familiar to you, maybe it’s time to ask: How much value are you getting from travelling? Why do you travel?
We all know the main tourist spots that are in everybody’s bucket list. Whether it’s the Statue of Liberty in New York, or the Great Wall of China, or perhaps the sprawling temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia — everybody has a must-see site in mind. When looking back did these places and hotels create lasting memories?
I will reveal how you can get the most out of your travel so that it creates lasting memories, develops you and you look back at and think ‘wow’!
Having unique travel experiences all starts with getting out of your comfort zone
Travel can teach you more than any classroom, or a job ever will, but only if you challenge your comfort zone leaving the familiar and surrendering to the unknown.
Brian Chesky of Airbnb in the podcast Masters of Scale of Reid Hoffman also stresses this “You need to have a challenge, out of your comfort zone. If you do not go out of your comfort zone, you will not remember your trip.”
Breaking out of the routines that keep us from deepening our connections and experiencing the stuff we’ll enjoy looking back on doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or extravagant.
How to challenge your comfort zone
Make new friends
The first step is to go out of that condo or hotel room and seek out people. And by people, I mean the locals. Speak to your bellman or room attendant. Have a conversation with a taxi driver or waiter while having lunch. To do this, one needs a little preparation. Go get a digital translator or download a language app if you don’t speak the same tongue. Learn basic phrases and sentences. Practice your new language by talking to locals who will surely give you a sense of welcome and genuine friendship through their smiles and speech.
Be curious and try local food
This is a good one: go out and try the local food. Learning about culture through cuisine can be a very fulfilling and “filling” experience. Of course, to save on cash, you can buy food from the local grocery or cook your own food right there in your rented apartment. You can also order room service but most hotels offer a steep price for that special meal. A better idea is to explore the small but interesting restaurants or street stalls and try out their sumptuous and affordable fare. Watch how they prepare and cook the dish. In case you find it difficult to just go out and try, you can opt for a cooking class, food experience or a walk with a local who shows you his favorite dishes. Guy Fieri said it best: “Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together.”
Attend a music event or performance
Another universal thing that can bring you closer to people and culture is music. It is said that “…music is the greatest form of communication. Even if people don’t understand the language that you’re singing in, they can still know good music when they hear and feel it.” So tune in to the local radio station and enjoy their playlist. If you can, ask around about who’s their most popular singer or band and check them out. It’s always good to have an eclectic taste for music which not only entertains you, but brings you closer to fellow lovers of music regardless of their language, nationality, or culture.
Take local transportation
Moving out and about is part of travel. Why not make the best of it by trying out the local means of transportation? It could be the tuktuk (passenger motorcycles) in Bangkok, Thailand…or a carabao-drawn bamboo sled in rural Philippines… or the romantic gondolas of Venice. Whatever the shape or speed, trying out the local transportation could be an adventure you’ll never forget.
Pick your accommodation wisely
While you might have a specific taste for your rental or hotel, exploring homestays or even a farmstay can be a great idea. Check out the listings for homestays so that you can experience the authentic daily life of the locals in the country you are visiting. So, just remember: travelling is also a way to learn more and experience life at a deeper level. Opening one’s self to see, feel, hear, and experience other people’s culture will leave you looking for more places to discover in this fascinating journey called life.
I know for some people this seems one bridge too far, but trust me, this is one of the most rejuvenating and amazing experiences you will encounter. When traveling with a partner or friend it is less likely that you will branch out. When traveling alone you are desperate for human interaction which makes you easily approachable by others and triggers you to get out of your comfort zone. You will end up in the most memorable situations, and it is a rapid way to increase self-confidence and expand your risk tolerance. Breaking out of your comfort zone is directly related with developing self-awareness. This is an article I read that is giving useful tips and ideas for traveling as a woman in Asia.
Make room for spontaneity
Is it your nightmare scenario to land in a destination with no idea where you are staying or what you are going to do? This might sound familiar if you are a planner. What you can do is to book your first one or two nights upfront and leave the rest up to whatever you feel like. Also don’t worry of things going wrong: sometimes missing out on one thing will bring you another even better experience. Another reason why you shouldn’t plan ahead too much is the freedom of not being hindered by any kind of schedule or reservation.
Do some research to still find hidden gems
With many travel destinations getting overflown by travelers it makes it more difficult to find the hidden gems. Many travelers like me don’t like being surrounded by other tourists. Therefore, I am always on the hunt for the undiscovered and more unique places. You just need to do a little bit more effort to find them if you don’t want to leave it up to the locals on location. Nowadays there are some good resources to check out like travel guides with unique tips, blogs and best of all recommendations from friends.
How these travel experiences will benefit you
You will be more open minded
Meeting other people from different cultures and with different lifestyles will result in losing your association to the small nook or community from which you came. It creates mutual understanding, acceptance and enriches you with a much deeper understanding of the world. Your senses are bombarded with new smells, sights, sounds, tastes and sensations; it provides you with more insights and more to think about.
It will boost your confidence
Breaking out from your normal day-to-day routines will expand your mind and make you more interested in the world outside yourself. It is also a kind of ‘survival’ strategy as you don’t know that world and have to learn how it works quickly. When you manage to do this, how could this process not build your confidence?
It will trigger your creativity
Researchers (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/03/for-a-more-creative-brain-travel/388135/) found that people who had traveled and lived in various countries had higher levels of creativity than those who hadn’t traveled as often. Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel says: “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.”
It stimulates your intuition
When traveling to a country you don’t know, you can’t rely on your conscious mind alone. It stimulates and develops your intuition. As mentioned previously, your senses are bombarded with new smells, sights, sounds, tastes and sensations. Bree Melanson of the blog MindBodyGreen says: “ When we switch up our routines, we get the chance to use our inner GPS and navigate the world beyond our five senses. We get to tap into the energy that connects all things because we have to surrender and open ourselves up to, let’s face it, magic.”
You can use your inner GPS at all times, but travel helps us break out of the patterns that usually dull it down.
Consider this: there is more to travel than just visiting the tourist spots and the iconic places of this or that country. Quite often it is the people you meet or situations you get into that stick and make you grow. Connecting and learning about a country and its people is about unlocking their past and will surely bring lots of surprises. One can be more than just an average tourist following the crowd. You can be an explorer, a discoverer of sorts, a connoisseur of culture, and you bet that this will be more memorable than any travel in the past.
What does your travel make most memorable? Do let me know!