How To Make Travel Easier

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We all would like travel to be easy, but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it isn’t relaxing, or even fun. Sometimes, in fact, it’s difficult and disappointing.

Disappointing travel is the worst kind, and something that is, at times, unavoidable. We’ve had those deflating moments, when the reality of an experience doesn’t match up to our expectations and excitement, or when something on our trip goes completely awry. For those needing an example, go no further than our first trip to Paris. Having studied French in high school and idealized La vie en Paris, framing everything from how my croissant would taste to a stroll around Arc de Triomphe, I had built Paris into a colossus in my mind.

The reality was far different. Not only was this my first trip abroad with Tracy, but it was seared into my mind that no place could ever match Paris. So unimpeachable was Paris as the place to be that I aggrandized it into something it couldn’t possibly live up to – and it didn’t. There are ways and things that make travel easier, however.

We’ve fortunately traveled enough to learn much, and frequently those lessons have been less about travel and more about ourselves. Travel teaches you about expectations, about reality, about breathtaking moments, but also those other moments. The ones you don’t read about in Conde Nast or see filmed on the Travel Channel. No one ever mentions those moments where travel doesn’t live up to your expectations, or helps you understand why you had the immense feeling of emptiness on your return flight.

It took many great experiences, but also a few bad ones, to learn what to do and what not to do. Furthermore, we’ve been able to pinpoint why so many people actually quit traveling once they’ve begun, and how to make travel easier.

The great 18th-century British writer Samuel Johnson wrote, “We love to expect, and when expectation is either disappointed or gratified, we want to be again expecting.” It’s in our nature to have expectations, to make certain assumptions about either people, places, or experiences, but we must temper these expectations when it comes to travel. We even do this in personal relationships – when one partner has unrealistic expectations of the other, so that the other is bound to fail. Who can meet such lofty expectations?

The reality is that each of us can set expectations so high as to be unapproachable by any destination, no matter how grand, no matter how wonderful. The idea behind successful travel is not expectation, but exploration. The one who expects says “I will go here because I believe it will have these characteristics, as I’ve built in my mind my having not experienced it first-hand”. The explorer says “I have no expectations, but rather I go to find out what exists”.

In a more simplistic sense, we’re influenced by what we hear and read, and those influences invariably turn into plane tickets and hotel or hostel reservations. That your friend speaks of Peru may open your mind to going there, but it’s what he or she says that paints your picture and begins building expectations. If your friend says it’s great, it’s perfect, it’s pristine and beautiful, it certainly is to your friend. Whether or not you have the same experience depends upon your preferences, your likes and dislikes, and ultimately your responsibilities.

You shouldn’t set the bar too high for a place you haven’t experienced, and you must go to explore instead of going to expect. In this, you’ll allow yourself to be surprised and make travel easier, but also appreciate all the good in wherever you go.

Related to the previous point is the fact that travel is a personal experience, and you cannot expect to have the same experience someone else had. Perhaps your friend from the above example loved Peru because he or she is a wildlife enthusiast, or a historian that enjoys reading about Incan culture. If you prefer rowdy pubs, shopping, or all-inclusive resorts, you can’t expect to have the same reaction to a place as someone else. You can’t have the same reaction as anyone in fact.

Remember that travel is personal. No one, ever, in the history of mankind, has had the same experience in a place you have had. Amazing thought, isn’t it? Your experience, no matter where you go, is uniquely yours. If you want travel to be easy, understand yourself first and understand what you enjoy. Don’t have expectations according to someone else’s standards. This can be good or bad, but if you believe you’ll have the same experience as someone with different interests than you in the same location, you’re going to be disappointed again due to having the wrong expectations.

Fear is the death of anything meaningful. Fear is the death of joy, and of openness of being and spirit. For some, fear is incredibly limiting and keeps them from experiencing what travel makes possible. Some things are worth trepidation, but nothing is worth fear. It’s a pointless emotion that begets nothing but more fear.

No matter what your fear is, and how it impacts your travel, it can be overcome. Fear of heights can be easily overcome, as I have. My fear of flying actually led me to quit a very promising job in the early years of mine and Tracy’s relationship, as with every flight I would become white-knuckled and sickly. The torture rattled my mind until I simply couldn’t do it any longer. To think that I made such a decision now seems like a different lifetime, having overcome my fear, but until I faced it would have undoubtedly ruled my life.

We can fear much more than flying. We can fear other people, other cultures, and unfamiliar situations that will prevent us from having genuine travel experiences. When Tracy and I said we were going to the heartland of Mexico, many of our friends wondered if it was such a good idea. We knew it was safe, but most wouldn’t fly into Mexico, rent a car and feel comfortable driving around. We did our research, decided it was safe, plotted our course, and dropped the fear.

Once you decide on a trip, you can travel smartly without traveling fearfully. Should you throw all caution to the wind and walk around Lima at night with gaudy jewelry? That would be dumb. Of course we want to have common sense, but without the willingness to try something new, travel isn’t going to reward you as it should.

We know this feeling better than most, as on our first few trips we simply didn’t know how to budget for travel. Everything looked worth buying, from trinkets and souvenirs to food every half hour and expensive tourist attractions, travel really took a toll on us financially.

Nothing is worse than coming to the end of a trip, wanting to enjoy yourself but knowing you’ve accumulated debt, or that you’ll be completely strung-out until your next pay day. The only way to really overcome this is to learn how to budget for travel, and understanding why travel is as expensive as it is.

Think about it – do you spend more during the week or on the weekend? For anyone working during the week, you spend more on the weekend. Of course. If you work off-days, and have off Monday and Tuesday? That’s your weekend. Do you spend more then? Sure you do. Travel is one long, continuous weekend. Furthermore, it’s a very long weekend where you don’t have the same supply of groceries you do at home, you presumably don’t have a car, and you don’t have any real entertainment where you’re staying. You have to go somewhere for everything.

While there are numerous ways to save money when you travel, understanding to treat it like a continuous weekend is key. Know that you have a lot of time to fill, and plenty of time to do it, but be intelligent about it. Look for “free things to do” in your chosen city, like we did in Amsterdam. Find out where the parks are. Buy groceries for the hotel. Take snacks with you to save money.

You don’t have to overspend when you travel, you just have to look at it in the right perspective and plan accordingly. If you want to make travel easier, make it easier on your wallet first.

Spending money on the wrong things, while closely related to the above point, really is of it’s own distinction and requires a special note. Focus on spending money in rewarding ways, and ways that will help connect you to the culture and memorable experiences.

I would rather buy groceries for the room and have that money for Tracy and I to sit in a pub and have a beer. Why? Conversation. People. Learning About the culture. We aren’t the type to hunt for four or five star hotels or restaurants, and we’ll never pay $100 for a dinner overseas. Ever. Why? We would rather do something else with that money that gives us a rewarding, enriched feeling when we leave.

While there are some meals we still talk about and remember years after the fact, it’s the moments you remember more – whether that is spending time in nature, talking with a stranger, or seeing something you’ve never seen before.

Possibly the most underrated thing that prevents people from traveling the way they want is being tired.

The key to avoid being tired is to master avoiding jetlag. Here’s how you do it – before you board the plane to head to your destination, set all of your devices to that location’s time. If you’re leaving from New York and heading to London, set your watch, your phone, your everything to London time. Even with devices that set automatically, there’s always an override in the “settings” where you can set your own time.

Start to think, act, and believe it is that time. If your flight takes off from New York at 5:00pm, mentally prepare for it to be 10:00pm. Think about having to go to bed soon. Think about it getting dark. Tell your body it’s getting late. After a while adjusting on the flight, you’ll find yourself easing into a more relaxed state and your body responding to the time change. Being able to a get some sleep on the flight over will cut down on your jet-lag significantly, and by that point you’ve already mentally adjusted to the time change.

The rule of thumb is that it takes one day per hour to adjust to time change. We can normally get adjusted in one day. We’ll be a bit tired the first day, but we’ll push through. The work we do before we board pays off, and once we’ve had one night of sleep in the new destination, we’re typically adjusted and ready to go.

This really points to two different situations, either you’re sick or you aren’t in the right physical shape to walk around, explore, and to see what you want to see without wearing down. Nothing is easy when you don’t feel well or are in poor health – especially traveling.

To avoid getting ill on vacation, we drink as much water as we can, rest well, work out and take vitamins and natural supplements that are great for the immune system before traveling. Some of the supplements we take regularly include diatomaceous earth, a natural silica substance that makes the blood alkaline and cures common colds, as well as turmeric, the primary ingredient of curry powder which is loaded with antioxidants. If you get diatomaceous earth, make sure it’s food grade, otherwise it’s inedible. This combination keeps us from getting sick, and we’ll up the amount we take prior to going out of the country. Being in such close quarters with people on a long flight can be a breeding ground for sharing germs, so make sure to carry sanitary wipes with you on the plane as well and use them after touching lavatory doors or eating.

In terms of physical strength and wellness, you don’t need to be an Olympian to travel well. You should, however, be in good enough shape to do some walking around for long stretches and be in decent enough cardiovascular health to withstand getting winded. A great idea is to simply walk, as much as you can, three or four times per week for at least a month prior to traveling. You’ll be acclimatized to moving around, feel a little more limber, and be able to see all you want to see without tiring out too quickly!

Possibly the most important thing to remember is that no vacation you’ve ever been on, and no place you’ve ever been, has much to do with the trip on which you’re about to embark. Bad experiences happen, but it’s best to learn from them and use them to educate you on what not to do instead of growing embittered toward traveling and refusing to have the experience.

After the Paris trip, we could’ve stopped. We could’ve ended our country count at two, but we took what we learned, traveled smarter, and enjoyed ourselves. Let the past be the past, and be determined to have the best experience you’ve ever had regardless of things that didn’t go your way in the past.

If you do this, and use the tips above to look at travel in a new way, travel will become easier and nothing will ever stop you from seeing more of the world and having the life you want to live on the road.

Source link A Couple For The Road

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