Alright people, it’s been too. damn. long. I’m bacccckkkk. I know you guys missed me.
I’ve had a bad case of writers block over the past year (life, ya know) and I can’t wait to dive back into what I love. Writing about random shenanigans that make me laugh while, hopefully, making you laugh as well. I mean that’s why you are here, right? For those of you who don’t know me yet or my writing style, welcome and enter at your own risk. I march through life to the beat of my own drum, I’m an open book, I’m both hilarious and slightly annoying, and I hope “didn’t take life too seriously” is mentioned briefly in my eulogy one day.
Travel is my thing. It’s the only thing I can purchase that makes me feel richer. When I’m in a good place, it makes me better. When I’m feeling down, it brings me back to reality and sparks interest in my life again. I have really focused on priortizing it since graduating college, and have been privelged to visit 7 countries over the course of 3 short years. People always ask me how I do it. Why do I do it? How am I able to afford it? Do you ever work? Hahahah. So I wanted to share with you guys 18 core elements to my travel brain that help me let loose, embrace the journey, and just go. Enjoy!
1) Just book the ticket
Hesitation is probably one of the main things that keep people from traveling to new places. What if I can’t get off work? What if I can’t afford it? I don’t want to go alone. I don’t want to waste all of my vacation. Who is going to watch the dog? Hey guess what… if you just buy the ticket you are forced to figure those things out. And you will. The money will always come back. Everything will work out. Live in the now and travel while you are young and able. If you’re giving yourself a headache over constantly watching for the best airline price, download Hopper. It’s an app that allows you to enter your preferences (date, location, etc) for your trip, and alerts you when prices are lowest/best time to buy. Oh, and there’s travel insurance if you are worried about getting off from work. Bottom line is, life will figure itself out. BUY THE DAMN TICKET.
2) Pack light
So I’ve learned the hard way with this one. I’m a girly girl at heart. Do I want a minimum of 3 different wardrobe outfits a day? Well, sure. But your luggage really does limit you. If you don’t believe me, try lugging around two 50+ pound bags in the Tokyo subway station during rush hour. Not cute ladies, not cute. I’ve been called high maintenance, and even I was able to pack 2 weeks worth of a Europe trip in a carry on. Message me if you need ideas on how to manage this. I got yo back like chiropract.
3) Make a TENTATIVE itinerary
I’m normally not a fan of itineraries, schedules, excel sheets, really anything that interrupts my Type B personality. However, to really maximize your TIME (this is an important one) and your experiences, you should really have a tentative itinerary to help keep you on track. I emphasize “tentative” because you never know when there is going to be a flash mob during Pride week in the streets of Vienna. A rainy day you didn’t plan for. An impromptu roller coaster ride with a group of Japanese high schoolers you just met. And heaven forbid you just want to skip lunch and go straight to happy hour after 15 hours of traveling. Be flexible while still knowing that you can reference Appendix B for ideas if you’re bored or have down time. (Oh, and having a Type A friend to travel with is a hot commodity. Yes I’m looking at you, Irina. )
4) Do yo research
I’m talking more than just knowing the language and capital. How are the people there? Are you expected to tip? Is it rude to look at people directly? What’s the crime like, and who are you supposed to contact in times of crisis? Do you drink the water? Are you going to look like an idiot if you ask “Where’s the nearest Starbucks?” Be prepared for any unfamiliar place so you can walk off that plane feeling like a badass, prepared to dive into the culture and everything new. Or you can go in blind and look like a clueless Kim Kardashian ready to bring a whole new meaning to the term boojie tourist. Choice is yours my friend.
5) See as many places as possible
The world is a HUGE place. Pretty sure my bucket list is more detailed than my professional resume. Sorry mom. If you are like me, you have an urge to see as much of the world as possible. Now, I’m not going to calculate to the second decimal point how many days/hours/weeks you will have for travel in your lifetime. But unless you are fortunate enough to travel freely whenever you want (shout out to all my wanderlust dreamers out there #lifegoals), you need to maximize each and every trip. I’ve seen 3 different cities in the Domincan Republic over 5 days, and I recently just got back from a 11 day Europe trip where I traveled to 4 different countries. It’s possible, I promise.
6) Meet locals
There really is no better way to explore a new place. Don’t be shy. You don’t know these people, what is the worst that could happen?! Some of my best memories from traveling are those spent with the people I met while visiting. A tourist can’t show you all the hidden spots kept secret by the people who live there. A tourist can’t teach you traditional Greek dance. A tourist probably doesn’t know the best bar to go to on a Wednesday, and a tourist sure as hell can’t help you with directions. Don’t be afraid to stray away from the resort. Comfort is great, don’t get me wrong. But at the end of the day, there ain’t much you can take away from that all-inclusive life other than a full stomach, a sunburn, and a bad hangover.
7) Don’t book tours
You won’t need to after meeting some locals as described above. I only bought one guided tour during my Eurotrip this summer, and that’s because we had less than 24 hours in Portugal and needed the bus for easy transport. If you do your research and prioritize your “have to see” list, it’s so much more fulfilling to venture and do it on your own. Nothing screams typical American tourist more than a group of eager beavers walking single file while trying to figure out how to use the headset. “Wait, mine’s still on French! How do I change it to English?!”. Ay, dios mio!
8) Extend your stay if possible
If you are able, just stay an extra day or two. There is nothing more thrilling. Travel insurance is wonderful people. You’ll figure it out 😉 I was able to reschedule my flight home from Venice due to a travel strike. Which are common in Europe, by the way. I mean, I probably could have told Delta I wasn’t able to make it to the airport because I stepped on my PBJ sandwich and they would have worked with me. Not to discredit P Diddy, but..
I’m not coming home, I’m not coming home
Tell the world I’m not coming home
9) Attempt to learn the language
Okay, okay, I didn’t say you had to be FLUENT. Relax. No one said you had to invite Rosetta Stone. The three things I make sure I learn how to say when I’m visiting a new place are “Hello”, “Thank You”, and “How much does this cost?”. It’s really not hard. It will make you look less touristy, it will make things easier for you, and it’s actually pretty fun. Plus, it makes you feel like a well-traveled scholar. Just trying to be like you, Ron Burgundy. Just trying to be like you.
10) Get it on video
One word: GoPro. Make this term a verb when you travel. There are just certain aspects to traveling that can’t be captured in a picture. Film allows you to get the sensation of re-living the moment. Plus, video montages are fun to make and may just become a new hobby of yours. Hayley Takes Europe: Summer 2017, coming soon.
11) Be flexible and willing to try new things
Guys, things are going to be different. If you can’t embrace that, why are you traveling there? Life is too short to remain in your comfort zone. If the people have been eating it for years, I promise it won’t kill you. Don’t be basic. Leave that shit at home.
12) Don’t count calories
Just don’t. Life is about balance. And it hurts my soul to think of anyone passing up a Margherita pizza due to fear of the caloric intake. Food is a huge part of culture. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a foodie! It makes me nauseous to think of dieting while on holiday. Just eat the damn pizza/gyro/eggroll/hamburger/gelato/paella/etc. You will most likely walk half of it off by the end of the day. Nobody cares if you are strong enough to say “no” to dessert or another bottle of wine. Even Einstein is not impressed by your willpower at this point.
13) Sacrifice sleep
Seriously. You can sleep when you’re dead. Fine, you can sleep on the plane home. Okay yeah, that’s hard to do too. YOU CAN SLEEP WHEN YOU GET HOME. Let caffeine do what it’s been doing for centuries. Because what can you see/do/taste/drink when you’re sleeping? Not a damn thing. Don’t miss the sunrise/sunset, don’t miss the night life, don’t miss the early morning hustle and bustle. Try to let the little kid excitement inside you carry you through. Just whisper “Christmas morning” to yourself upon waking up everyday. Or mimosas and eggs benny. That always seems to work for me #basic
14) Documentation is everything
Pictures. Videos. Emails. Hashtags. Journals. Snap Chats. All of it. Don’t let it engulf your every move and allow yourself to not live in the moment. But the only person you can get pissed at for not having enough pictures once you get home is yourself. Don’t worry about being overbearing on social media while you’re on vacation. There is no. such. thing. Most people love getting to live vicariously through you, or so I’ve been told. To any of you who disagree with me on this matter….bye Felicia.
15) Use AirBnB for lodging
Pretty, pretty please. Don’t visit a new place. Experience living in a new place. Cheaper, more efficient, more privacy, feels more like home, etc etc etc. Don’t stay in a hotel, especially if you are in a group. And don’t get all bent out of shape over the bad reviews. There’s always going to be bad apples. Some of us don’t really care that the bed sheets aren’t 1500 thread count Egyptian quality, Karen.
16) Travel solo
At least once. Even if for a day. It’s just…. magical. Hard to explain it, just do it! You will learn more about yourself than you realize. You are forced to.
17) Don’t be afraid
Traveling is the perfect time to practice giving people and places the benefit of the doubt. It’s crazy how much people hold back due to the unfamiliar. Just drop any fear you may have and allow yourself to just be. Oh, you think it’s unsafe to be vulnerable and trusting in this new place? Have you ever thought how dangerous home is? Bet I just blew your mind, huh? You’re going on an adventure, so let it be one. Embrace it.
18) Allow your trip to change you… to evolve you
I’m going to do my best to not sound like a sappy travel blogger gone Hallmark. But in my opinion, the importance in traveling for self growth is so underemphasized in today’s society. One of the biggest regrets I will ever have is not studying abroad. I urge you to go into a new place completely vulnerable and willing to be transformed. Allow the difference in language, food, currency, and people to teach you something. You don’t always need to be in control–that’s for your monotonous, routine life at home. It’s not always comfortable, and most of the times it may even be a little frightening. But if you allow it to, the journey will change you. Do this and I promise you will take something valuable home with you. And hopefully, you leave something good behind when you leave.
So there you have it. A concise collection of some of my best tips on how to maximize your experience and your time while abroad. The more you maximize your experience, the more you will get out of it. Hence, the more willing your bank account is going to be in forgiving you for giving it an anxiety attack. Travel is absolutely about exploring a different place, but it’s also about exploration within yourself. When it’s all said and done and your trip comes to an end, home will still be the same. But hopefully something in your mind has changed. And that changes everything.