“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” - Lao Tzu
I’ll be the first to admit that traveling, with all its wonders and beauty, brings along its own pitfalls and moments of terror.
Even the best trips can feel uneasy or unsettling, at least in the beginning, as you get used to a different set of customs and cultures.
However, it’s how you adapt to these changes and take advantage of the new cultures and customs that differentiates a true traveler from an observer.
Getting away means leaving not just your home, but your old frame of mind. It means immersing yourself in another world, which can many times mean, becoming another you.
It’s a time of self-reflection and discovery. It’s what make people more mature, well-rounded and interesting individuals. It’s an opportunity to open yourself up to new ideas and new sights. If you’re a good traveler, you will never come home unchanged.
Someone once told me he could tell a well-traveled person without knowing if he or she has left the country. It’s the way travelers talk, the ideas they have and the way they live. It’s how they approach subjects of change and adventure.
It’s how they understand other ideas and opinions and yearn for more than what’s there. It's their un-quenched thirst for constant exploration and discovery, and their mouthwatering thirst to whet their mind.
Because that’s what happens if you are a good traveler. A good traveler is distinct for having an open mind and letting that mind absorb the wonders and ideas of new land.
Travelers are also distinct for being bold. They thrust themselves into unknown territory with the desire to understand and appreciate another place than just home.
If you want to be an open-minded traveler, one with stories and experiences unparalleled to most, make sure you take advantage of every minute and every opportunity.
Meet New Friends In Dark Bars
Go to some bars alone, talk with the locals, meet the other ex-patriates. Get drunk and see how well you can speak the language now.
Who knows you may even make a new friend to navigate the rest of your trip with. Or maybe you'll establish a new contact in London.
Bum A Cigarette Off A Local
Cigarettes are one of the most social activities you can do with strangers. Even if you don’t smoke, indulge in the vice if only for the experience. Besides, cigarettes don’t count when you’re abroad.
Go To Parties That Aren’t Promoted
Find the local spots, the underground raves and un-promoted events that will show you a side of the city only the locals know about. Attend events that aren't filled with tourists but people who show you the real culture of the place.
Order The Most Confusing Item On The Menu
Stop ordering the thing you know you like and can pronounce. Order the local plates or the obscure desserts you’re embarrassed to order. See what the people around you are eating and ask for that.
Get Bus Tickets On A Whim
Don’t limit yourself to where you are now. If you have a beautiful day, take a local bus to a nearby beach. Take a train to the smaller city just two hours south. Explore other areas and never say no to an excursion.
Take People Up On Their Offers
If a new friend asks you to party in Ibiza next weekend or change your plans for a spontaneous trip to Amsterdam for 4/20, take them up on it. Those spontaneous decisions are usually the best ones you’ll ever make.
Try To Speak Another Language, Even If You Fail
It’s embarrassing and humbling to become the disregarded and uneducated. Suddenly you are the one who can't communicate correctly and unable to speak your mind.
However, this is an important moment for growth. Learn as much as you can, make a fool of yourself, because they will appreciate the effort.
Rather than trying to get them to understand you, try to understand their language.
Have A Short Love Affair
If you can, meet someone who sweeps you off your feet and experience what it’s like to fall in love abroad. Even if it’s only for a night, let the passion of another city ignite a flame. Learn what it's like to love like a native.
Go To Obscure Stores And Buy New Clothes
There’s no better way to immerse yourself in another culture than to dress like they do. Feel how the locals feel and take that feeling and the clothes back home with you.
If you dress like they do, there is less of a chance they will peg you for a foreigner and more of a chance they will treat you like one of their own.
Talk To A Street Performer
Street performers are unique individuals to every street they work. They represent the artists and the poor of the city. Talk to just one and find out their story. They may be the most interesting people you meet.
Eat Street Food
The food of the street is the food of the people. Okay, maybe that’s not a real saying, but I think it still rings true. Eat the native snacks, try the food they sell and pick up on their way to work and school.
Take Public Transportation Even If It Sucks
Even if France doesn’t have the best metro system, you should suffer through it along with all the true Parisians. See who’s on the metro, what souls enter the platforms and what stops seem popular. Travel like a visitor, not a tourist.
Walk Without A Destination… Or A Map
There’s no such thing as getting lost in foreign land. You are on an adventure and taking random streets and winding roads is what it’s all about.
Stumble across a store that has the best empanadas you’ve ever tasted, find a church that’s more beautiful than the Sistine Chapel, have a cappuccino in a café overlooking an ocean you've never seen.
Get Up Early
You only have so much time. Sacrifice the luxury of sleeping in for morning walks along unknown roads to unknown cafés.
Sip some coffee with the locals and read the paper. See who is out in the morning light when the dew has not yet settled. Stay awake as long as possible and drink lots of good coffee.
To be completely free and uninhibited, you should go alone. While it's always fun with a friend or a lover, the only way to meet new ones is to leave the others behind. Be a lone warrior and your sacrifice will most definitely pay off.
Put Down The Camera
A true traveler doesn't waste time with photos and capturing the moment. You can't live in the moment if you're looking at it behind a lens. Leave for the night without your camera and let your memory hold what you'll look back on later.
Photo Courtesy: 500px