Anyone who is rich enough (in spirit and the wallet) to get to travel, whether it be around the world or in your own home state, should never take it for granted. Whether you travel solo, with your family, or your best girlfriends, it is a privilege that should feed not only your body, but your soul. And with this privilege comes a responsibility to both your fellow travelers and the places you visit to be the traveler you’d want to travel with.
I obviously love to travel or I wouldn’t be a contributor here at TravelingMom. But, I did start a bit later in life – in my late 20’s – and so have had to make every effort to catch up. And, boy, I rarely miss a chance to venture out. Through the years, I have come to realize that along with this privilege comes a responsibility to the people and the land I am visiting. So, I am now a very cognizant and conscientious traveler and have developed some rules I live by when I travel. I like to think this makes me your ideal travel companion!
How to Be the Traveler You’d Want to Travel With
Be A Considerate Passenger
Whether you are traveling by train, plane, or automobile, it can be a stressful time. Being rude, loud, and just generally inconsiderate can really make for an unpleasant journey for both you and those around you. Think of how many times someone in front of you was rude to the airline agent and how that made you feel. It certainly isn’t the way you want to start your vacation.
Respect The Country You’re Visiting
Countries have their own customs and ways of doing things and just as you want people to respect the U.S. when they’re visiting, you need to do the same. Dress appropriately, don’t litter, don’t be loud and obnoxious, watch the drinking; you get the picture. Be the responsible tourist.
Learn Something New
Eat something new and/or learn about the culture. Do one thing new or outside of your comfort zone each day. And, don’t forget to share what you’ve learned with friends and family when you get home. Learn to be a better traveler if nothing else.
Spread Kindness And Goodwill
Don’t be rude or unfriendly to people. You are on vacation and are so fortunate! Choose to be appreciative and be kind to the residents of the country you’re in. Smile, say please and thank you, put unpleasantries in perspective and react accordingly.
Seek Out The Locals
There is no better way to truly get the feel for where you are visiting, then spending time with locals. This is most important for me in terms of the food. I hate when I get referred to a tourist spot by the concierge at a hotel. I really feel cheated. I now make sure they know this when I ask for recommendations. This is also where you must be willing to strike up a conversation with a stranger, such as the waitress, taxi driver, clerk in the clothing store, etc. They can let you know those off the beaten path things to do that only the locals are tuned into, but of which memories are made!
Take a break from your normal routine and just say yes to the adventure you are on. Take it all in. Don’t just be a tourist, but be a sponge. Open up all of your senses and go as local as you can, while maintaining your safety and comfort level. I love the fact that no one knows me and will probably never see me again, so I don’t worry about making a fool of myself.
I used to have every single minute of a vacation planned, but it is exhausting and I’ve changed my ways. I no longer make a rigid schedule, but iif you do make a schedule, leave room for a “happy accident”. If you get lost, use it as an excuse to explore – of course safety first! It’s okay to make mistakes and have fun. That said, you need to do your research for places you want to visit, exhibits, restaurants, etc. and if tickets or reservations are needed, by all means get them in advance.
Travel Solo At Least Once
I know it may sound cliche, but you really do learn a ton of stuff about yourself and can really grow as a person and even become a better person when you’re on your own. Being the wife of a triathlete, I spend a lot of time alone while he trains and then a lot of time by myself around race days. It has really made me much more comfortable talking to strangers and exploring on my own. I’ve met many new friends and seen sites I otherwise would not have, had I sat in the room with him!
Keep A Travel Journal
I have been keeping a journal for the past 20 years. My husband and I decided to do this when we went on our first vacation and it was one of the best decisions we made. I have referred back to it multiple times just to make me smile and when friends have asked the name of that restaurant we so loved in Paris.
Bring Home A Memento
My husband and I always bring home a piece of artwork from wherever we are visiting and we actually place them throughout the house. So, when we are walking around the house, we always have a great memory. These range from a really nice piece of art from a local gallery to a $10 painting bought from a vendor on a street in Quebec.
I was in the airport in Anguilla many years ago and they had donation boxes for the local animal shelter. It made me realize how important it is to me to give back to the community I just spent time visiting, especially those that are economically depressed. I have continued the practice of donating to an animal rescue group in every location I’ve been to and I urge you to choose a charity that has significance for you.
Finally, here are just some basic travel tips to help make your journey a wonderful experience:
- take lots of pictures
- bring a first aid kit
- always carry a back up credit card and extra money and keep in a safe
- pack lighter than you think you’ll need
- make a copy of your passport and keep in a safe
- let friends and/or family at home know you’re fine
- bring a water bottle and fill it up in the hotel room, at a restaurant, or where you’re comfortable
- buy travel insurance