First a quick introduction… I wish I was one of those that travelled 24/7/365, alas I am still aspiring to that. For now I still work a 9-5, but have a policy that I’ll see one new country every year and explore my surroundings every chance I get.
Trying To Blend In With The Locals. Dubai
My personality is quite conflicting in that I like to control everything around me when I’m at home, but as soon as I have a backpack on my back I let loose and “Que Sera Sera”. My problem (solution) is that I tend to be excessive, so when I let loose, I LET LOOSE especially when travelling.
The nice thing about letting loose is that it invokes some chaos and chaos is memorable, so here are my tips to make your trip that much more memorable…
Travel in a small group
When you travel with four or fewer people, things tend to flow a lot more easily. As soon as you add more, you are probably going to find one OCD person in the group who wants to make sure that everything is “going to plan”, even when the plan is to have no plan
Another issue you’ll find is that the bigger the group, the longer it takes to get going. Something as simple as going to the shop may take an hour to organise as opposed to telling your mate to hurry the hell up and get going. I can guarantee you that the little bits of banter that go on between a small group of people will be spoken about for a lot longer than a case of collective bargaining between a bunch of argumentative/disagreeing mates.
Don’t pre-plan airport transport
This is a tough one, because 99% of the time you are going to be ripped off. My theory however, is that even though you are paying too much, the experience of negotiation, frustration and disorganisation somehow brings cohesion to a group of travellers – a good precursor for the rest of the trip.
After Missing Two Flights In A Row. Vietnam
Of course it’s easier to pre-book an airport shuttle and even though you know the person taking you to your hostel may not speak English, at least they know where they are going. The thing is, what do you have to talk about when you get there? The airplane food? That dodgy airport security official? I’d rather laugh about the “nightmare” of finding my bed for the night.
Leave accommodation plans to the last minute
I’ll admit that there have been times that I’ve wished that I had pre-booked accommodation, but unless you’re travelling during peak periods, you generally have pick of the crop. There are so many options that aren’t listed in the travel guides that you end up stumbling upon.
On that note, when you do find yourself in a fix and you definitely don’t have the liberty to pick and choose, I’ve found Booking.com to be one of the most useful sites. It may cost you some, but trust me, saying “El Nido Cove Resort” to a guy who doesn’t speak English and him understanding you is priceless when you’re sitting in a torrential downpour with nowhere else to go.
Don’t have a fixed itinerary
Following on from number two, you need to be flexible. Yes, there are times that you want things to be planned out and there’s no need to question it, but most of the time you end up realising the worth of “un-planning”.
Being able to hop from town to town gives you a massive sense of freedom as well as bargaining power. More often than not, a tour company will give you fixed times and dates, but as soon as you mention that you aren’t phased by getting to your next destination, they ease up.
Take everyone’s interests into account
Most of the time you end up in a travelling group of people with different interests. One person may like cooking classes and the next likes to paraglide. My theory is that each member of the group should give the others’ interests a go. Maintain a policy of “don’t bash it ‘til you’ve tried it”
Embrace the language barrier
You can end up having so much fun with this one. Everyone involved in a conversation crossing language barriers acknowledges that it’s there. Have you ever tried to use Google Translate and it ends up getting the sentence completely wrong?
Thinking that you’re asking a local where to find food but in actual fact you’ve just asked the guy if you can eat his dog ends up in a pretty interesting conversation. Embrace it!
Make a point of drinking the local drinks
Learning how to order local drinks at the bar when abroad ends up in one-liners that you never forget. It’s also a conversation starter, bar tenders tend to be warmer towards foreigners who at least try to experience their language and culture.
If Saigon Green Could Tell Stories…
Of course you need to be careful, especially in places like SE Asia where drink spiking is rife, but there’s always the option of local beer. Try to leave any fussy habits at home, refusing to drink anything other than your usual G&T with half a slice of lime is boring, just go with the flow
Carry a portable speaker and have a “trip album”
This is one of the most important ones – music invokes memory and hearing that album you had on repeat for your whole trip will bring those memories up. Try to find an artist that everyone is into, even better if you find it while you’re on the trip!
Do you have anything that you do to make sure that your trips are memorable? I’d love to hear about them.