1: Patience Is Important
Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control. Life is much too short to be angry & annoyed all the time. Did you miss your bus? No worries, there will be another one.
ATMs out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes freakouts happen regardless. Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.
2: Wake Up Early To Avoid Crowds
Rise before sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding large tourist crowds. It’s also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and it’s usually easier to interact with locals getting ready for their day.
Want those postcard Instagram travel shots? You need to get out there before everyone else shows up. Sketchy areas are less dangerous in the morning too. Honest hardworking people wake up early; touts, scammers, and criminals sleep in…
3: Observe Daily Life Around You
If you really want to get a feel for the pulse of a place, I recommend spending a few hours sitting in a park or on a busy street corner by yourself just watching day to day life happen in front of you.
Slow down your train of thought and pay close attention to the details around you. The smells, the colors, human interactions, and sounds. It’s a kind of meditation — and you’ll see stuff you never noticed before.
4: Laugh At Yourself Sometimes
You will definitely look like a fool many times when traveling to new places. Rather than get embarrassed, laugh at yourself. Don’t be afraid to screw up, and don’t take life so seriously. Relax!
One time a whole bus full of Guatemalans laughed with glee when I forced the bus driver to stop so I could urgently pee on the side of the road. Returning to the bus and laughing with them gave me new friends for the rest of the journey!
5: Slow Down To Enjoy Your Trip
Please don’t try to cram 6 countries into 6 weeks of travel. All the good stuff happens when you really take the time to explore. You’ll learn about activities that aren’t in your guidebook and meet people who are eager to show you around.
I can honestly say that NONE of my best travel experiences happened within the first few days of arriving somewhere. Spend more time in fewer places for maximum enjoyment. I promise you’ll have a much better time!
6: Volunteer Occasionally
Make it a point to volunteer some of your time for worthwhile projects when traveling. Not only is it a very rewarding experience, but you’ll often learn more about the country and its people while also making new friends.
There’s a great site called Grassroots Volunteering where you can search for highly recommended volunteer opportunities around the world. Just be very careful with voluntourism and do your research, as there are many scams out there too.
7: Take Lots Of Epic Travel Photos
Pay attention to this travel tip. You may only see these places & meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos! Don’t worry about looking like a “tourist”. Great photos are the ultimate souvenirs.
They don’t cost anything, they’re easy to share, and they don’t take up space in your luggage. Take plenty of photos of yourself too, they’ll be more important than your postcard shots later. Just remember that once you get your shot, it’s important to get out from behind the lens and actually enjoy the view.
8: Don’t Get Discouraged
Nothing is impossible. If you are having trouble going somewhere or doing something, don’t give up. You just haven’t found the best solution or met the right person yet. Don’t listen to those who say it can’t be done.
Perseverance pays off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told what I want to do isn’t possible, only to prove it wrong later when I don’t listen and try anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? Failing isn’t the end of the world!
9: Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Challenge yourself to try things that normally give you anxiety. The more you do this, the more that anxiety will fade away. Not a hiker? Go on more hikes. Have trouble talking to strangers? Talk to everyone. Scared of weird food? Eat the weirdest thing you can find.
The reason this works so well while traveling is because everything is already so different, what’s one more new/uncomfortable experience? No one knows who you are out here, you can totally reinvent yourself.
10: Keep An Open Mind
Don’t judge the lifestyles or customs of others if different from your own. Listen to opinions you don’t agree with. It’s arrogant to assume your views are correct and other people are wrong. Practice empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Embrace different possibilities, opinions, religions, customs, and interests. Ask questions. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but you may be surprised what you’ll learn from the people you meet during your travels.
11: Get Lost On Purpose
If you want to see the parts of town where real people live & work, you need to go visit them. The best way to do this is on foot — without knowing exactly where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel so you can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking.
Don’t worry too much about stumbling into dangerous neighborhoods either, as locals will generally warn you before you get that far. And you never know what amazing things you’ll find around the next bend…