I was wondering lately about how I could add anything to all the travel advice out there on the internet. Me, just a regular Dutch guy who likes to travel. No more, no less.
But something did happen. It was cheerful and surprising to read all kinds of comments on my latest posts about Japan, Morocco and Thailand. I did not count them, but I’m sure I have put these countries on dozens of bucket lists, your bucket lists. I even made this girl change her life travel plans: she made the Far East jump ahead of South America on her to-do list. Just because of my Japan Life Lessons post…
So people really listen to me? Wow, that was an amazing insight! I would love to develop this blog to a source of travel inspiration. With your support! No more of that modesty…
Today’s post is all about giving you travel advice that I learned during all kinds of travels: back-packing, group travel, all-inclusive, family travel and city-breaks. You name it.
Mind you, no way I am going to tell you to drink enough water, to bring enough diapers for your children or not forget to take your vaccinations. I am not even going to tell you what to pack if you want to travel light. Really, this kind of advice is widely available on the internet!
I want to take you along a different route. But it’s going to be me. I am not trying to be the next travel guru with a back-pack full of advice. I just love writing stuff down…and I hope you get inspiration from at least one or two tips. Are you with me? LET’S GO!
1. Fear of traveling can be manipulated to benefit you
Don’t deny it. Of course there is fear when you are about to travel to unknown parts of the world. And I am the last one to say you don’t have to scared. Be scared, yes! Overseas is different than your safe backyard!
What is this fear all about? I believe it’s fear of the unknown, fear of diseases, fear of being hassled. Sometimes fear becomes reality, but most of the times it’s just your brain playing games with you!
Take the controller and play the game. Don’t let fear control you. Come on, it’s not like you travel paths that have never been traveled before, be realistic. The place you are traveling to is home to thousands or millions of people. Other travelers have been there, alone or with their children. If they can make it over there, so can you.
Let fear of travel guide you to make you stronger! Hallelujah.
2. Traveling with children, also for your own benefit
One of my favourite subjects! Traveling with children is a major topic on the internet and really, so many people, so many opinions. Should you take young children on your worldwide travels? Or even babies? Well, there is enough online discussion about that already. Crying babies on the plane, to name just one provocative subject.
Anyway. Sure you can travel with small infants and babies, no problem. We decided to wait until our youngest son was 4 years old (do I now get a medal from those baby-in-plane bashers?).
Our reason for that? Memories. He now still remembers things of his first trip, for example that ride on a camel on the beach of Essaouira in Morocco. Now that’s an advantage worth waiting for (in the beginning he was so afraid of the camel, later on he loved the animal).
We have been traveling with our children for 3 years now. But there is one more important piece of advice I want to share: limit the geographic scope of your travel.
I know, here comes the fear thing again. Fear of not seeing it all. Fear of missing out on the best spots.
Of course you want to see it all. The whole country, all the major spots. When going to Thailand you want to see Bangkok, Chiang Mai as well as the tropical islands in the south.
Forget about that when you bring your children along. Limit it to one or two regions. I can assure you will have a far better experience that will make up for the areas you will not see big time!
OK, one more piece of advice. Always walk behind your kids. In most countries we traveled, they LOVED our kids! We let them go first when entering the restaurant. We always got the best seats!
We always took them with us when we asked locals if we could photograph them. NO PROBLEM!
Traveling with kids opens doors that stay closed to others (traveling without children that is). Let’s take advantage of that…
3. Don’t bother if people want to make a buck
“Hey Mister, where are you from?”
You know them, these local people approaching you to sell their ‘great’ stuff (or offering a massage, transport or the best food in town for that matter).
There is one way to ruin your vacation: get irritated. I know this advice is a tough one for some of you…
But life is so much easier if you accept the fact that these people just want to earn some small money. You are not always just a target for hassling.
Do buy something. Do take that transport offer, rather than waiting for the organised bus tour. But certainly do not get irritated. It’s part of your (travel) job to deal with them. Good luck (and enjoy)!
4. At least read some stuff on cultural differences
Never touch the head of Balinese people.
Don’t blow your nose in public in Japan. Also people in Brazil are not very amused when you do so. .
Don’t say anything incorrect about the King of Thailand.
Join the waiting line in the Tokyo subway, don’t push yourself forward!
Just a couple of taboo things you should know about when traveling a country. Don’t you just want to awake those people who don’t prepare, who don’t have a clue about the culture of the country they are traveling in?
These customs or traditions are important, don’t you think?. You don’t want to embarrass people and you sure don’t want to look like a fool!
Before going to a strange country, please do read some stuff on cultural differences. It will make it much easier for you to engage in cultural harmony, hooray 🙂
5. Walk, serendipity calling. Embracing the random.
This is my favourite. I had no idea about the meaning of serendipity, until a couple of years back. Maybe I can blame my English teacher.
But now I love it. It’s about coincidence, it’s making fortunate discoveries by accident. Don’t you think that serendipity is what creates the most memorable travel experiences?
Can you actively search for serendipity? They (the people) say not. I say you can!
I always create some spare time in my travel schedule. Two hours is enough.
What do I do? I always have 1 plan: turn right (actually you can not even call this a plan). I walk out of the hotel and turn right. Always, no matter what. Walls and swamps don’t count, guess you knew that coming.
You can prepare your trip to the very minor detail, but discoveries are all about randomness. Having no specific pattern or purpose frees the mind.
Open to see different things.
I’m always very relaxed on these serendipity discovery trips, even when I have no clue where I’m going! Getting lost isn’t that bad (TIP: always take your hotel telephone number with you).
I have come across some amazing stuff. I literally stumbled upon a funeral, Balinese children playing with kites in a small alley, goats and other livestock hidden behind a big wooden door in Morocco.
How to best be embraced by local atmosphere? Walk, let serendipity do the work. It’s her job…
6. Beyond the bucket list: watch people
On this blog you can find a post on traveling beyond your bucket list. What do I mean with that?
To me, traveling is not only visiting famous buildings, temples and churches. How come we long to see them, find them amazingly beautiful, but after 5 of them we are getting bored! Are we spoiled? Do we want to be surprised more? Well, next travel advice. Do you know the one thing that will never bore you: people!
Watch people. Make pictures of them (after kindly asking them – or just with a big lens) and try to create a subject. For example, take pictures of people earning their daily money. These pictures will show you the real country. Trust me, great collections will surely come from photographing all sorts of hotdog salesmen in the streets of New York, or all kinds of people on bikes in Amsterdam. The world offers a wealth of choices!
7. What about your advice?
This post started with a kind of question: how could I, a regular Dutch guy, add anyting to travel advice already out there? I hope I did.
But the best travel advice comes from multiple sources. Never trust a stranger. Help me by adding your best travel advice in the comment section below. Thanks for creating a great list!