When you travel a lot, you come to depend on habits and tips to keep everything going smoothly. Recently while I was at 30,000 feet, I started thinking about my very best practices that make the biggest difference in my travel experiences. They boil down to these five things:
1. Ritualize your travel – While going to new places can be one of life’s biggest joys, it is also filled with the unfamiliar, which can create stress. Rituals and routines provide a sense of comfort and control that can be very helpful. The fewer decisions you have to make, the more energy you have. That’s why I have all sorts of travel rituals. I always park in the same general area at the airport. I try to fly on the same airline and I purchase the same snacks at the same airport shops. I even try to fly through the same connector cities with airports I prefer. Once in my hotel room I immediately unpack my things before heading out. And even though I never order from room service, I always read the menu. Cumulatively, these rituals help to offset the stress of travel and put me in the right frame of mind to explore. They’re an important part of my process.
2. Bond with people over places – As a visitor you have instant intrigue. You are the novelty. By letting it be known you’re “not from around here,” you open doors to conversations that allow you to meet others, connect and uncover hidden gems about your destination. When you travel, people always want to know where you’re from, which can lead to all sorts of interesting conversations, including where they’re originally from and all the things you might have in common. Geography is something we all share and it’s a great way to break the ice in any new situation.
3. Numerate your pleasure – The ultimate gift of travel is that it expands you as a person and leads to greater self-awareness. I’ve noticed that sometimes the amount of fun I expected to have is different from the reality, so I started using a simple numbered approach to help me learn what I most enjoy. How? I simply pick a number between one and 10 that reflects how much I expect to enjoy an activity, and then, after it’s done, I pick a number between one and 10 to reflect how much I truly did enjoy it. This simple habit has helped me learn that I derive a lot of joy from wandering around cities solo, something I had no idea I even liked. I also discovered that I love sitting in cafes or restaurants for hours people-watching and writing. Before I picked up the numeration habit I never scheduled time for that. But now I always do.
4. Talk to everyone – As a travel writer, I couldn’t write a good story without getting the inside scoop from those in the know. And quite often those in the know are your waiter, your concierge, the person who checks you into your hotel or the guy driving your cab. You don’t have to be a travel writer to take a moment to chat them up about their towns. Ask what is new and cool, what people are talking about, what experiences are not-to-be-missed. People generally welcome a genuine interest in their area of expertise and you gain so much by reaching out.
5. Keep some open time – Once you find out about the fantastic new restaurant you’ll want to make sure to visit. But that can’t happen if you’re already committed to other restaurants every night of your stay. By leaving yourself some free time you can take advantage of sudden opportunities. Even if you spend your free time napping in your room, you’ll be more refreshed and centered for when you do venture out.
Barbara Wayman, APR