Whether it be a beautiful beach photo on social media (i.e. Pinterest), a book or movie (i.e. Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat, Pray, Love), an inspirational travel quote, or a fabulous travel blog (*waves* “hi, y’all!”)…be inspired by things around you. It can be just the boost you need to encourage you to start planning your dream getaway.
Most people feel more comfortable traveling with at least 1 other person while others are a bit more adventurous and prefer to travel solo. Regardless of if you are with a group or on your own, be independent! This is your trip. Be selfish and make sure you see the places or do the things on your travel bucket list for that place. This doesn’t mean you stand up at breakfast and say “Alright, y’all…you are boring and I’m gonna have to jet and do my own thing because I will slit my wrists if I have to visit 1 more museum.”..then make a dramatic exit in a whirl of scarves and your phone cued up to “Flawless” by Beyoncé. I mean, you can do it but maybe save those dramatics for after dinner when there is mood lighting, k? Work out an itinerary with your travel partner(s) and figure out what the “must see/do” places & experiences are. Then figure out if you all want to do the same things. It’s okay if you don’t. Just carve out time where you part ways and have your own independent adventure to live the greatest experience you can dream of. Trust me, you don’t want to be on a plane flying home while giving your boo the side-eye because you gave up visiting the Eiffel Tower so he could walk around WWII battlegrounds.
Explore the world…that’s what it’s there for! Being an explorer allows you to be bolder than you are at home. Immerse yourself in the culture, go whitewater rafting, go hot air ballooning over an African desert…whatever it is, make sure you take your sense of adventure and push yourself (at least a little bit) outside of your boundaries. Think of at least 1 day of your trip as an “adventure” and plan things that will allow you to have a “wow” experience.
I love traditional tours but always mix in something unique for each trip. While it’s a great idea to start each adventure by taking a Hop On/Hop Off bus tour to orient yourself with the city, make sure you book something fun & exciting too. It could be a spa getaway, an overnight camping trip in the desert, riding camels in the Sahara, sunrise hot air balloon ride, visiting the Harry Potter movie set…you name it. Museums are nice but make sure you give yourself time to do something that will allow you to truly experience the place you are visiting. If there is something you want to do and there is no formal organized “tour”, call up the place and ask them if you can have your own unique experience. Nine times out of 10, it will work and you will have an experience that most people will wish they had thought to do.
(Including the “baby be’s”: be safe, be knowledgeable) Research the place you are visiting. My travel boo is Rick Steves. Love him! His books are THE BEST! You need a game plan before you arrive (unless you are the type that just figures it out as you go…if that is you then know that we will never travel together because my nerves can’t take you). This will help you maximize your time, avoid tourist traps and focus on enjoying your trip. You may also want to go to the State Department’s website (www.osac.gov) and check out the country report for the place you are visiting. It gives you great info on crime and other concerns (i.e. privacy, health, etc).
Be Culturally Aware
I love being an American and am an unapologetic feminist. Even with all the struggles we have here in the U.S. when it comes to race, crime, poverty, etc…it’s one of the greatest countries on Earth. But, sometimes I don’t like some of the people that live here…case in point, the current state of affairs with black men being gunned down by police officers or vigilantes who suffer no repercussions from those illegal acts. Black lives matter. I am also very aware that I am afforded rights here that I wouldn’t be granted in some other places.
With that being said, be aware that each country has their own set of struggles & cultural sensitivities. Some are stronger than others. On a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, I made sure I wore traditional clothing [a black abaya (long cloak) and hijab (head scarf)] so that I would not run afoul of their religious laws nor make people feel uncomfortable. While it was a huge adjustment visiting a place where women don’t have as many rights as men, I tried to at least blend in physically since being submissive was a bit of a stretch for me (smile). When visiting other countries in the Middle East that don’t require the abaya, I made sure I was covered (long skirts/pants, long-sleeved blouses, etc). The last thing you need is unwanted attention or to be hassled by the religious police. Yes, it may be hot but you are a visitor in their country. And who wants visitors that don’t respect the house rules?
The beautiful thing about this world is that it’s made up of so many different kinds of people (which is both a good thing and a bad thing). What is normal to you may seem absurd to someone else. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep an open mind. For example, if you plan a trip to Amsterdam and know you have very strong views about drugs & sex then make sure you avoid the Red Light District. Please don’t tour the Red Light District wrapped in a cloak of judginess (is that a word? Spell-check says it isn’t but I kinda feel that it is…hmmm…too lazy to verify so I’m making an executive decision that it’s a word). Where was I? Oh, yeah, cloak of judginess…don’t walk the RLD pointing fingers at the people entering the coffeeshops or having impromptu prayer sessions for the sex workers. Know yourself and if you don’t think you can handle certain situations, avoid them. While drugs & prostitution are stigmatized and mostly illegal in the U.S., they aren’t in the Netherlands. Sex workers have unions and get benefits. Yeah, it’s weird to those of us not raised in a culture where it’s accepted as a daily part of life but I live by the motto, “if you like it, I love it.” and keep it moving.
This may be the hardest one for those that aren’t naturally a “glass half full” person. It takes work. My trick is to take a couple of deep breaths, fuss about it on Facebook complete with a full dramatic recap of what happened and a Meme (probably Kevin Hart). Make the “disaster” funny. Once you can laugh, you can start to get perspective. Being angry doesn’t help you fix the situation. Anger is a thief as it steals your good sense & happiness. Little issues become huge issues. Don’t be that person who has a meltdown because you ran out of gum. And, honestly, if things have gone horribly wrong…they can only get better, right?
Things go wrong. Flights are delayed or cancelled, that fabulous hotel that you booked actually looks like the Motel 6, or you can’t find anyone who speaks English. Trust me when I say that everything will work out. It always does. A little patience takes you a long way and can keep your dream vacation from turning into your worst nightmare. With so many travel apps and international calling plans, it’s easier than ever to get help.
A smile goes a long way. It’s universal and understood in any culture. You don’t need to know the local language (but it helps if you at least learn a few key phrases like “hello”, “please” and “thank you”). I’ve had more people open up and share wonderful experiences with me just by being genuine and offering a pleasant smile. Plus, a smile makes you beautiful and who doesn’t want that?
I hope this list of Travel Be’s helps you to plan and enjoy your next fabulous vacation. Are there any Travel Be’s that I missed? Let me know!