As I’m now busy working (for actual money), preparing for my winter trip, and getting a few health checks pre-departure, I realize that I haven’t been going out much or seeing a lot of people lately. I’m feeling rather reclusive, which is a perfect time for introspection I guess.
Spurred on by BootsnAll challenge to create a travel manifesto, I got thinking about my values, beliefs, and goals, and here’s what I’ve come up with.
1. Experiences are more important than possessions
I don’t even know how to explain this. Isn’t it obvious? Do you know of anybody on their death bed who has ever said “I should have bought more crap”?
2. Pack light
For an independent solo traveller like myself, with no budget to hire porters and luggage assistants, that’s also pretty obvious. I prefer travelling with a backpack rather than a suitcase (even one with wheels) so the load I carry goes down with the number of years my body gains!
(The image on the left shows what I took on a 9-week trip to Mexico last winter. Learn my secrets for packing light.)
3. Do not overplan – leave room for serendipity
When I first started travelling, I had everything planned down to the hour. Pretty crazy. Not withstanding the number of unexpected things that can happen on a trip, it’s a lot more fun to leave room for surprises. I learned a lot about serendipity in Sri Lanka during my big trip of the 90s.
4. Travel more slowly
I still struggle with this, tempted as I am to go everywhere and see everything. Fortunately, as I now have more time to travel but less money to spend, this concept has been forced upon me, and I have to say it’s a good thing. You get to know a place and its people a lot better when you slow down.
5. Make efforts to communicate with the locals
Yes, it’s tempting in a foreign place to hang out with other travellers who speak your language, but it’s important to establish rapport with some locals as well. Sometimes, a few words of the language and a smile is all it takes. If you plan to spend a lot of time in a country, that’s a fabulous opportunity to take language lessons where the language is actually spoken.
6. Try to live in the moment
Have you ever been on a trip, staring at a gorgeous landscape, and lost in thoughts planning your next trip? So have I. I try not to do it, I swear I try!
7. Do to others as you would have them do to you
This “golden rule” applies to life in general, no just travel. You like getting a good night sleep? Don’t party loudly until 3 am and keep your neighbours awake. You don’t like when people put their bags on the seat next to them to keep you from sitting down? Well, don’t do it either. As well, give people the benefit of the doubt. Not everybody is trying to scam you. You have to allow for cultural differences when you travel. But don’t ignore your instinct either.
8. Learn as much as you can
Everywhere you go, there is something new to learn. That’s actually one of the reasons I love travel so much. You probably won’t remember everything you read about in museums but that’s OK. Using your senses and your intellect to figure out how things work in a new place is just as good. Just don’t lie on a beach at a resort and call it “travel”.
9. Seek new experiences
As well as learning new things, trying out new things is a very important part of travel (and life as well). Try snorkeling, do a tandem skydive, attend a meetup full of strangers (or as they say, “friends you haven’t met yet”), or give couchsurfing a go. (Homepage feature photo: the Galapagos were the first place where I tried underwater photography.)
10. Let yourself be enthralled
I live for those “wow” moments. You know when you round a corner, cross a road, go through a gate, and there it is: the Blue Mosque, the most turquoise water and whitest sand you’ve ever seen, Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal. Or just those “I can’t believe they’re doing this” moments when you see a motorcycle piled high with furniture or carrying a family of five, or people eating large fried insects!
So this is my travel manifesto, the principles I live by (or do my best to live by) as I explore the planet. What are some of yours? I want to know. Please leave a comment below.