Flight and first night hostel arranged? Getting ready for that trip you booked and thrilled that it has finally arrived? Is it your first trip without parents or friends? Time to step up and begin your own journey.
There are many reasons why people love to travel. I particularly like the quote by Ibn Battuta: “Travelling – It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a story teller”
So, where do you start
Well, the best way is not to be a tourist…
Travelling opens the mind, feeds the soul, and nurtures the adventuring spirit. It also wakes you up to the beauty and majesty of planet Earth. Becoming an accomplished and happy traveller is more than just seeing the top tourist destinations though, it’s about becoming one with your surroundings. Take the time to pick up the vibe for the area you’re in. Don’t go down the route everyone has followed before you, just because it’s easy. If you do, you’ll end up with the same stories as everyone else.
Make sure that you go off the beaten track a bit and experiment, even if it’s just a few days out of your trip, it will be worth it for the benefits you will gain.
My first piece of advice to you is to Plan. Yes!… and in particular, plan not to be a tourist. Take the opportunity to wake yourself up to the beauty and richness of other parts of the world. Think to yourself, “I want to be a great traveller and plan to be a great traveller”. Explore pathways that aren’t the familiar ones. Take ‘The road less Travelled’ as M. Scott Peck famously said. Be an individual, not a follower.
Examine your cultural identity, your values and beliefs. Appreciating your own cultural identity will help you to appreciate different cultures and the values and beliefs they hold. Try not to see views that differ from yours as wrong, even if they make you feel uncomfortable. Instead, try to understand diverse views. Try, for example, to get a new friend to take you to one of their cultural celebrations and explain it to you.
Great travellers are tolerant and accepting. They do not judge others or try to impose their values, instead, they learn from their mistakes and value diversity. Great travellers crave adventure and have great stories to tell.
Plan everything and anything that you want to do whilst travelling. Even if it’s only a short stay in an area, visit the things that are important to you. Time is of the essence. Make the most of it. Whether you want to lounge on an Australian beach or explore Thailand’s greatest forests. Make the most of what you do. Do not step off the plane and think, right… where do I start?
Arrive with confidence, with ideas and plans. Of course, you may come across exciting and new possibilities, but make sure you have a basic plan.
My second piece of advice is to Absorb what you are about to see and experience. Some like to listen, observe and memorise. Whereas, others, like myself, prefer to take a camera of some sort – whether that is a cheap disposable camera you bought in the airport or a more professional camera such as DSLR and record as much as possible. Capturing the moment for me is vital.
Having that ability to look back on your adventures and your life sends me into a euphoric place. A state of pure happiness. Absorbing what a country has to offer is one of the most important parts of travelling. You have the opportunity to watch, learn, and talk to people from different cultural backgrounds. Make the most of it. See how they live. Most of the time, it will be completely different from to how you live your life back home.
My final piece of advice is to Respect what a country has to offer… but how?
Respect is very simple. When mixing with different cultural backgrounds, some people often find it difficult to know how to act and speak in case they offend. You need to remember that you are no longer at home and understand that other countries have different religious views, events and behaviour, sometimes much different to your own. Being respectful is easy though, you just need to be aware that there are differences and try to understand them.
Culture is a combination of beliefs, thoughts, attitudes and feelings shared by a social, racial, religious or ethnic group. Some we choose (religious and political) and some we inherit (race and ethnicity). Although, these may be different to your own it is important to respect dissimilar views. Travelling allows you to connect with such a diverse community that your views may shift, as you see new perspectives, learn and grow, although you will always retain some of your original makeup. Do not to be ignorant, be knowledgeable and everything will eventually become second nature, the more you travel.
Remember, whilst you are educating yourself… be yourself. People will be studying you too. Think of it like this, you are representing your country. Make it proud!
With these things in mind, the most important advice, to take on your first adventure, is to have fun. Have a fantastic time and make memories that will last you a lifetime.