Travel? Why would you want to do that?
Travel is boring, expensive, and overrated. Not to mention dangerous.
Why would you want to go halfway around the world to see something when you can see pictures of it on the Internet?
Am I right?
It’s not like you’re going to get anything out of it.
Don’t worry, I’ve put together a survival guide, just in case somebody forces you to travel – and you’ve exhausted every possible option to get out of it.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure you have the least amount of fun and avoid having a meaningful experience to the best of your abilities:
Try to see every single thing you can in as little time as possible.
Cram as many destinations as you can into a short period of time. When you get somewhere, don’t even think about missing a ‘must-see’ location. Grab a map and start running. Whatever you do, don’t slow down.
In fact, do you think anyone has ever made it to 40 countries in 48 hours? You can, my friend. I believe in you.
Don’t even think about immersing yourself in the local culture and taking the time to get the feel of a location. That’s not what you’re here for. Your goal is to see all the things!
And don’t worry about your budget. Sure, transportation is one of the biggest expenses on the road, but it’s not like you’re going to want to splurge on fun adventures along the way. Or gelato.
Over-pack. Really stuff that suitcase.
Pack for every single possible scenario that might arise. You never know when you might want to go dog-sledding in the rain with an Alaskan fishing boat captain.
Make sure to pack anything that you even think you might need. After all, it’s not like they’re going to sell toothpaste anywhere else in the world.
Don’t worry about the time and money you’ll spend checking luggage. It will all be worth it. And so what if you end up dragging a 70 lb. suitcase down a cobblestone street for 2 miles? Build those muscles, baby! At least you have your binoculars in case a bird-watching opportunity arises.
Travel only by the guidebook.
Don’t even think about deviating or having any kind of spontaneity. It doesn’t matter if you read about something cool in a novel or on a travel blog. If it’s not on LonelyPlanet, you’re not trying it.
Plus, it’s a well-known fact that any restaurant with fewer than 50 reviews on TripAdvisor will give you food poisoning and probably kill you.
In fact, you’d better bring along printed guidebooks just in case you (heaven forbid!) wander into an area without wi-fi. Remember, everywhere outside of American is basically a third-world country, so better safe than sorry. What’s an extra 20 lbs. or so?
Diet-shmiet. Don’t worry about staying healthy.
Exercising and eating healthy is for when you’re at home. You’re traveling! A month-long carb-only diet never hurt anyone, right?
If you absolutely must exercise, make sure you stick to the cramped hotel workout room. If you take a run around a new city you might get lost. Or you might discover a park where you could do yoga. And yoga is only for those new-age hippie types. You’re way too cool for that.
Probably best to avoid hiking, too – you might trip and break an ankle or get eaten by a moose.
I mean, you’re walking around sightseeing – that’s plenty of exercise, right?
Don’t stick to any kind of schedule.
Schedules are boooooring. Without one you’ll be exhausted and inefficient, but that’s fine because it’s not like you want to make the most of your experience or anything.
Running around playing catch-up all the time is fun. Like pin-the-tail-on-the-headless-chicken.
If you’re traveling for work, who cares? Don’t they know it’s impossible to be productive if you’re not in an office? You’re there for one reason and one reason only: running up a huge bar tab on the company credit card.
If you’re on vacation, your itinerary only needs two things on it anyway – laying by the pool drinking and napping to recover from the hangover. After all, you just dropped 4 grand to fly to Thailand and stay in this cool resort, so why would you want to do anything else?
Take cabs everywhere.
Don’t even think about walking. Walking is dirty. You might accidentally immerse yourself in the sounds, and smells, and tastes of a place entirely foreign to you. Some of those tastes might include street food, which probably contains Ebola.
Whatever you do, don’t take public transportation. It’s way too confusing to try to figure out bus or train schedules. You might actually learn something, or get familiar with the local culture.
Be sure to take a cab anywhere you need to go, especially to and from the airport. Sure, there might be a bus for a tenth of the price but you would have to talk to someone who doesn’t speak English to get a ticket.
If you happen to get scammed or taken advantage of…well, at least you didn’t have to walk 2 blocks with that giant suitcase.
Close yourself off to new things.
Everyone knows that traveling should be exactly like home, so be sure not to try something that might make you uncomfortable.
Couchsurfing? You’re a fancy-pants who can afford an expensive hotel room, why would you want to step inside someone else’s world for a few days and get to know them? Not to mention that it’s insanely dangerous. Every person on there is probably a rapist or murderer.
It doesn’t matter how cool something looks; if it’s weird, you’re not going to try it. Did you know that there are life-sized statues that pee on an outline of the Czech Republic in Prague? Why would anyone want to see that?!
Avoid things like battlefields and historic cemeteries at all costs. That whole peaceful and reverent vibe that they give off is just creepy.
Stay glued to your gadgets.
Ignore the Dalai Lama; don’t live in the moment. Make sure you have your smartphone, tablet, GoPro, & GPS on you at all times. The world might not keep turning if you’re not instantly reachable at any given second.
If you accidentally wander out of a wi-fi zone, panic.
Ignore those ‘No Photos’ signs. They don’t really mean it. If you don’t Instagram at least 27 selfies a day your friends will start to worry.
Plan absolutely every little thing down to the tiniest detail before you go.
Leave no room for flexibility.
You might fall in love and want to stay somewhere longer, or find that your ‘paradise’ isn’t all its cracked up to be. Well, too bad.
Sure, those new friends that you met last night at dinner seem like a lot of fun, and it was really nice of them to invite you to come stay with them in Switzerland, but YOU are staying in Berlin.
That little candle-lit restaurant that you passed earlier did look incredible and romantic but you already have reservations somewhere else.
Don’t bother with the good stuff – get the cheapest gear you can find.
Paying for equipment is for suckers. Those hiking shoes you found at the Salvation Army will be fine, even if they’re a size too small.
Aunt Myra’s old suitcase has a few more years left in it, and who needs a new backpack? You still have the one you used in high school.
How big of a difference can there be between that $300 tent and the one for $29.99 at Walmart?
Okay, Internet, since you’re not always the best at recognizing satire, let me point it out for you. That was it.
So, here’s a brief recap of how to actually have a great time and get the most out of travel:
1. Travel slowly. The surest way to get burned out is to try to cram as many destinations as you can into a short period of time. If your schedule allows for it, spend 2-4 weeks in one area. Or, pick a base city and take day trips. It will open your eyes and freshen your perspective on the world more than an endless string of train, bus, or plane rides.
2. Pack light. Inevitably, you will end up taking things you don’t use, and needing things you never even thought of, so don’t stress about it. You’ll be amazed at just how inventive you can be when you have to.
Check out Tim Ferriss’s How to Travel the World with 10 Lbs. or Less for inspiration. (For the record, I had 20 lbs. my last trip, and plan on getting under 15 next time – but for me, having more than 2 pairs of underwear is non-negotiable.)
3. Leave the guidebooks at home. If you want some good advice, stop by a few local hostels (even if you’re not staying there). They know all the best free or low-cost activities. Or, check out a guidebook written by an ex-pat. In my opinion, they tend to contain more interesting suggestions and are likely to keep you away from tourist traps.
I re-routed my entire trip to go to Croatia based entirely on an article called “You Can’t Do, Eat, or Say That in Croatia” on Chasing the Donkey and I have no regrets.
4. Make time for exercise. Exercise increases your endorphin levels and boosts your brainpower. It will make your overall experience better no matter where you are in the world. You don’t need a fancy weight room to get your blood flowing and your heart rate up. And, absolutely sample the local cuisine, but don’t just throw your entire diet into a tailspin.
Here are some of my favorite equipment-free daily routines for staying fit while traveling.
5. Unless it’s just a weekend getaway, stick to some sort of schedule. You should know by now what time of day you’re most productive during. For me, it’s early morning. I usually get up at 5, do some yoga, meditate for 15-20 minutes, and then dive right in while my brain is fresh. Past 3 pm it’s essentially worthless.
Set aside a block of time for work, and a block of time for exploring. Schedule dinners and activities. I’m ALL for being spontaneous, but you’ll feel less frazzled if you have some kind of routine established.
6. Walk as much as possible. Every time I get somewhere new, one of the first things I do is Google walking tours. Free walking tours are offered in almost every major city and cost you nothing besides a tip (don’t be a cheapskate – DO tip your tour guide). They’re an awesome way to meet new friends, learn about the history and culture of a place, and discover some insider information you won’t get anywhere else.
(In Belgrade I was able to witness firsthand the time-tested tradition known as ‘fishing,’ where really, really rich guys sit down at a table, set their car keys out in front of them, and wait for the
gold diggers beautiful girls to come out and join them. It was awesome.)
7. Try new things. There’s no point in traveling halfway around the world if you’re going to stubbornly cling to your comfort zone. Stretch it. Expand it. Re-evaluate it. Habits are a good thing, but they should always be questioned from time to time.
Visit weird places. They will make for far better stories and leave lasting impressions. I probably had a lot more fun at the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb than I would have at The Louvre.
I met the most amazing people through Couchsurfing (here are some guidelines on how to do it safely, even as a solo female traveler). If you really can’t stomach the thought of staying at a stranger’s house (chicken), you can still get online and find a local meet-up in your area.
8. Unplug. Live in the moment. I know this won’t be for everyone, but I traveled without phone service and found that I didn’t really need it except for a few times (like when my identity was stolen or my ride didn’t show up). Read books. Long train or bus rides (especially ones without wifi) provide the perfect opportunities to read. For me, few things are more blissful than uninterrupted reading time.
Check out The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life by Chris Guillebeau or Sihpromatum – I Grew my Boobs in China by Savannah Grace.
9. Make basic plans, but stay flexible. Admittedly, I’m a terrible planner. I hate it. I prefer to just go where the wind takes me. However, a bit of basic planning ahead of time can save you a lot of money (and headaches) once you’re on the road. Do your research, but stay open to spontaneous opportunities.
10. Invest in decent gear. This includes walking shoes and your luggage. Chances are you’ll be on your feet a lot. Never head out the door with ill-fitting shoes or a poorly-designed backpack. Seriously. I’m not saying you have to buy the most expensive, top-of-the-line anything, but your gear is an investment. If you make smart purchases, you’ll be using it for years, so trim the fat out of your budget somewhere else and pony up for decent stuff.
What am I missing? What other travel mistakes should be avoided at all costs?