I spend a lot of time traveling, often to far flung destinations which can offer beautiful cities, picturesque beaches, exotic food and foreign cultures. But sometimes it feels as if I’m being wheeled from one drab hotel room to the next, with the briefest of colorful blurs in between.
Ryan Murdock, has written a wonderful article for ETR, on “How to Travel Like a Pro”. He’s got great tips, for both the hardened road warrior and the casual tourist, on how to maximize your time and most importantly your experience.
If you want to understand a place, travel alone.
When you go with others, the trip is about the dynamics of the group. You seldom interact with the world you’re passing through. And the effect is magnified for couples. A couple travels in a self-contained bubble that others are reluctant to breach.
All of that changes when you travel alone. Your attention is focused on your surroundings. If you’re an introvert, you’ll have to speak up and engage the world around you. You’ll fall into random conversations with strangers, in cafes and on buses. And you’ll be completely drawn into the rhythm of that place.
One of the best parts of solo travel is the memories and associations each new place calls up. When I look back at my notebooks, those are the real gems. As I go deeply into a place, that place in turn causes me to look deeply within myself.
If you truly want those walls to fall down, it’s important to practice non-judgement. Don’t hold that place up against the standards of your home country or city, or you’ll never see beyond your own preconceived opinions. The world’s a big place, and cultures subscribe to many different standards of behavior, cleanliness, morality and personal space. Embrace this and enjoy it. And while you’re there, try to immerse yourself in your host culture’s way of life, even if only for a couple weeks.