I’ve come from never having traveled to abruptly moving into other countries and traveling alone. During my first travels I could identify which routines I find enjoyable and which don’t let me savor them. I found all disappointments were based on expectations, which were not about the places but about the experience of being in those places.
Hopping from spot to spot together with a huge crowd of tourists felt quite displeasing and was not as fulfilling and exciting as I wished. I felt like wanting to learn more about the area, engage more with the culture, somehow take out more from my time there without spending money and make it a meaningful and memorable adventure. I didn’t find all that by only visiting museums and symbolic landmarks. These landmarks are surely very impressive and worth visiting, don’t get me wrong, but they are only a part of the city’s history and personality.
Sure, I’m a picky traveler.
Travelling is not only about discovery but also about real adventure, serendipity, self-development, cultural immersion, and mind growth. If you are wondering what on earth I consider a satisfying experience on travels, here I’ve gathered how to make one out of yours:
1. Rent a bike instead of taking public transportation and discover each city a new way.
Why take the metro or bus when you can get to each spot by bike? Why not go through streets and neighborhoods no other tourist goes through? Why not have a closer contact with the real personality of the city?
Biking my way from Notting Hill through Hyde Part up to Buckingham Palace and from Big Ben through Trafalgar Square all the way to St. Paul’s Cathedral was a whole new and amusing experience that allowed me to see parts of London I would’ve never seen if I took the metro.
2. Build no expectations, don’t plan your itinerary too much & be spontaneous.
Don’t let expectations define your experience or it will rob you any type of enjoyment you’d never know you could have. The beauty of uncertainty lays on the chance of finding surprise and amazement in small things.
There is nothing more adventurous than letting spontaneity dictate your experience.
3. Give youself time to just sit down, relax & do nothing. Become an observer.
Travel is not only about going to every single landmark in the city/place. I’ve had trips in which I’ve felt forced to walk kilometers all day non-stop because there was so much to see in little time and although everything I saw was incredibly gorgeous, I was stressed and tired most of the time.
While traveling, it is also okay to take a pause in between and do nothing. You won’t die if you don’t see everything, neither will your trip be any better if you do. If you still feel like you missed something, you’ll have a reason to come back.
While relaxing, pay attention to your surroundings and watch life happen. There is a beautiful tranquility found while sitting on a bench surrounded by a view and passers by. Watch people around you, focus on the different sounds that surround you and try to individualize them. Become an observer and see how you feel.
4. Try to connect more with a local experience than with a touristic one.
If you dare, approach locals as much possible. There is always someone open to receive visitors and show them around. Try to book more through pages like Couchsurfing rather than staying at hotels. For exploring around and having much of an authentic touristic guide choose pages like Like A Local.
5. Take time to learn more about locals, ask them about themselves & observe.
People appreciate when someone shows genuine interest in them and their culture, so getting locals to tell you about themselves shouldn’t be a challenge. Ask things like what they do on engagement parties/weddings, which holidays they have, how they celebrate them, what seasonal activities they gladly do, and so on. Maybe inform youself in advance about their traditions and try to even become part of one of these activities. For example, breaking porcelain at a Polterabend (a pre-wedding German tradition), mushroom picking at a forest during end of summer or tree picking before Christmas in Germany.
The worst you can get out of that is creating friendships and a more meaningful connection to their culture.
6. Visit local markets and deepen your culinary experience by paying attention while eating.
When trying local food (and please try to try) take your time to identify the different flavors and integration of them. Pay attention to the combinations of textures, sweet and sour flavors, spicy- or mildness, etc. Food is not only a need, it’s an art. Explore its variety or you are missing big on life.
Going to local markets is the perfect way to learn more about people and their eating preferences. You get to see their seasonal crops and dishes, local specialties and varieties.
7. Always look for new types of experiences.
If you are staying long enough in that destination, go for a long hike… or why not take cooking courses? Try group yoga at parks or if you have a bigger budget, join a yoga or any other kind of retreat. Go to cultural/street festivals and even try to volunteer. It can be whatever you want. Get creative and look for authenticity, you deserve that more than a typical spot-to-spot trip.
8. Be present and don’t forget you are lucky to be there.
Take a moment every now and then to take a pause, look at your surroundings, recognize your presence wherever you are, and be grateful for where you are and for what you’ve gone through. Traveling is the perfect opportunity to work on yourself and develop life skills like patience, humility, awereness, and cultural sensitivity.
Say to youself out loud “you did it” and move on.
I’m not yet an expert traveller, though. I’m barely starting and this is so far what I’ve got to say. How do you travel? What do you consider would make your experience meaningful? What do you think about mindful traveling? Any suggestions? They are welcome!
Always looking forward to hear about other experiences, feel free to comment & share yours! 🙂