**An excerpt from my new book, I Know Where I’ve Been: A Year Long Journey of Self-Discovery. PURCHASE A COPY HERE.
1) Plan ahead
One of my favorite books is Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. In the book, he talks about traveling for weeks, months, even years at a time and “letting the world, and the adventure, take you where it may.” While I truly believe this is a wonderful concept, and would love to try it someday, I find that planning some of your basics can truly help you enjoy your trip more fully along the way. Additionally, it can save you money, which Potts says to the contrary.
My suggestion, go ahead and book your flights. Check out the AirBNBs if you choose to go that route. They tend to book up quickly, so a little advance planning is necessary. Potts’ method is about taking your time and living like a local for long periods of time in the places he’s visited. My method of travel is about seeing and experiencing new things and enjoying each place, but it’s not about living like a local. As such, some planning is involved. My method of travel also involves seeing lots of places over a long period of time, so often you only have a few days to take everything in.
2) Drive as much as you can
Sure, flying is faster, but if you’re traveling within driving distance, go ahead and drive. It makes things so much easier. Some of my most fond memories are of having to work my way through public transit nightmares (see San Francisco chapter…) but driving does make things much easier, especially when it comes to packing. When I drove myself I wasn’t worried about how much I packed and was able to get away with not doing laundry for an entire three week stint.
3) It’s time to talk Apps
Chances are you’re traveling with a smartphone. I use my phone a lot for every trip, and the apps listed below help me get through the trip without hiccups:
Hotels Tonight – This app has great deals on hotels available at the last minute. I’ve found hotels that are normally $300 a night for a third of the cost. I’ve also stayed in some really sketchy hotels, so you win some, you lose some.
Yelp – No, I’m not being paid to advertise for Yelp, and overall I find the company, their brand, and their business plan to be pretty terrible, but the app is good for finding local businesses, especially for restaurants. I’ve eaten at some great (and not so great) local places from the app. As much as it pains me to say it, it’s a must.
Transit maps – Before every city, I download the transit apps that show subway and bus routes. While I love Uber and cabs (I’ve always enjoyed being chauffeured around), they can add up quickly and most big cities have at least somewhat decent public transit.
Currency Converter – For obvious reasons if you’re traveling abroad.
Google Translate – This will save your life, and the photo feature that lets you point to a piece of text, take a photo, and receive translation is a real lifesaver.
Spotify, Audible, Pandora, etc – I love listening to music, and generally find it helps make airport walks between gates more fun. Audible audio books turn long drives into fast trips and I’ve learned a lot about some cool topics and people by listening to their autobiographies.
Viator – This app puts all the touristy things in one place, with details on how to get tickets, open hours, etc. It’s particularly great when you don’t have an agenda in a city and you have some free time. Open up the app and just see what you can find.
Soothe – This app has saved my life, and my back, on several occasions. It’s a masseuse on-demand app that connects you with local masseurs. Carrying around baggage takes a toll on you. Get a quick massage every now and then.
Whatsapp, Viber, Skype, etc – Communication through wifi is vital when traveling internationally, though one of the best things I ever did was invest in an international data plan. Still, use these apps to keep in touch with all your out of country friends as most of the world already uses one or more of these.
Expensify – Keep track of your spending and upload all your receipts. There are plenty of ways to write off travel on your taxes if they end up being for business, or you conduct business while on the trip. Keep track of everything. Also, this app helps you identify your top spending categories and learn where you’re spending too much, which is essential if you’re budgeting for a long trip.
4) Truly escape.
I know this one can be a bit difficult as we all have lives, friends, families, careers, etc that draw from our well of attention, but in order to truly experience different cultures you have to be able to disconnect from the rest of the world and just be in the moment. This takes some time and practice, but I like to start my trips by checking my emails, texts, etc at the airport right when I arrive (this also allows your luggage to get to the claim belt and the line at Passport Control to die down a bit) then put your phone or computer away. Only check in at night while you’re laying in bed at the end of your day.
5) Never Say No!
I feel I wouldn’t have had half the experiences of the past two years if I had said no to all the things that were out of my comfort zone. Eat smelt (a whole, bones, skin, guts, and all, fish that’s been deep fried)? Why not! Lean over the side of a building 116 stories in the air? Okay! Get in a sketchy taxi in Colombia? Sure! They’re all stories, and they’re all in this book. Who knows… Maybe I’ll be reading your book about travel experiences someday!
Side note: If you ever write a book on travel, please let me know. I want to read it!
6) Travel alone.
While I love my friends and family, I spent the bulk of this year traveling alone. There’s something about going to a random city and not knowing anyone. Plus, you get to choose all the restaurants, museums, and attractions you want to see, and you are on your own schedule. If you want to stay in, order food, and watch Netflix one night you can certainly do that. I did. More than once.
7) Be a tourist.
Trust me, just do it, and have no regrets. Take the double decker hop-on hop-off bus tours. Go to all the touristy places. See all the touristy things. Don’t apologize for this. You have one life. Live it.
While I was in San Francisco I took one of those bus tours. It was the best way to spend two days getting around the city and seeing all the different areas of town, and I learned a lot of great stories about the city.
8) Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
If you’re traveling for a long period of time, it’s a good idea to start a vitamin regimen before hand if you aren’t already on one. I’m convinced a tourist sneezed on me in New York City and got me incredibly sick. People are gross. Assume no one washes their hands and your food is covered in germs.
Drink plenty of water and get your rest. You wont be able to enjoy the world and everything it has to offer if you’re too tired to keep your eyes open.
9) Don’t disturb the locals.
I cannot stress this enough: you are a visitor. Do not disturb the locals. If you’re in New York City, don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk. If you’re in Charleston, be respectful of the quiet little beach town that shuts down at 11pm and don’t want down the streets drunk and screaming. If you’re in Rome, throw your trash away and be more respectful than the Romans.
10) Just have fun.
What’s the point in all of this if you don’t enjoy your time traveling. Have as much fun as you can, but do it safely. Be aware of your surroundings and maintain control of yourself, but get out there and live.