You hear his office door open, as you punch TripHash.com/travel-blog into your terminal. He saunters over, a stack of papers in his right hand, several manila folders in his left. He swings around the corner and peers over the side of the gray fabric-clothed cubicle. An empty chair...
In any given arena, everyone else’s opinions and observations and viewpoints are most likely not yours. My opinions are just my opinions. Don’t handcuff yourself to them. The same goes with travel books, “guides” and so forth. The writer in the Lonely Planet, the NY Times or some travel magazine isn’t you. You aren’t them. I realize there is safety in such trust but the payment for this is missing out on the best experiences which will be unique to you. If anything, feel free to disagree with the next nine thoughts because they are just my opinions. Trust your opinion. Trust yourself. Really.
2. Experiences May Very Well Vary
I think travel is best when it is your journey, your experience, your vision. There are many different ways of accomplishing the same thing. Our experiences may very well vary. I may not like County X and you may love County X. That’s what makes the world go around.
3. Don’t Mortgage Your Future on the Past
Travel is a liquid operation. Places, prices and people change constantly. Weather changes. Food changes. Experiences change. Do you think that great beach destination was fun when it was a warzone? Do you think that horrible city under that dictatorship 15 years ago means it isn’t a great place now? Don’t mortgage your future on the past. Realize that what is written is mostly past experience. Today might be different. Explore on your own terms.
4. No Plan is a Fine Plan
My favourite method of transportation is on foot. Typically, my preferred plan when I get to a city is walking around without a plan. Many people really want to see the Mona Lisa, the Statue of Liberty, the Leaning Tower, the Special Temple, and so forth, and that is cool. I’d just encourage to add some time in to wander without a plan. I usually see more than I ever thought possible by not looking for anything in particular.
5. The Introvert Curse
A traveler sees from a traveler’s perspective and that might not be the same as a local’s perspective. I think both perspectives are both important and valid yet neither is “right” or “true” or “authentic”. Don’t get so caught up in trying to be a cool local that you miss something interesting. Expose yourself a little. Balance that idea with…
6. The Extrovert Curse
Did you visit that exotic country to feel like you were at home? If the pace is slow, go slow. If the prices are typically A, don’t try to flaunt B. If the language is X, don’t automatically force Y. If the locals don’t get loud and obnoxious in the town center, try not to be loud and obnoxious in the town center. The point is, the world is shrinking, and places are becoming very similar to another, which means travel becomes (very easy and) much less rewarding. When we travel somewhere, I think it is important to remember not to introduce “invasive customs” and practices that will strangle the local ones. Leave home at home.
7. Only Your Expectation Was Wrong
Things go wrong when you travel and that is part of the experience. Embrace it. Many valuable experience(s), adventures and connections seem to embed themselves within those episodes. You will learn very much from these experiences. “Wrong” means something deviated from your expectation, nothing more. When you miss your overnight train in Berlin on your first trip to Europe and get stuck overnight with no place to go, realize that while it can suck at that moment, that is what was supposed to happen and will allow you a good story and a good learning experience and perhaps meeting very interesting random people that you will remember forever. Don’t fear things going wrong so strongly that you don’t make a move.
8. Waiting for Stars to Align
Traveling solo can be lonely, but it can also open up magical doors. You can bond with yourself. Traveling as a pair maybe can lead to diversions and divisions, but it gives you more security, comfort and the ability to leverage the help of another. You can increase your bond with another. Traveling as a group is dancing with the devil (I sort of joke…) so let’s stop there…
The point is, nothing is going to be perfect; no matter the shortfalls with your travel plans, make it happen anyways. You will never have the perfect combination of (a) enough money (b) enough company (c) enough time (d) enough confidence. You will always have a good excuse not to go. Think about it.
9. The Off-The-Beaten-Path Crowd
When everyone goes “off-the-beaten path”, it resembles a highway with false signage (This is the Ultrapopular “Off-The-Beaten-Path” Path). Have you ever heard someone say “I like being around a lot of tourists” or “I love the restaurants that have no locals” or “I try to avoid authentic experiences”? Thus I guess I don’t understand when people say the opposite. It is speaking the obvious.
The beaten path, the off-the-beaten path, the in-between-beaten-path—who cares as long as YOU are feeling good. As for me, I am just doing my thing (whatever pathways that traipses across). I have no checklist to accomplish other than enjoy life. Don’t get so caught up in the proof that you are an “authentic traveler” or some nonsense foolishness. Just do your thing and you’ll be much better for it.
10. The Best Guidebook is You
Rely on the instincts of yourself or your companion(s) when you travel. Guidebooks, websites, and blogs can be great resources but terrible “maps” for YOUR adventure. Conquer your fear, trust yourself, explore and take control of your quest. Don’t be a horse with guidebook blinders just because it seems easy and safe.
I have no interest in being someone who posts contrived social media content about how their traveling lifestyle is the coolest thing ever in order to make themselves happy that you are sad wishing you were so happy like them while they sit in some comped five-star hotel room wishing they were home.
For me right now, I’d rather hang out in a familiar spot with a familiar face and have a mind-blowing conversation. Read More →
You climb out of the hammock, stepping onto the weathered wood decking amidst a cool night breeze. “The sun should be up in twenty minutes,” you think to yourself as you slip on your shoes. The unmistakable scents of the musty cabin lurk upon entry. One hand grabs the camera in your haze and a couple steps allow you to exit the opposing door to the outside, leaving the guest machete tilted up against the wall.
The rainforest is alive; an auditory symphony blasting a well rehearsed number. A sky full of stars and the half of a moon light your pathway, crunching on dead foliage and undergrowth. You carefully tread down the naturally-created eroded dirt path, taking extra care against slipping into a treacherous fall. Read More →
The trail, from your gently puttering rental car, has gotten cold here on your third day in Puerto Rico. You pull over to the side of a crumbling road in the shade of overgrown brush. Fumbling through a jumbled pile of airline boarding passes and reservation print outs, you dig out the contorted paperwork with the phone number to the exotic fruit orchard. Befit as an advertisement written by a real estate agent with a golden pen, you are heading to a beautiful cabin in the midst of a lush rainforest blessed by exotic fruit trees and a heavenly view. You will drift to sleep to the sound of calming tree frogs and wake to freshly harvested fruit, yet as you glance about, there and here are clearly two different places. Read More →
You are standing outside the Athens airport with a brisk, January wind welcoming itself. With your newly purchased three-day unlimited ticket stuffed in your front pocket, you place your bag overhead and stare out the window at the bleak winter landscape on the long journey into town.
You quickly drop off your bag, refresh, zip up your blue, fleece jacket and push open the heavy steel door exposing the uncharacteristically cold night air. Café lights paint the quaint narrow streets of Athens, which flicker intermittently due to the occasional passerby in the distance. And then, as if to explain the purpose of this odd cold, snow starts to fall into an ever more picturesque scene. Read More →
Standing in a glass jetway with your fellow passengers and an actively beating sun. The temperatures are elevating from already lofty levels in this airport greenhouse and, unfortunately, there is no sign of impasse. The boarding announcements may have started on time but the boarding itself has only gotten you far enough into this heat chamber. You can deal with the heat but the time disappears when it disappears.
You find yourself racing off the plane. Do you take the moving walkway with some squatters on it or walk faster alongside? The outdated carpet in Milan’s Malpensa airport blurs on your periphery. Your finger dig in your pocket. Each step your phone is in easier reach until you finally grasp it: pulling, fumbling, swiping, activating, seeking, connecting while briskly walking, navigating, sweating. Read More →
His finger jabs perilously close to her soft skin and perfectly coifed makeup: his raving motions, powerful eruptions of spittle, and a cocky head cocked back for effect, an attempted heir of superiority. The intermittent sounds over the counter: keystrokes incessantly clicking, a brief moment of silence and an audible, forlorn sigh speckled with exhaustion. She grimaces.
“You need to book me on the next flight now, and that is what you are going to do,” he furiously snaps. Read More →
A blinking creature, graciously mute two of seven days. Your bleary eyes dance with the foggy numbers, swirling steadily, and slowly, into sharpness; the concluding result a trite and trivial matter on this lovely Saturday morning, a mere curiosity.
The flurries float, a few flakes falling onto a child’s tongue, snatched from the grey sea. The sound of brooms across the cement sidewalk becomes the scrape of shovels skittering across the ice, becomes the forlorn grunt of the weary, pondering a warmer day absent the whir of snowplows on a random rotation. Read More →
You arrived the other day to Punta del Diablo; a seasonal party town just starting to fill it’s lungs with the bustle of summer energy. You mosied down the crudely paved road sloping past a strewn mixture of crude shacks and luxury residences, headed northeast through the small downtown—if you should even call it such—and soon thereafter find yourself down on the closest beach, Playa de los Pescadores, which is appropriately littered by a handful of colourful Uruguayan fishing vessels perched on the sandy shore.
You poke around in that abandoned structure out by the breakwater; the one slapped annually by the winter winds, kissed by aerosol paints. You climb the boulders and watch the feisty crabs disappear into crevices just out of reach of the tidal pools. Read More →
The paralyzed air allows the thick warmth inside to exercise itself into a choking heat. Tonight, the wind went missing from the quiet beach town on the Uruguayan shore.
Your rhythmic breaths—warm puffs of perfumed nectar—spill out luring the high-pitched squeal that taunts you; the high-pitched squeal a torn nylon netting, the one that dangles sloppily from above, can no longer keep at distance.
You wait for the volume increase, a gloss of sweat building, and then, at the opportune time, attack mercilessly with a slap to the side of your head. Your other hand plays the surprise flank attack, crushing a miniscule pocket of air just above you in case it tried to escape. The whine has ceased and now, in this silent house covered in vegetation, softly lit by the full moon, you wait. Read More →
A gentle sea bound breeze escorts itself down the dirt road—overgrown weeds lining the perimeter—past abandoned houses awaiting summer—wild flowers coloring the walls—and past the grizzled gentleman tending to his piles of rusted scrap metal and old appliances collected in the yard. Each one of your steps crunches against the hard natural surface; hurried due to the realization you are losing the race with the sun and its daily morning commute.
You wait by the horse pasture—the one you noticed yesterday on your way back from the beach—for the arrival of the owner, ever mindful of the time elapsing which could imperil the river crossing tonight. You see, if you can’t borrow the horse for the journey, you will need to walk, and if you walk, it is, of course, going to take much more time. Read More →
Deep in a golden-tinted basin as autumn wanes; the grains shuffle all about. The rush of each gust, navigating past your surroundings, seeking escape into the nothingness behind, announced by your ear.
Flight after flight—whether New York, Ho Chi Minh, Tokyo, or otherwise—you are greeted by the cacophonic call that lives so comfortably: the hordes of comings and goings, the merchants of profits, the snaked checkpoints and the entryways where everyone is either bursting with excitement, sobbing at life or yelling for no one while waiting for someone. Read More →
You are bragging on Instagram about the experience of sitting in a fabric-covered, or better yet, a leather chair. “Look at your kingly posture,” you shout to the world in a photo of you and your surroundings. Your followers would be shrieking right now if they saw that your chair has a power plug by it—power to continue your important life.
You fish your hand around in your jumbled pile of things, grasp onto your desired piece, delicately unravel seven cords all jumbled into one, and spend a couple minutes trying to pull out the power cord which you will soon be jamming into the port at your feet. Loud announcements, people yelling into phones fighting the robot announcer while deafening their loved one—apparently unaware how phones work—as an overworked women with a spending problem, two cups of coffee and enough baggage for the Ottoman army slams into your shoulder. Naturally it isn’t her fault that your pants have mopped up half of her liquid goods as she scurries away.
The worn door, its discoloured frame, a quick thud and a metallic click leaves the smiling older woman on the other side; the warm morning, azure skies, cranky, rumbling automobiles, and a loud Spanish street conversation on yours. Your mind races: coffee, cash, cigars and a car.
The heat pretty quickly etches a glaze on your face, the increasing speed of which seems proportional to your accelerating pace. Your burgeoning bag tugs your shoulder as you pass faded pastel façades, soda shacks and rows of classic American cars. Past the split lane road ferrying an endless supply of visiting baby boomers in old convertibles, you slice your way through the shadows of the palm trees, swaying slightly in the weak coastal wind. Read More →
He’s probably three and a half decades in; the hard years creased into his face such that, in certain light, your discerning eye pushes such numeric guesses well beyond. The droopy eyes, the slightly-open mouth at rest, a faint smile curled into the edges of his cheeks—all of these things come into your vision with the starter, “Are you from England?”
No matter the answer, any answer is the one he desires. An answer that has no relation to the question is just as well; you grant him such. You’ve decided to let all hesitancy, all skepticism, all defensive mechanism to evaporate into the warm evening air, or at least as much as you can muster. Read More →