Ah, wanderlust. The call of the wind. The thirst for adventure. That wild rush of the blood that compels you to hop on Scoot in search of the latest and greatest plane ticket deals – any opportunity to get you somewhere other than HERE. Somewhere you’ve never been.
Fortunately, I had the privilege of being born to a travel-loving family. Unfortunately, I spent much of my childhood and adolescence being rather unappreciative of my family’s love for the outside world. Before the trips were half-over, I would already be angsty and restless, itching to get home. But now that I’ve gotten over that phase and finally tasted the true wonders of travel, I’d like to share some key lessons that travelling has taught me on how to get the most out of your travelling experiences.
- Drop the unnecessary baggage
Yes, you’re busy, I know. I am too. I know how tempting it can be to check your e-mail every 15 minutes, or even the Telegram group you have with your friends. I know how easy it is to think about things back home, worry about how the workplace is faring and plan what you’re going to do once you’re back.
But hey. You’re on a trip. So why not just live it? Forget about where you came from, forget about where you’ll be returning to. Open yourself up to the moment, and just that. It might not seem like a very significant thing, but once you experience that complete freedom, the sheer freshness of every new sensation, every new experience no matter how small, the word ‘boredom’ will vanish from your dictionary. You won’t get very far exploring if you’re tied down.
- Respect your own pace
Based on the people I’ve met, I feel like Singaporeans have this tendency to try and maximize their trips by achieving as much ‘sightseeing’ as possible. By ‘sightseeing’, I mean hitting places that you can say “Oh, I’ve been to (insert cool place name here)”. For example, planning trips around multiple cities, spending only 1 or 2 days in each and literally rushing to get to every new location. Just look at all those package tour ads in The Straits Times.
As a major cheapskate, I can understand why people do this. But I feel like it takes a lot out of the experience. It’s a holiday, so why make it hectic for yourself? Just relax, breathe and enjoy the ride. Live and explore at the same pace that you would in everyday life. After all, you do want to return home feeling ready and recharged for work, right?
- Sometimes, it’s the little things that matter most
Building on the previous point, just because a place is famous and described as a ‘MUST-SEE’ in travel articles and guides doesn’t mean you need to drop by. And not all the places you visit need to have some sort of significance. Landmarks are not everything. Sometimes you can only really taste the flavours of the countries you visit in the nameless streets, in the hidden corners where other tourists almost never reach, and it is in those magical places where you find the most rewarding of experiences.
When I first went to Tokyo with my friends, I found myself often leading them through the suburbs along Google Maps routes in order to save travel costs. Along the way, we found cool little shops, family-run restaurants, whole different ways of viewing the city – places and things we never would have found if we had hopped on the train to visit notable places every day. Ever since then, I’ve made it a ritual to always thoroughly explore the less-important neighbourhoods around the Airbnbs my mother books.
- Not everything has to be pre-determined
Because where’s the fun in the journey if you know where you’re going? Now don’t get me wrong, basic planning is essential for overseas trips. But you don’t have to fill up every blank on your schedule with a specific place or activity. There’s no harm in leaving a couple of blanks untouched, maybe even a couple of blank days. Just follow the wind, let your feelings decide where to go, what to do and you might just find yourself embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.
My most memorable memories from overseas trips come from unplanned days. My personal modus operandi is to wander around aimlessly for a while, then use local information and brochures to pick out a place unpopular with the tourists. Somewhere I would rationally never think of going. I’ve ended up on offshore islands, the literal boondocks and even tiny neighbourhood malls untouched by tourists. Any regrets? None at all.
- Reach out
Visiting a place you’ve never been is half the adventure. The other half is meeting people you’ve never met. I understand how unnerving it can be to make conversation with strangers, especially in a foreign land. I’m not saying you have to initiate conversation, but don’t shirk from contact. If you have the opportunity, it’s always an awesome experience to get to know someone from another culture. In fact, it’s probably the best way to learn about their ways of life, ways of thinking and discover ‘cheats’ like food recommendations.
I hope you enjoyed these 5 tips on how to make the most out of your travel experiences. In the highly-interconnected world we live in, the act of travelling is indeed one of our greatest delights and one of our greatest teachers. To me, the many things I’ve gained from travelling, including the five points above, are lessons I hold close to my heart that I try to apply in my everyday life. I’m sure you have some yourself, or if you don’t, they’re probably waiting for you somewhere out there beyond the blue. So answer the call of the wind. All the best for your next trip and bon voyage.