I’m addicted to travel. My mom was flying between Germany and america while she was pregnant with me. Somewhere between the Atlantic Ocean, it seems that that “passion of travel” remained in my DNA. And well, what can you hate about traveling? Think about it, your world map expands every time you walk on a new street. Between each corner is something unknown. You feel like new. Full of hope.
But with the sweet comes the bitter. Travelling can also be overwhelming. In the past I planned my trips so that everything would be perfect. What places I was going to visit, where I was going to eat, that I had to explore, day by day. I had it all planned out. I thought that was what it took for an amazing trip. I was ready for everything, but surprisingly nothing turned out as planned. Turns out, following my strict itinerary kept me from being really present and enjoying the place. It made everything harder. So I calmed down and found a balance (I’m pound after all) to guide my adventures.
These days I followed my intuition and found some things you have to do that work for any destination. Here are my five tips for you to make the most of any trip.
1. Speak the language
No matter where I go, I always try to learn some phrases in the local language. Coffee Break podcasts are my favorites for Spanish, Italian or French. While Google is the help of others. Before my trip to Paris, I learned a little basic French. A cop flirted with me while I was running the traffic, and the owners of the shops treated me like a local. (Je suis désolée’, je ne parle pas fran’ais!). It made the trip much more fun and relaxed. And you might like the language so much that you decide to study it. (I did, oui!)
2. Visit markets
One of my favorite things about traveling is visiting regional markets. I get lost inside the stands of the products, absorbing the colors and textures. I feel more connected to where I’m staying while watching locals interact with each other. I like to stay in a place with a kitchen, so I can buy fresh fruit and prepare my breakfast in the mornings. It feels more intimate than a hotel buffet. If you don’t have access to a kitchen, enjoy your company with a spontaneous picnic in the park. Nothing gives more “holiday vibes” than breaking a loaf with the pigeons.
3. Ask the locals
There’s no time to be pitiful. Be brave and start a conversation with a stranger. To break the ice you can ask for a place recommendation that as a tourist you can not miss. Believe me, there’s always one. I’ve had the best advice from a subway worker and a waiter in London. Don’t focus only on books and Google. Ask those around for inspiration. A smile always helps.
4. Download apps for public transport
If you are going to a city, discover before you arrive the name of the local transport. Most will have an app that you can download for free on your phone. I like to plan the route from the train station or airport to my accommodation from before to avoid getting stressed on arrival. It’s cheaper to buy a day pass than just a ticket and there are also weekly passes in case you stay longer. And honestly figure out how to get from point A to point B when you have jet-lagged and you urge bathing is for amateurs.
5. Locate the viewpoints
I always try to get an overview of where I’m staying from above. It helps your orientation and results in some perfect photos. If there are no hills or mountains you can go to, look for buildings such as church towers and skyscrapers for the best views. One of the most memorable for me was to see the sun rise above the Haleakal crater in Maui. I watched the ocean dance in the distance, as the sunlight flooded the ground and the world gently shut down. These are the moments of life that come with you.