You've been planning your trip of a lifetime for months.
You've saved hard, budgeted and got your hands on every deal you could find. The tickets are booked, your meeting up with friends in London, and your bag is packed.
No more listening to everyone else's travel stories; it's time to create your own. This is going to be the Greatest Year of your Life.
Or is it?
What happens if you get on that plane and you hate it? What if all that dreaming, planning, and saving only points to a swift return home?
I've had travel experiences that haven't been what I had hoped. It can be heartbreaking, not to mention a kick in the stomach financially. But it doesn't have to take you out of the game, as long as you have the right mindset.
How can you make sure you won't?
The following travel manifesto will help you stay on track to overcome challenges and create those memorable travel experiences you are hoping for.
1. Open your mind
Be open to new cultures and different (sometimes better) ways of thinking. Your life has the potential to grow in unlimited ways just by being open to learning new things. If you find something confronting, or you don't agree with, instead of being judgmental and hurtful simply say, "It's not better or worse, just different." Or "Isn't that interesting? Tell me more." And then open your mind to understand.
2. Stretch your boundaries. Experience something new. Discover yourself
Try something new every day to expand your horizons and get out of your comfort zone,
Head to nature and sleep under the stars; try exotic and strange foods; attend a religious ceremony; throw tomatoes at festivals; teach English in the middle of Borneo; do something that scares you; and talk to strangers. You'll soon discover strengths and talents you never knew existed. True growth comes from stretching our boundaries.
3. Interact. Engage. Listen. Embrace
Our most important discoveries and memorable experiences come from those we meet on the travel road. Interact with the local people and other travelers. Ask questions to dig deep into cultures and beliefs. Listen attentively. You have two ears and one mouth. Make it your mission to learn as much as you can and engage with those around you. Share your own culture as well. Help bring the world closer together and show how similar we really all are. You are an ambassador for your home country; represent it in the BEST light. Expand your horizons and embrace those who are completely different to you.
4. Travel with awe, wonder and gratitude
The only luck I believe in is the one which determines where you were born. If you are traveling the world, you are privileged. Be grateful for this and use that as a means to wander the world with the eyes of a child. Look at how beautiful the planet is. See how amazing every thundering waterfall, dancing gazelle, unconquerable mountain, and smiling, toothless market trader really is. How lucky are you to witness it? Take time to think about how the planet works and what your place in it all is. Use that awe as inspiration to create your best life, which in turn helps to create a better world. It all starts with gratitude and awe.
5. Take moments and memories over possessions
Possessions wither away and die. Moments shape our character and the memories stay with us forever. In 20 years' time, that Gucci handbag will not have made a difference to your life and will be a distant memory. The night you spent in a tent guarded by a Masai warrior while lions roamed outside, however, won't ever be forgotten. Experience life instead of experiencing things.
6. Be present and passionate
There is no past and future; life only exists now. Be present and experience every moment. Step away from the computer and the lens and allow your five senses to soak up the world. Get excited and live every moment with passion. Remember how lucky you are--rejoice in that! You planned and saved hard for this adventure, you don't want to miss it by living in the la la land of your mind or other people's business. (You know what that stalkbook does?) Be attentive in your conversations and aware of everything that is happening around you. You want to stay safe on your travels? Being present is the best way to do it. It prepares your body to know what to do.
7. Sloooow it down
It does not matter how many countries you have travelled to, it matters how deep your footprint was. Have you really travelled to a place if you raced through and didn't get the time to appreciate and understand it? The best way to travel is slowly. Stay longer in fewer places. It costs less, you'll see more, you'll learn more, you'll grow more, and you'll form amazing friendships.
8. Swing in hammocks at sunset often
Enjoy the simple things. It doesn't always have to be about the Must See sights, the adventure and the bucket lists. Go for an early morning walk on the beach, have a picnic in the park, attend a yoga retreat, sit on the sidewalk of a café and watch the world go by over a cup of steaming coffee, or my personal favorite, swing in hammocks at sunset. (I pair that with a mojito. And you?)
9. Love that it is not like home
Why go away if you want everything to be like home? You are simply wasting your money and it won't be long before you find yourself on the next place home. Sameness is boring. Different cultures, traditions, languages, money, and beliefs makes the world a vibrantly, exciting place. What would there be for us to learn if everything was the same? LOVE the diversity of the world. Get addicted to it.
10. Give back and share what you have learned
Give back to the local businesses and communities as you travel. Buy their local products, volunteer, help a stranger on the street. Sit with them in restaurants and homes and chat. Banter and play when you barter. Travel will teach you so much about the world and yourself. Don't keep those memories and lessons locked away. Share them to keep them alive and to inspire and help others do the same. How can you take this travel privilege of yours and use it to make the world a better place. You should now have a much better idea of what that looks like. Do as Gandi said, "Be the change."