Travel to places that you've never heard of, that make you uncomfortable, that are very hard to get to. Travel where you'll be isolated for days on end. Leave your phone, your iPad, your laptop, your prejudice and your problems at home. Never ask what something is until after you've eaten it. Never let your fear of tastes stop you from experiencing local cuisine.
Travel alone. Travel on plane, boat, car, train, foot, horseback, camelback, elephant back. The best places require at least four of these methods of transportation to get to. Don't travel on donkey back. Face your fear of loneliness, your fear of heights. Don't take guide books. Locals are much better guides than LonelyPlanet. Ask for directions. Travel while you're still young and comfort and luxury are not that important to you. Don't spend money on expensive hotels. A simple mattress is more than enough. Call home once or twice at most. If you're traveling for a long period of time, give news every other week.
Pack lightly. Like really lightly. But take 2 pairs of shoes. Not more, not less. Always take a swimsuit. Showers are overrated. Good food is not. Avoid restaurants near tourist sites like you would avoid a mosquito bite in malaria zones. Don't be afraid of dirt. Be afraid of English menus. Embrace diarrhea. Fear fevers. Party the night away once, but don't travel just to party. Keep your energy for the day, and if you do decide to stay up all night, do it for something you've never done before.
Take pictures of people, not places. Take pictures of yourself in places, but don't go all Kim Kardashian with the selfie. Don't take pictures of little Asian or Black babies of strangers to post as your profile picture. Don't be a fucking racist. Use a condom. Respect other people. You're not better, smarter, or cooler than any of them. Respect cultures, traditions, and distances. Try to speak the local language and don't give people who don't speak your language attitude. Negotiate prices for fun, not to rip off people. Don't spend an hour negotiating for a dollar.
Keep things in perspective. Avoid resorts. Stay in small bed and breakfasts. Talk to local people. Avoid other tourists. Drink but don't get drunk. Drunk tourists are the worst. Travel with friends. Travel with anyone you plan on marrying, before you get married. Only once you've missed your flight, lost your luggage, are without a hotel room, are under the rain, with a strange rash on your left thigh and you haven't eaten in two days can you truly fall in love. Or fall out of love. Don't judge. Don't sleep. You'll sleep when you're back home.
Buy one souvenir per location, and let it be something small. Buy one gift per location, and let it be even smaller. Research destinations beforehand but keep in mind that some of the world's most fascinating places don't have much written about them. Spend a long time in one place, as opposed to very little time in many places. Use TripAdvisor as a tool, not as a bible. Visit friends abroad. Keep deodorant, toilet paper, and sunscreen with you at all times. Eat at one excellent restaurant in every country. Eat fruits in every country. Don't pollute.
Share your stories and listen to other people's stories. Film 10 second-snippets of every location you visit. Keep your promises. Don't pay for entrance to religious sites. Use guides in places you find truly fascinating. Participate in local festivals with respect. Take one book with you, and leave it behind once you're done with it. Find other books as you go along. Take a first aid kit. Don't shave. Don't diet.
This post was originally published on the author's blog.
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