Traveling is one of those things everyone says they love to do but rarely does anyone feel like they get to do it enough. Unless you happened to be the child of a foreign diplomat, it's likely that Saturday morning cartoons were a bigger part of your upbringing than traveling. According to the World Tourism Organization, 528 million people traveled to countries abroad in 1995, with that number growing to 983 million in 2011. Even with the number of travelers rising, smart traveling is not instinctive, nor is it typically taught.
My parents rarely left Seattle aside from the annual trip to my grandmother's house two states away. As an adult I've traveled more than the average person and I'm lucky to have a job that provides me with many opportunities to travel extensively. I'd like to share a few things my wonderful Mom never told me about traveling.
Go it alone.
Having no one to go with is no excuse to stay home. Travel is a fabulous opportunity to meet new people or take time for self-reflection. I find that going alone to places like Jackson Hole or San Diego is both relaxing and adventurous. If you don't feel comfortable going far on a solo trip, start small and take a long weekend closer to home. It's thrilling to go somewhere new and experience the local culture.
Embrace the idea that you are going to have the time of your life. Travel smart and stay safe, but don't get hung up thinking you'll be lonely or people will think you're weird. Who cares what anyone thinks? The sooner you think of travel as an adventure, the sooner you'll be comfortable going anywhere.
Find a travel partner.
Think Amazing Race partner. Find your ideal travel companion--it may not be your spouse or significant other. If not, acknowledge it and find someone who matches your travel style. Travel can be stressful and it's not for everyone, but don't give up because your relationship partner doesn't want to go with you.
Always have a trip planned.
At any given time I have at least one trip in the planning stage. By always having vacation plans in the works you will avoid going long stretches without getting out of town. If I'm not planning my long yearly vacation, then I've got a weekend getaway on my mind. Traveling can be one of life's greatest joys if you can make it a priority. Plan like I do and you'll always be looking forward to your next trip.
Get off the beaten path.
Vacations with my parents were always to the same places. Going to the same place is easy because you know exactly what you're getting and how much it costs. It also means seriously limiting your adventure. Ecotourism, group, adventure, charitable travel, and a myriad of other vertical tour types are all available at the push of a button. Stop going to the same places over and over again and try something new. I'm slightly scared to go to Bali next year, but I'm very excited about the prospect of having this new experience as well.
What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas.
Kick back, relax, and leave your boring office persona at home, but remember that everyone in your network will see photos you post from your camera phone. Having a camera phone at your fingertips is great for documenting your adventures, but be careful not to post any reputation-altering photos your boss might see. Travel is supposed to be a break from the drudgery of life, but don't be the idiot who has a travel alter ego that can end a career.
What things did your mom forget to teach you about traveling? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.