We all know jaded travelers who ho-hum your stories about visiting Myanmar, Bolivia or Morocco. "Oh, I've been there!"
Or those that pooh-pooh your heroic tales of hiking the Inca Trail, seeing a Santorini sunset or noshing Bangkok street food. "Oh, I've done that!"
And of course they have already stayed at the newest hip hotel, visited the hottest it destination and experienced the latest urban zip trek run. "What's next?" they pout.
Been there, done that, what's next?
Personally, I hate the jaded traveler mentality -- and the word hate in this case may not be strong enough a verb.
Travel is supposed to be a joy, a wondrous adventure -- and yes, a sheer indulgent luxury! We are indeed the lucky few able to see the world as so few ever can or do. Travel is also a pleasure, an eye-opening, engaging and thrillingly participatory delight.
Frankly, a lot of travelers these days travel with their eyes closed. They try hard not to look too amazed. Exhibiting a cool nonchalant manner about them. (I've seen them on the streets of Paris, the back roads of Bali and the winding trails of Nepal.) When in fact they are indeed amazed. It is just that their egos are too enlarged to allow them to actually see the little things that matter the most and make traveling truly amazing.
So, in the spirit of assisting some of the more jaded travelers amongst us (and fellow country collectors at large), here are seven travel secrets to help ward off the dreaded Jaded Traveler Syndrome.
1. Don't take yourself too seriously. Vacations, a holiday or an adventure are times to let go, to have fun and get out of your 9-5, 50 weeks a year comfort zones. It is my firm belief, after conducting the annual travel adventure event known as The Global Scavenger Hunt for the last decade, that travelers never feel more alive than when they are out of their element or having to deal with challenges outside the box. So, get out of your neutral living space, out of the safety of your cubicle and get humbled. Laugh -- and be laughed at. It is okay to be human.
2. Shut up and listen. Contrary to most people's opinions of themselves, we don't know everything. (Some of us even less than that!) People do things differently in different parts of the world -- and for different motivations too. There is no right way. If you allow yourself to ask honest questions and then listen sincerely, you might be surprised what you will hear -- and maybe also learn. You might even make some new friends. So, keep your talk-listen ratio in check.
3. Slow down.Breathe! Look at where you are and what your surroundings are. As a culture we are in crazy busy mode much too much in our 24/7, hyper-connected lives. We miss things. Like the smell of rain. The smiles on children. The cow blocking traffic in Delhi. The storm clouds brewing over Bora Bora. It is indeed an old truism we all know, but sometimes when traveling we neglect it because we are in too much of hurry to see and do things. We simply forget to stop and smell the roses and take in the sights, sounds and smells. Stop and breathe in your surroundings. You may never get the opportunity to be there again!
4. You are one of the gifted few. Get over yourself. You need to really know that travel is an amazing privilege -- not a right! When it comes to travel today, we travelers are all part of the one percent! You don't really know how lucky you are to have won the national lottery that allows you the freedom and wherewithal to travel. So, seeing how the other 99 percent live, work and play in the world is a privilege bestowed upon us. Embrace that luxury and make good use of it. Appreciate that mindset and make each vacation, holiday or adventure a truly special occasion.
5. Embrace la difference. Oddly, many travel tips these days are all about making your hotel and eating habits while traveling resemble a home away from home. Then what is the point of traveling? If you want everything to be like home, stay home! Accept strangeness and uniqueness of your surroundings. Get out and explore, turn each trip into a true adventure -- that is one of the main points of traveling -- the seeing and experiencing novel and fresh takes on life.
6. Don't just sight see. "Site do!" Get out of the hotel cocoon, seek out authentic "site-doing" experiences and be an active participant in your travels, not just a passive sightseer. Know that the key to traveling is to actually experience a new destination rather than just going to see it. Take public transportation and leave the car hire or rental at the hotel. Never eat where you sleep; get out to try something uncommon. Play what I call Taxi-Cab Roulette, by asking a taxi driver to take you to a restaurant that he likes to take his family to! Roll the dice and have fun come what may.
7. Let serendipity in. Shit happens, as they say. But know that sometimes, most times as a matter of fact, the most interesting and memorable stories you will get from your travels occur only when things do not go according to plan. You must let go, breathe and allow for serendipity to unfold. Learn to trust strangers in strange lands, to be open to human interaction and you will really be surprised. Sometimes the more you get lost, the more you discover. Get lost and let things happen.
As someone who has luckily traveled the globe many times, I am a huge proponent of what I call Travel 3.0 that allows you to get the most out of your travels by mixing authentic, challenging and participatory elements together to reach a type of travel rapture, a bliss or zone while traveling that makes you feel more alive and wanting more. This type of travel addiction is much more interesting and enlightening than the "Been there, done that, what's next?" ego-driven affliction.
Try it -- you will never be the same again!