Posted on Sep 28, 2017 in EdTerra's Travel Nerds
by Gunika Singh
Posted on Sep 28, 2017 in EdTerra's Travel Nerds
by Gunika Singh
Be a traveller and not a tourist! People always ask how travel has changed me. If I look back at who I was before I began traveling and compare it to who I am now, I would have to say that travel has made me a better and more well rounded person. In fact, I believe travel makes one not just a better human being but broadens one’s horizons too.
When you travel, you either sink or swim on the road. Being more social is the key. You either get better at making friends or you end up alone. You learn to make friends out of strangers and get more comfortable talking to new people. You’ll get better at small talk and how to ask interesting questions — the ones that matter, and tell you more about the person or place.
Working with children for the past 10 years has made me deal with missed flights, losing passports, wrong turns, delays, bad food, and much, much more. After a while, I learnt how to adapt plans to changing situations. You don’t get mad, you don’t get angry; you just alter what you are doing and move on. Of course it’s challenging with a bunch of students but you learn to have fun with the situations. Life throws you curve balls and you hit them out of the park. Why? Simply because each experience makes you richer.
Learning about people, history, and culture, and arcane facts about places is what travel brings to you. Also, a better understanding about how people behave. That’s something that can’t be learnt from textbooks; you can only pick it up with on-the-road experience once you break out of your comfort zone, which is the first step towards exploring. That’s our motto at #EdTerra – travelling to knowledge. You tend to make many mistakes when travelling, but mistakes make you better experienced, and if travel teaches you anything, it is that it all works out in the end and that there’s no need to stress.
Travel surely makes you outgoing, funny, social, happy, confident, and smart, which are all qualities that make people more successful in everyday life.
Although, the ability to waltz elegantly through chaotic airports like an individual actually on vacation isn’t something I was born with; I realized it is earned. Packing and planning for optimal travel serenity can take years of trips filled with stress and anxiety before you finally hit your stride and start coming out on top; then long queues or hold-ups don’t matter. The airport, or the train station or cruise ship dock is where many trips begin, and thus becomes your launchpad for mysteries to unfold.
Humans go through all sorts of anxieties before they travel. Some plan even the minutest detail and others are ready to welcome surprises. What does one really need when traveling? You will be shocked to learn what enhances your travel is not your pre-planning but your being present in the moment, aka presence of mind!
The following travel tips can make you a competent traveller. Give them a try and tell us how it goes for you.
Being an introvert, you will surely have trouble interacting with locals. All people seem unfriendly! It took me time to understand that maybe it’s my body language and not the people around me who need to loosen up. One of my best travel tips would be to make eye contact and smile as you walk by. If they smile back, say hello, and yes if it could be in their local language, you’ll hit the jackpot. This is a fastest way to make new friends. You can’t expect everyone to just walk around with a big grin on his or her face. That’s your job as a traveller. Usually, all it takes is for you to initiate contact and they’ll open up.
Don’t judge the lifestyles of others as it is always going to be different from your own. Listen to opinions you don’t agree with. It’s arrogant to assume your views are correct and other people are wrong. Practice empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Embrace different possibilities, opportunities, people, suggestions, and interests. Ask questions. You don’t have to agree, but you may be surprised with what you’ll learn. This is one of the biggest learnings that children take back home from #EdTerra journeys as well.
Unlike my first experience 8 years ago, where I travelled with 2 strollers, I am a much lighter traveller now. How you pack can have a big impact on your mental health and a number of other areas too. Packing light means having to keep track of fewer items, remaining more mobile throughout your adventures, paying fewer baggage fees and living a minimalistic lifestyle when you’re in a new city.
On one of my earlier travels from Scotland back home, I realized that one of the accompanying children had lost his passport, and the thought of holding the entire group of 20 students, missing flights, re-booking hotels and transport made me panic. God was kind; having most of this child’s important documents and photos backed up in the official folder saved me 90% of the time and hassle, and we even found the passport at the airport itself. Keeping both digital and physical copies of one’s passport, visas, driver’s license, birth certificate, health/ Travel insurance serial numbers, and important phone numbers ready to go in case of an emergency is a must. Backup files and photos on an external hard drive as well as online. Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control. Life is much too short to be angry and annoyed all the time. Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.
Make it a point to avoid other travelers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken widely all over the world, so it is easier to communicate than you might think, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language. Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting. People enrich your travels more than sights do.
You may only see these places and meet these people once in your lifetime. But these create lifetime memories and you end up remembering them forever with plenty of photographs to serve as refreshers. None of our EdTerra journeys are complete without a minimum of 1000 photos per group. Don’t worry about looking like a “tourist”. No one really cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenirs. They don’t cost anything, they’re easy to share with others, and they don’t take up space in your luggage. Just remember once you’ve captured a picture, get out from behind the lens and enjoy the view.
If you really want to get a feel of the pulse of a place, I recommend spending a few hours sitting in a park or on a busy street corner by yourself just watching day-to-day life happen in front of you. Slow down your train of thought and pay close attention to the details around you, the smells, the colors, human interactions, and sounds. It’s a kind of meditation — and you will see stuff you’ve never noticed before.
You will be surprised by how your taste buds react. Taste a bit of everything when you travel, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ask local people for recommendations. Eat street food from vendors with big lines out front. I’ve not been sick until now on my adventure journey with food. Don’t be scared of experimenting as you might end up liking a new cuisine.
Eating and travelling are best friends, and surely, a clash is clear and will show on your body. Travel can throw your body out of limbo. When you’re moving from place to place it is difficult to maintain a workout routine, and many of us slack off. Or we don’t sleep enough. Or we eat too many cupcakes. Remember to be nice to your body. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthily, use sunscreen, and exercise often.
I know it’s a cliché, but you should still attempt it. Seek out interesting and unusual places that don’t see much tourism. Many memorable travel experiences have happened to me in areas that are not easy to visit. By all means, travel to popular sites, but don’t rule out other locations just because they’re not on the tourist trail. My advice is to pick a starting point, 1 or 2 must-do activities, and an ending point (or not). Then just let the universe determine the rest. My memory for details isn’t great. When I first started traveling around the world 8 years ago, I never kept a good journal, and now I regret it. Information like the names of people I met, conversations I had, feelings about a new experience, or what a particular town smelled like. Do keep a diary handy.
Unfortunately, most people who wait to travel the world never do. At last, TRAVEL MORE! Whether it’s around the world or just a short, weekend vacation to the foothills of the Himalayas. Being a traveller who has met other experienced travellers, I can easily say that the world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. Keep an eye out for sketchy situations but don’t let that be the focus of your whole trip. Use common sense and you’ll be ok. Most people are friendly, trustworthy, generous, and willing to help you out. It’s a big, beautiful, exciting, and fascinating world out there. Explore some of it now, before its too late!
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