It’s a lit bit impossible to travel these days and let’s face it, travel will never be the same again. But until that blessed day comes when we can finally explore the world again, we’ll just have to dream and plan and take virtual tours of places that we’ve been dying to visit.
In the meantime, here are some tips (both good and bad) that will help you become a better traveler or in the very least help you have the best damn time of your life.
Travel is equal parts excitement, disappointment, getting lost, finding yourself, being surprised, expecting the unexpected and most of all just enjoying yourself. Maybe these tips will help, maybe they won’t but my ultimate goal is to entertain and tell stories, so here goes.
1. Expect Nothing
You’re not the only one with dreams of taking a jump shot photo in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or doing that open mouth pose in front of the Merlion in Singapore. There will be at least hundreds of other tourists with the same idea. My advice, manage your expectations. Remember that you are going to a major tourist destination. Expect hoards and hoards of people, long lines, huge crowds and probably even the stampede that killed Mufasa. Everyone will be there. So what do you do? Take that photo and crop it like it’s hot.
2. Read the Menu
Read. the. menu. Or sign, or banner, or leaflet or brochure and whatever the hell is available. In a different language? Then ask someone to translate it to you in English. You do not want to point to the nearest photo and order ‘that one’. That one could very well be the 40 EURO Treasures of the Sea dish that consists of a platter of pasta served with all the underwater characters in The Little Mermaid. Did I mention it was 40 EURO? Yup. Gulp.
3. Treat Yourself
Now if you’ve found something that’s a little bit above your budget but worth the splurge, go for it. Travel is about the experience. Some things are worth spending for at least once in your whole trip. Years from now, you will look back and think ‘Thank God I tried that once in my life’. Go for it because regret comes way after. Go for it because you should live in the moment. It’s not everyday you get to your dream destination, so fullfil that wish and splurge. Two scoops of authentic gelato? Go for it.
4. Find Your Comfort Zone
Okay, hear me out. You’re already out of your comfort zone anyway. You’re in a foreign country, there’s nothing in English, you’re probably lost. If you feel totally out of sorts, find something familiar. In my case, find the nearest Asian restaurant and order your favorite dish. Foreign cuisine is delicious and exciting, for the first couple of days. After a while, you start missing dishes from home. Also, foreign food is as bland as paper. Nothing beats Filipino cuisine where everything is swimming in soy sauce, vinegar, salt and maybe even a dash of MSG. And, rice is life.
5. Dress Appropriately
Wear comfortable clothes and your favorite pair of shoes. Leather shoes, dainty ballet flats and especially any type of heel or wedge will feel like hell when walking around cobblestones or hiking up paths and steep stairs everyday. Invest in winter clothes and a good waterproof jacket (Uniqlo Ultra Heat Tech is your best friend). My aunt knitted this lovely yellow beanie and purple scarf for me. I wore it everywhere despite looking like the biggest LA Lakers Fan ever (purple and yellow, get it? RIP Kobe Bryant). It kept me warm and toasty up until the moment when my date in Paris picked me up dressed in a navy blue suit. I tossed that bright yellow hat in the bushes in front of my hotel and never looked back.
6. Live A Lot
Let your hair down. Go wild. Do something you’ve never done before (legally, of course). Smoke a joint. Take that shot. Kiss the guy, or girl or whoever you want (with consent!). Make new friends. Laugh out loud. Dance till your feet hurt. Hold hands. Have 3 scoops of gelato. Make passionate love. Take selfies. Whatever you wanna do, do it. Life is short. No regrets. Have fun but always stay safe and be smart.
Rest. Slow down. Take a breather. Travel does not have to be an amazing race challenge running from one destination to another while checking off things on your itinerary. Sure you can visit all the museums you like but reserve a day for just sitting in the park to people watch and eat some fresh cherries and maybe even more gelato. Who knows, something awesome might happen. Always remember to take a time out or else you’ll burn out.
8. Enjoy the Struggle
Unless you’re checked in at some 5-star hotel or have some arranged tours with your own driver and tour guide plus free access to major tourist spots, then you’re just like everyone else. Meaning, it’s not always smooth sailing. There will be long lines. There will be crazy crowds. There will be a country-wide transport strike and you’ll have to walk all the way to station. There will be a 5-hour flight delay that will make you miss a whole day in a city. There will be times when you want to pull out your hair and scream. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t give up. Travel is hella messy and chaotic. Enjoy the ride. The sooner you accept the inevitable, the more fun you’ll have.
9. Get Lost
I guarantee that you will. Street signs are never where they should be. GPS is not always reliable. Maps are insanely complicated. Most of the time, nothing is in English and nobody will understand you. You will get on the wrong bus and instead of 2 stops, your destination will turn out to be 21 stops away. The train changed platforms without any announcements. You will get lost. Oh well. You know what, it’s okay. Getting lost doesn’t mean you’re an idiot. It just means try harder.
10. Just Go
Book that ticket. Get on that plane. See the world. Experience something new. This pandemic has seriously derailed everyone’s travel plans and wanderlust dreams but it’s not too late. When the time comes, don’t wait for anybody or anything. It’s scary but totally exhilarating. You will never be the same again.
I’m gonna end this article with a totally tragic photo of my gelato cone on the ground. Yep. I took one lick and there it went. Bye. ✳︎