I try to travel A LOT. Despite the perks of running my own travel business, my consistently dwindling bank balance will attest to my penchant for spending my money on exploring the planet. Indeed, one of the downsides of my job is that my bucket list grows on a daily basis. For every new enquiry that comes my way, my imagination gets the better of me and suddenly I have a new destination to get my teeth into. My next adventure awaits. So I got to thinking about what has made the best memories for me in my previous trips and why that was. Here are a few of my musings that may just make your next escape that little bit more memorable for one reason or another.
1. Get Lost
It may sound rather counter-intuitive to explore somewhere and yet find yourself completely unaware of where you are but I have had countless incidents of losing my bearings completely and stumbling across something incredible. Sometimes the best laid plans are best left on the shelf. Now I know there is no way you can “intentionally” get lost, as to do so you would by definition know where you are, and therefore not be lost. What I do suggest is that you take a step back from stringent plans, google maps and get out to discover wherever you may be in all of its glory. Often the technology is not as reliable as you would think anyway, as I know through chastening experience.
I recall driving my way through the Namib Desert a few years back, trusting completely in our GPS system when slowly but surely it took us beyond what I would describe as an actual road. Before we knew it we were driving around on nothing but sand and powered by nothing but panic. As my façade of ambient calm dissipated gradually, words were exchanged with my increasingly distraught fiancée and I suggested we perhaps request assistance from the kindly people living in the shack on the horizon. Despite her reservations I approached with caution until we began to see their extensive collection of animal skulls strewn around the land. Panic rose, engine started and we bailed at quite tremendous pace, leaving the skulls in our wake with a shower of red sand.
Despite this frankly terrifying incident I still think back to that occasion with some strange form of happy nostalgia. Getting lost literally in the middle of nowhere created a memory that would never have been possible had technology been of actual use and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
2. Go It Alone
Now I almost always travel with my fiancée or with friends and I love sharing these experiences with them. It makes things so much nicer to share a memory, so I am in no way suggesting anything different as the norm. However, if you ever find yourself away on your travels on your lonesome, or if your friend’s fancy a night off while you are still bursting with enthusiasm to explore, do it!
It may seem daunting, it may fill you with trepidation or it may be something you revel in completely. You will certainly experience the destination and more importantly, the people, if you are on your own though. Whether you are in far flung lands or on a city break a little closer to home, I have found that being on your own takes you out of your comfort zone. No longer do you have the safety blanket of a familiar face to chat with, so avoid the temptation to stare at your iPhone to hide your discomfort. Grab a drink, some Dutch courage, and immerse yourself in your surroundings. Chat to locals – the barman is always a good start to increase your confidence, and see what they recommend you do.
On a trip to Europe over a decade ago my friends had decided they couldn’t face another night on the town and retired to our dorm early. Restless, filled with FOMO and unable to sleep I donned my glad rags and found a local bar for a tipple. At the time I was kind of obsessed with The Big Lebowski (still am…) and decided I would quaff my way around Ljubljana on a tasting tour of White Russians. Obviously the alcohol assisted in me making some new friends for the night but it was a fantastic experience that allowed me to find some amazing hidden gems around the city that I still recommend to customers today. I ended up tacked on to some kind of bar crawl and by the end everyone was discussing the nuances of the perfect White Russian as though we were seasoned purists and lifelong friends.
I know most places even offer these kind of organised tours and bar crawls that would be filled with like-minded people travelling on their own so go down this route if you feel it would be a little less intimidating for you. However you experience it, don’t let the fact that you are merely one person stop you from enjoying anywhere on Earth. Don’t underestimate how happy people are that you are visiting their home and how delighted they are to help you make the most of it….
3. Leave Your Comfort Zone At Home
Things make me uneasy. All the time. Life makes me anxious on an almost daily basis. However, when I travel I tend to throw off these shackles and immerse myself that little bit more. I have no idea what it is about being away from home that allows me to do this and I would love to translate this to my day to day life but so far I just haven’t been able to achieve that. It makes for remarkable memories though so I urge you to do something that makes you a little uncomfortable while you are away, something you would normally scoff at. Forget your foibles and go headfirst into it.
I’m no life coach, and if I were my client’s would have been relegated long ago, so I am not trying to inspire you to do something that terrifies the hell out of you. I for one, no matter how high on life or locally brewed spirits I was, would never be able to do anything like a bungee or parachute jump. My innate fear of heights means I could never pack enough underwear to allow such a thing. It doesn’t mean you can’t get a little out of your traditional comfort zone and escape the normalities of your life though.
It may be something as simple as trying a food that you wouldn’t normally indulge in. Fried scorpions anyone? Or maybe try to learn a little of the local language. Try out what you’ve learned on a local. It may be a little nerve wracking and embarrassing but I guarantee no matter how successful you are they will appreciate it.
If you prefer to go a little more gung ho then do it. White water rapids? Hike up a mountain at sunset? Scuba dive? It could be anything that gives you that little queasy feeling in your belly beforehand (in the case of the fried scorpions perhaps even afterwards!). Whatever it is, embrace it, ignore your doubts and live in the moment. It may be that it ends in a ridiculous tale of embarrassing woe but it will be a tale you will tell for years to come, after all, this is the best kind of story.