The moment you’ve been waiting for has arrived, finally you are taking that trip which you’ve dreamed of for ages! Wherever the destination, one thing is certain: you want your trip to be the best it can possibly be. Easy to say, but not always easy to do. Here are my three essential time and travel tested things to keep in mind to make the best of your trip.

Realize What You Really Want

Tastes vary wildly and the first step towards a successful trip is understanding what you really want out of it. Some people travel for adventure, some to escape daily life, some are driven by a hunger for knowledge and others travel simply to add social klout to their lives. These are only a few examples of motivations to travel, and the same person does not always travel for the same reason. There are times when I crave adventure and long for the outdoors, but just as often I find myself with the desire to chill out and relax on the beach.

I have come to believe that often what we want from a trip is for it to fill in missing experiences. For example, if someone has a stressful job they will probably opt for a relaxing vacation; on the other hand, someone with a flat, tedious job is likely to desire a bit of action.

Knowing what we really want from travel is absolutely essential to choosing not only the destination, but also the company we choose to travel with: a road trip with your old rowdy friends, a romantic trip tete-a-tete with your partner, or a solo trip in search of yourself? The wrong choice of companion has the potential to turn your trip into a nightmare. Likewise, accommodations also factor into your decision: a luxury hotel offers you comfort, but if your priority is to socialize and meet fellow travelers then a hostel is much more suitable.

Once you get to your destination, you have to decide how to spend your time. Try to decide independently, relying firstly on your personal goals for the trip. Don’t let what you read and hear from others overly influence your decisions. You should never choose to do something simply because it’s in the guidebook or featured in a top 10 list. Example: you find yourself in Paris but you don’t care for the arts. You don’t necessarily have to visit the Louvre. Instead you should spend that time doing something you actually enjoy. Surely when you get back home somebody will say: “What? You didn’t go to the Louvre?” Don’t worry about this, and keep in mind that you are the master of your destiny.

Disconnect and Enjoy the Moment

My golden rule: never carry your daily life with you on a trip. Duties, worries, troubles, loose ends, etc. leave them behind! Don’t think about your job, your family, your house, your friends. You’ll take care of everything when you go back. Strip yourself of your obligations. You are on vacation, far away from home. Nobody knows you here. You are not the lawyer, the teacher, the administrator, the businessman, the family man…you are a traveler. Additionally, get rid of your preconceptions and your habits. Be prone to discovering, to putting yourself on the line, to face new and different things.

Turning off your mobile phone is the first step, this helps to break the habit of checking it every five minutes, which has the potential to suck you out of your travel experience. Don’t waste your time doing things you do every day. Disconnect from the world you left at home and connect to the new reality around you. Same thing applies to photos and videos. We all want to get great memories of our holidays, but don’t overdo it. There’s no need to take photos and videos of everything all the time, step out from behind the lens and actually experience the view with your own eyes and put that selfie stick away! You’ve been holding it too long already! One selfie every 10 seconds is not necessary unless you’re trying to beat some kind of record. Likewise, don’t post everything on Facebook or Instagram. After the first two pictures your friends have already realized that you are on vacation and they probably envy and hate you just enough.

While you are intent on framing, focusing and recording, life keeps flowing and you’re missing out those unique moments. Take picture, yes, but for God’s sake enjoy that beautiful sunset with your own eyes first! Enjoy the moment!

You Only Travel Once

You only live once, you know that, but have you ever considered that you only travel once? I mean, the more remote and inacessible a place is the less likely you will be able to visit it again. Most of the time you will not be going back, and even if someday you do, that place will no longer be quite the same. You can be sure of that.

So live your trip like it’s your last opportunity to be there! Lose yourself in the culture of the hosting country. Start with tasting traditional food. You don’t have to try everything everything, but don’t be too picky! Your favorite dish might be the one you haven’t tasted yet. Listen to traditional music, go to a concert, a dance show, a sports event—go where locals go. You definitely must go to a market! Look at the products on sale, see the colours, breathe the smells and pay attention to the language you hear, you might be able to pick up some words. Try to talk with locals and understand how they live and what their beliefs are. Nearly everywhere you’ll find someone who speaks English and when words don’t do, body language will.

Keep in mind that there are things you can do only in certain places and some trains only pass once. Do what you wish to do without too many qualms, especially due to financial reasons. There are quite a few things that I regret not having done for lack of time, money or other reasons. Some examples: in 4 months in New York I never went up the Empire State Building (I had decided to go there the day before my departure, just to discover that it was closed on that day); I didn’t go skydiving in Australia (a bit for fear, but mostly for the cost)… I’m not saying you should blow your savings on travelling, rather I’m saying you need to spend your money on the things you truly value Quoting H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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