I read somewhere that to travel well you need patience, tolerance, respect and a sense of humor. To that I’d add a Rolex and rock-hard abs, just in case. But I’ve been thinking about some actual travel advice we’ve developed for ourselves over the years. Here they are. Just below. Right… now. Below. Look down there now, the next few words don’t matter. Slicey trickster temple mat. See? They didn’t matter.
Quarter Year’s self-imposed rules for long-term travel:
1) Travel slowly. Sacrifice geographic breadth for social depth — the world is unmanageably enormous as it is, so you couldn’t possibly spend quality time every place that deserves it. It’s better to spend quality time in the places that excite you at the moment and to remember that you can always go back to a town you might pass this time around.
Traveling from place to place is the best way to waste your precious time. We like to make a base and explore out from there, like tracing a flower – stay in one spot then make day-trip loops in each direction, or just stay in town for the afternoon. Come back to the same bed as many nights as possible.
2) Get off the beaten path. Get away from people who work in the tourist industry. Every time we leave the backpackers’ circuit we wonder why we were on it in the first place. (That is, unless you’re a single college student. In that case you should go flirt with all the other youths.)
3) Learn the language of the place you’re visiting. Know at least the following: I, you, please, thank you, need, want, searching for, 1-10, how much is it, where is…. These are the absolute basics for day-to-day stuff, but the better you know the language the more rewarding your experience will be. If you’re going to one country (or linguistic region), make language a priority. With all the great websites out on the internet, there’s no excuse.
4) Make learning a central theme in your activities. Otherwise you’re just a tourist.
5) Pack light. No, even lighter. You don’t need that many shirts. Things are an extension of home and the more crutches you bring from home the less exposed you will be.
6) Give yourself a purpose. Even if it’s as simple as keeping a blog or learning to surf, it will give you direction and a reason to interact. When Azure decided we needed to learn to make brocciu, we immediately came in contact with a community of interesting characters. Get involved in something – a social group or a job or hobby. Find something that excites you and start asking questions. Be curious, be brash.