Going with the theme of resolutions, as I wrap up a trip to the Middle East, I reflect on what has worked for me.
10. Follow the crowds. If i get lost
, have no idea what sites I am supposed to look for, I find following where the general traffic is flowing takes me right to the points of interest.
9. Get lost. Follow #10 to only a certain point. Letting myself wander at the likely risk of getting lost usually leads to finding a neighborhood jem only locals visit.
8. Don’t stress over packing. While I am known to chant some variation of “ID, keys, camera, wallet, everything else I can buy” I am really a perpetual overpacker. I stopped caring. As long as I can physically drag my luggage, and as long as I am within my airline bag allowance, I stopped wasting time trying to perfect packing and enjoy the excitement of an upcoming trip.
7. Learn and master one expression in the local dialect. Doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple “thank you” usually works in endearing myself to the locals.
6. Don’t need a plan. I often arrive to a destination without any advance research beyond what I needed to book flights and hotels. I admit having too any times of being on a flight then asking myself, “was I supposed to get a visa?” I don’t recommend going to that extreme. But by not researching and analysing the heck out of a location, I find I am more open minded and curious.
5. Have minimum of one indulgent sit down meal. I forced myself to do this years ago when I realized I reduced to eating crackers to avoid eating alone. I started by picking one higher end restaurant featuring local fare to dine in during each trip. I found quickly that the higher end places have better trained staff that treat a lone diner exceptionally well. I also found indulging in a full multi course meal not only let me get settled in and comfortable dining, but led to many chef’s compliments as the restaurant recognized I was there for the food.
4. Put the camera down. I love taking photos. Anyone who knows me knows that. But every now and then, I need to out my ever present camera down, and take in the sights. At the end, it is the experience I remember most.
3. Find the perfect travel partner. Some are lucky to find that partnership in their significant others. I have been incredibly lucky in finding mine. I don’t believe in pairing up with anyone who is available and I don’t do well with groups because we inevitably make too many compromises and leave with regrets. But a good partner? We have had experiences we still laugh about years later. That is priceless.
2. Go alone. I admit I have a higher tolerance of the unknown. But I challenge people to this: if you are not willing to do something by yourself, is it fair to ask someone else to do it for you? My own independence grew out of getting tired of people not committing to travel plans, but was born out of the notion, “why do I need someone when I do go alone?” While having a good travel partner makes the experience memorable, imagine if both of you had the same daring do. How much of a blast would that lead to? A lot, I know.
1. Trust my gut. We have a gut for a reason. Mine has kept me safe more often than I dare to admit.