A Simple 7-Step Guide to the Very Best Kind of Travel

If  you want to live a bold and passionate life, regular travel is essential.

At least that's my philosophy, and I'm sticking to it!

I'm talking about the kind of travel where you are transported from your every day life and plopped into an environment that is completely new and unfamiliar to you — where the sights and the sounds and the smells and the noises and the people are totally different from your norm.

This can occur in your own country, but most often it happens when you travel outside of your country, where you don't speak the same language.

My dad had a bad joke about why he didn't want to go to Europe. He'd say, “It looks really nice, but it's full of foreigners.” The sad part is — he meant it. He didn't want his world rocked by strangeness or strange people.

But if you truly wish to grow and evolve as a person, you must hop out of your little nest and rock your world. And travel is a lovely way to do just that. It's one of those experiences where you don't fully recognize the impact until you've done it and returned home.

Many studies on happiness have shown that memorable experiences almost always trump material things when it comes to long-term happiness.

The memories and life-changing after-effects of travel will stay with you long after the pleasure of a new car or house upgrade have worn off. I can attest to that from personal experience.

If you are one who dreams of travel but never does it, please make it a priority. I know the economy is bad, money is tight, life is busy. But with the right planning, you can make it happen if you're determined to do so. It is definitely possible to take wonderful vacations abroad on a budget.

So that's my little rant on why you MUST travel.

Now here's a simple guide on how to travel well.

These thoughts are merely my opinion on what constitutes the best kind of travel. But perhaps you will find them beneficial as you are planning your next journey of a lifetime.

1. Go Deep and Narrow

When Katie and I were first planning our trip to Italy (see my previous post), we had a jam-packed itinerary so we could experience several wonderful Italian cities. Fortunately Diana (the owner of the b&b where we stayed) gently steered us in a different direction. I can't say it any better than she did in a comment on my last post:

The type of holiday that you chose to do is the type I recommend to all of the people who email me not just for reservations, but also for travel advice. I am fully convinced that giving ourselves time to immerse in less stops (rather than expending all of our energy and time getting from one place to another) allows for a more complete understanding of the culture.

It’s not about all the stuff we “miss” when we travel. We miss nothing if we limit the scope, going deeper rather than geographically further, because we “see” so much more – people, interactions, precious moments.

Italy is such an intense country, full of art and history and food and wine. If you try to take it all in, you end up with a bunch of photos and a case of exhaustion. Instead, small precious bites of the land, like the ones you and Katie savored, leave such a more lasting impression.

This is so true — wherever you travel. Don't cram in every possible city and site. Pick one or two places and savor them. You will learn more, enjoy the time more, and feel more relaxed.

2. Know Your Travel Companion

So much of the experience of travel is impacted by who you are traveling with. Traveling with a friend is an entirely different experience than traveling with a spouse or romantic partner. But either way, knowing what to expect and ironing out potential issues before you leave is imperative — so you can avoid clawing each others eyes out when the going gets rough.

Ask yourself (and your travel partner) these questions:

  • What are the priority sights or experiences for both of you? How will you decide what to see/do?
  • What gets you really agitated, irritated, or frustrated?
  • How do you react when things get off track?
  • How much down time do you need each day?
  • How can we resolve a conflict about a choice or decision?
  • How can we arrange time apart if we need it?
  • How are we going to handle finances and paying for things along the way?
  • Are we both committed to the same kind of travel?
  • Are we both committed to resolving conflicts calmly so we both feel heard?

If you are traveling with someone you know to be difficult or demanding, or who has less than an easy-going temperament, I would advise reconsidering — or at least figuring out a way to spend some time apart during the trip.

You don't want to spend a lot of money, energy, and enthusiasm on a trip, only to spend it angry or frustrated. It just won't be fun.

3. Pack Light

I will be the first to admit that I'm not good at this at all. I keep thinking that I might need this or that article of clothing, so I throw it in the suitcase. Bad idea. I would have been fine with half of the items I took on my recent trip.

What you wear really doesn't matter so much as long as you are comfortable and appropriate for the situation. You can wear things twice or even three times, and if necessary, hand wash some things or find a laundry. You will be so happy not to lug around a big suitcase.

Most decent hotels and b&b's have hair dryers. You don't need a pair of shoes for every occasion. If you need outerwear, find a jacket that is lightweight and waterproof. Ladies, take a small purse (to hold money, passport, etc.) to use while walking around that can go across your shoulder for safety.

Leave room in  your suitcase for things you might want to bring home. (I brought home 6 bottles of wine from my recent trip to Italy, but I had to pay a hefty weight overage fee which I could have avoided if I'd packed lighter.)

Here's a great pack list for European travel. And here's a good general travel checklist. You can find other lists online that are relevant to your specific type of travel.

4. Have Connections

One of the best aspects of my recent European trip was meeting up with people we knew while in Paris and Italy. It was so much fun spending time with friends who knew the area and could guide us to some of the best places to eat and visit.

If you don't know someone personally in the place you intend to travel, put the word out to family and friends. Ask if anyone has friends in your destination city with whom you could connect and have a lunch or dinner.

With the internet, the world is getting smaller, and someone always knows someone! Reach out and make a connections with new people wherever you travel. It will make you feel less like a tourist and more like a visitor.

5. Ditch the Itinerary (or at Least Be Flexible)

No doubt, there are some situations where following a strict itinerary is good. If you have to make a reservation to see something or arrive early to beat the crowds, then you may want to stick to your plan.

But in general, don't over plan your trip. Allow enough time and flexibility so that you can explore, go off the beaten path, or change your mind about what you want to do.

If you are committed to a rigid sightseeing or travel schedule, you might miss some of the best opportunities or have to rush through something you would rather linger over.

Make plans, but make them loosely.

6. Rent a Car

If you want the flexibility to get where you want to go and the freedom to go when you are ready, then rent a car (if possible in your destination). We rented a car in Italy and found it to be easy and fun.

This allowed us to take a couple of fun side trips to the Italian Riviera and the countryside. We didn't have to worry about getting to a train or bus station on time. There are many lovely European road trips that could constitute a full vacation with a few beautiful stops along the way.

There are some countries where car travel is more difficult than bus or train travel. Be sure you read up on the best way to get around wherever you might travel.

7. Go with the Flow

Rarely do trips occur without any disruptions or problems. Planes are late. Credit cards are stolen. The food seems strange. The hotel isn't what you thought it would be.

Expect that these things will happen, and try not to get your panties in a wad when they do. Just go with the flow of what is happening and make the best of it.

If you let them, these issues can sour an entire trip. But they don't have to. Sometimes you can adjust your plans, change the situation, or simply cut bait and move on.

Even these negative situations can create funny memories and great stories as part of the fabric of your entire experience.

Manage your expectations, and then you won't feel as frustrated or let down if things don't go exactly as hope for.

What constitutes the very best kind of travel for you? What have you learned from your travel experiences that you can share with all of us in the comments?

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Comments

  1. Dominica Applegate says:

    Travel has got to be one of my greatest passions. I especially agree with go with the flow. Some things just don’t go as planned when it comes to vacationing and to get all stressed out about it does not do any good. Enjoying your website!
    Thank you!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Dominica,
      I’m so glad we share the passion of traveling! Isn’t it wonderful? Going with the flow is a must — especially for foreign travel when so much is out of your control. A good sense of humor helps! 🙂

  2. Hi Barrie-

    Go Deep and Narrow is a corollary of Live Bold and Bloom, and your guidance for knowing your travel partner would serve me well in the dating world!

    My long-time travel companion and I called the rough patches “crusty moments.” Sometimes, just being able to ask the other, “Is this a crusty moment?” was enough to either make us laugh or to realize it was time to go with the flow.

    This post should be required reading for everyone, and everyone should be required to travel to a “foreign” land at least once, if only to see that we humans are more similar than different.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I love that Meg — a “crusty moment.” We all have those, and having a humorous name for it really helps diffuse the tension. A few crusty moments come with the territory of travel, but has you said, a good laugh will help you go with the flow. You are right — humans are more similar than different. And our differences make us fascinating.

  3. I totally agree with you Barrie concerning the importance ot travelling especially for me as I am a teacher and we are faced with much stress during the school year i feel i need to travel but…
    thank you barrie for the useful tips about travelling!!!!!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Lilia,
      Teachers do have stressful jobs and travel should be a required (and paid) sabbatical for all of you! I hope you find a way to make it happen at least once a year.

  4. I have yet to catch the travel bug, Barrie, but I plan to “make” myself do it because I know it will enrich me tremendously. These are great pieces of advice – thanks!

    Your pictures are so stunning! Did you take them yourself?

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      What??? No travel bug??? I am sneezing travel germs on you right now (only the best kind!). Once you go to some wonderful place, like Italy, you will be totally infected. Yes, I took the photos with my iPhone!!

  5. Great travel tips, Barrie! I’ve got a tip to share that could fit under “Go with the Flow” –

    “Be Open to Different Cultures & Customs”. Often times people will travel and not want to try different foods, or be critical of another country’s customs. Whether you’re asked to cover your shoulders while inside the Vatican, or in a restaurant where the owner offers you a sample of chef’s squid surprise, appreciating the differences can really enhance the travel experience.

    When our family travels, we encourage the kids to try new things, but to also remember that we are mini ambassadors of the United States.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Yes, that’s great advice Jeanne. On my last night in Italy, I tried to sneak out of the local festival (party) that I mentioned in my previous post. We were tired and needed to get packed to fly home. But the singer at the party wouldn’t hear of it and started singing to me. I was embarrassed, but I decided “what the hell” — these are nice, fun people who want me to have a good time. So I stayed and danced with the locals. It was a blast and so memorable. However, I don’t know how great an ambassador of the U.S. I was! 🙂

  6. Hi Barrie
    Sounds like you had a glorious trip, thanks for sharing it! My husband and i have travelled all over the world and we book the first night in a hotel so we can rest after travelling and then we wing in from there on. Once you are there you meet other travellers and they give you great tips as to where to go and what to do. It makes it such a fun adventure and we have ended up in having magical times in places we had never even heard of.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That sounds like a great way to do it Tania! Those adventures are the most memorable. How wonderful that you’ve traveled all over the world! Wow!!

  7. I love travel, and take advantage of going somewhere whenever I can! Diana gave such great advice in reminding you to go deep and narrow. It took me a while to figure out that my journeys are so much more rewarding when I really get to know a particular place and its people. Makes for more meaningful memories than simply seeing as many ‘sights’ as possible. I agree with all of these tips – although some, like packing light, are a bit of a challenge!

    So glad that you got to enjoy this fabulous trip Barrie!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Sarah,
      It took me a while to figure that out too. I used to feel that if I’m going to spend the money to fly to Europe (or wherever), I need to cram in as much as possible. But that is exhausting. Now I have a reason to keep going back as often as possible! Here’s to deep and narrow. 🙂

  8. Hi Barrie,
    You have had many marvellous memories from your travels….sounds very exciting. In my country Australia, being so vast, there are many unexplored, new spaces to keep my senses lit. Thankyou
    be good to yourself
    David

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I would LOVE to visit Australia. That is definitely on my bucket list. But I’m sure it will take several trips to do it justice! Thanks David.

  9. Hi Barrie,

    I have enjoyed reading your travel tips & dialogue.
    With only a little overseas travel experience, my aim is to to more in the future.

    I love being able to “get lost in the moment” whilst on holiday…. Getting in touch with my “inner child”, which is so often suppressed on a daily basis whilst working in an intense, focused situation as an anaesthetic assistant.

    I’m sure the freedom of travel is rejuvenating for us all.

    Thanks for your wise words Barrie…

    Leanne Deen
    Yarra Valley Organics, Miessence
    Croydon, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      You are so right Leanne — travel does allow that inner child to come out. When you experience something for the first time — when everything is new and different — you do feel like a child. And it is wonderful to be totally disconnected from your work life and the other demands of regular living.

  10. Hi Barrie – as I’m traveling around central America at the moment, I can appreciate all 7 of these tips for my extended 3 months of travel. I think number 7 is great advice for traveling and life!! Especially traveling around Central America, I’ve had some delays, change of plans, & challenges. Mosquitoes, bugs & getting lost:) Instead of getting frustrated, I’ve tried to go with the flow. One time a trailer full of cows broke down on a bridge in front of us creating a 2 hour delay. Instead of getting upset, I took photos and outlined a blog post in the car. lol

    In life and traveling, go with the flow is a great reminder:)

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Vishnu,
      That is so funny!! I bet not many people can claim to have been in that hysterical situation before. I’m glad you took it in stride. Was your post about cows?? 🙂 It sounds like you are having the experience of a lifetime. I hope you are having a blast.

  11. I totally agree that “go with the flow” is important travel advice, although I don’t always pull it off myself. Some of our most fond memories started as stressful situations–hiking in the dark in Ireland, traipsing through mud in Morocco, getting scammed in Bangkok. We called them adventures while they were happening to keep our boys in a good mood.

    • Hi Marcy,
      Boy, you have had some adventures! I’m glad you came out safely. Your boys are so fortunate to get to see different parts of the world. You have given them a life-long gift — both for love of travel and flexibility. 🙂

  12. I also do love travelling. The truth is, I just spent a 2-week vacation in Europe. And I really do love your tips. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Hi Barrie,
    These are very insightful and practical tips. I was reminded of the trip I took to Europe for three weeks right after I finished graduate school. It was the obligatory backpack and Eurail Pass post graduation odyssey. I went by myself, knowing only a few phrases of Spanish. What an amazing experience to take such a risk by myself; my self-confidence soared by the time I returned. A major personality change emerged, too. Upon returning home, I noticed I was much more social with strangers, initiating conversations with store clerks, people waiting in line, etc… I guess when the train arrives at 4:00pm in a small Italian village and I needed to find a place to exchange currency, get something to eat and find a place to stay tonight, while not speaking the language, I kind of had to learn how to come out of my shell in order to survive. Necessity is indeed, the mother of invention! I also learned how to be much more comfortable making a fool of myself with language limitations. That trip really did change me. Loved it!

    • Kris, that sounds like the trip of a lifetime for you. I have never traveled out of the country by myself, but I can see how it is the ultimate in stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring both your inner and outer world. Bravo to you for doing that — and at such a young age. I hope it ignited the travel bug for you and that you’ve gone back (or to other wonderful places) since then. Thank you for sharing that lovely story.

  14. William Veasley says:

    Barrie: I dream of traveling the earth and experience new things, ways of living and cultures. I think that I might want to live someone outside of the United States. I do not want to be narrow minded into thinking that there is no chance I would like it better somewhere else.

    I am going to pack light. Hopefully, when I start traveling I will have money to buy clothes where ever I travel. I would not want to buy too many things though because then I will not have space for it! lol

    Best wishes,
    William Veasley

    • Hi William,
      Oh, I hope you do get to travel! Start saving so you can make your dream real one day. Traveling light is the best way to go — it gives you freedom to move around without having to carry a heavy suitcase.

  15. Hello Barrie,
    Thank you for sharing your tips about travel.They are all very important and valid whether one is traveling within or outside their country. Maybe I could add that it would also be good to consider health matters as part of travel arrangements.

    Our bodies sometimes react unpredictably when exposed to new environments. One of this could be disturbed sleep patterns that for some may take long to normalize. This may affect the expected fun. For this reason some consider using supplements that may help rectify such a problem. One such supplement is melatonin.

    On the other hand gut issues are a common problem that create havoc to some travelers . To check this a few digestive supplements may be helpful. Personally I would consider probiotic and fiber supplements.

    Finally if a person is on any long-term medication it would be good that they carry enough medication to last the travel period and also have some document outlining their problems.

    Once more thank you for this post.

    Murigi

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That is a great point Murigi! If you get sick during a trip, it certainly puts a damper on the entire experience. A few practical precautions can help keep you healthy and energized for fully enjoying your travels.