The wisest packing advice I have ever received is to lay out everything you think you need, and then halve it. You never need as much as you think – there are plenty of Laundromats to be found and, unless you’re going to the darkest jungles of the Amazon, you can buy an extra bar of soap at most convenience stores. Instead of making room for an extra pair of shoes, make room for souvenirs and memories.
Perhaps one of the more important lessons for any person to learn in life is the art of being flexible. Flights get cancelled and trains run late, museums have obscure opening hours and hotels aren’t always located as centrally as you thought. Sometimes the best laid plans don’t just go awry, they go completely bonkers. Knowing where you’re going and having accommodation booked (especially in peak seasons) ensures you have a direction to aim for and a bed at the end, but be open to spontaneity. Say ‘yes’ to everything (without compromising your health or integrity) and be open to change. Everything is an opportunity.
Memories Can Buy Happiness
A lot of travellers mind their pennies when they travel and adhere to a strict budget. This can be very restrictive when it comes to being flexible with your plans – you might dismiss an activity because of the cost, or refuse a fancy meal because a tin of tuna for dinner tonight means an extra trip to the museum tomorrow. Spend money on things that delight you – don’t scrimp when it comes to making memories. When is the next time you’ll be in Paris sipping coffee by the Eiffel Tower? When was the last time you hired a car and drove around Sicily? Go home with memories, not spare change.
Thich Nhat Hanh writes: “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” This is never more true than when you are travelling. Practise responsible tourism and tread lightly – you are a guest in this country; others actually live here. Some travellers can be inconsiderate, rude, and plain obnoxious – don’t be one of them. Wherever you go, research the country, language, and culture so that you can be open to practices to which you are not accustomed. Celebrate differences and appreciate that every individual has a story to share. When you come home, appreciate the visitors who demonstrate the same respect for your home, your culture, and your language.
A Smile is Worth a Thousand Words
Learn how to say ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the local language; a genuine smile communicates everything else.