On any journey, the most precious commodity is time. Whatever you were planning, find a way to go for just a bit longer. You will invariably return home to find nothing has changed and everything that seemed pressing was able to wait.
Far too many travellers leave home hobbled by a brimming backpack, with a daypack strung across their chest. Free yourself from this anchor. The clothes you wear on the plane, and a few simple changes, should do. Buy whatever else you need on the road. Sure you’ll want a few indulgences – an iPod, a deck of cards, binoculars perhaps – but bring one, not all.
The most enduring memories are usually interactions with others met along the way. Open yourself to this possibility whenever possible. Smile often. Poke your head around corners. Linger to watch and talk. Learn to say hello in the local language. And at least once in your life, consider travelling alone, which is the best way to meet other people.
Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. Consider a house exchange or try couch surfing (see couchsurfing.org). Don’t be afraid to go in low season. You may find chillier weather, but you’ll also find better deals. Generally, the more expensive your accommodations and meals, the greater the veil between yourself and the local culture.
Avoid the temptation to cram your schedule and careen though the days at a breakneck pace. Slow down. Trust in serendipity over efficiency. Follow your nose. Explore a bit.
GO SOMEWHERE NEW
It is easy (and comforting) to visit old haunts, but consider taking the leap and tackling a destination that has lingered on your dream list. Learning about a country before arrival will always deepen your appreciation, as will memorizing a few words and phrases in the local language.
Take a bus ride to a village not in the guidebook. Order food more adventurously. Stop and talk to strangers. Press up against the edges of your comfort zone.
REMEMBER TO SEND A POSTCARD
The friend or loved one that receives a hand-written note from a foreign country will surely appreciate it. I bet you’ve never seen a tweet or status update taped to a fridge door.