You boarded the plane, got to your dream destination, and you’re free to do anything. Maybe you landed in a different country. What do you do? How do you begin your journey? What do you want to see? How do you get the most of your trip? What do you want to learn? What is your goal? All these questions pop up in my head before or during trips. In fact, they determine the travel style. Here is how I roll to enjoy my travels.
In the past I would travel to see the world. I simply enjoyed the process of exploring new places. These days that doesn’t cut it. Having visited dozens of countries, similarities are apparent. I came up with the idea of mission-driven traveling.
Before going on a trip, I set the goals. I want to get something of the trip to grow as a person. I try to learn and experience new things instead of merely walking and taking pictures. For example, I recently visited Cayman Islands. Sure, I could have lied on the beach sipping margaritas. Would that make me a better man? Probably not. Instead, I signed up for a scuba diving course to become a certified diver. Did that enrich my life? Certainly. I got a chance to challenge myself, to learn a new skill, and to appreciate the richness of marine life. The nice beach was an added bonus.
I don’t make detailed plans for each day of the trip. I make a general list of cool things to check out. Most of the information comes from WikiTravel. I augment the list with clubs/parties that seem like good time. If possible, I group all the items by proximity to minimize the transit time between places. I split the list into chunks; each chunk corresponds to one day. I put the split list into the calendar to fill my travel days. That’s my fallback plan. If nothing else happens, at least I have a list of places to check out and things to do. If something better comes up, I ignore the list.
Embracing the Culture
Besides learning something new, my main focus is to experience another culture. The best way of doing that is to stay and hang out with the locals. When I’m hosted by a local, I try to see the world through their eyes. I live according to their schedule and customs. There is no need to wake up early, or to be in a rush to see a dozen of places in one day. I take it slow as if I were at my home. Oftentimes, I would sacrifice sightseeing for local activities, such as learning to paint, picking oranges, fishing, or learning to cook a local dish.
When it comes to food and drinks, the more local, the better. Often, good food can be found in small places that tourists never get to see. For example, in the Bahamas, conch salad from small food stands is the way to go. In Porto, I learned to make delectable portonic drinks using Port wine. The cool thing is that you can later serve those drinks all over the world. People are always happy to taste something new. Especially if I tell them the story behind the drink.
Making the Locals Like You
When in Rome do as Romans do, but with some innovation. I think I am pretty good at making the locals like me. I tend to smile, look into eyes, and be very easygoing. Learning few phrases in the local language is a big plus. I like to play on cultural stereotypes. It shows the locals that I understand their culture, but also that I can joke about it. Who would ever hate such a person?
Here are some examples of how I played with local cultures. When we went to Scotland, we were wearing towels that resembled kilts, cheap Scottish bonnets, and shitty bagpipes. In Brazil, I learned some entertaining phrases from popular songs and dropped them here and there in the conversation. In Jamaica, we learned some slang and were endorsing their rum, Jamaica’s finest, and dancehall. When the locals see you trying hard to be one of them, all they can do is to smile and accept you. Worst case, some may ignore you, but hostility is not an option.