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A Tale of Two Cities I recently had a wonderful trip to Europe, visiting both London and Barcelona. But it was almost like two trips in one. The journey to Barcelona was much more memorable (because we followed the advice in today's essay) while the time in London was stifled, precisely because we made the vital businessman's travel mistake you'll learn about today. Enjoy this article, and let it help you make lifelong memories from your next trip.
"One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more." - Thomas Jefferson ============================
How to Travel Like a Pro
By Ryan Murdock You've spent fifteen long years saving for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe. You dreamed about it. You talked about it. And you finally flew over and lived it -- only to be left thinking, "Was that it?"
Or maybe you're a frequent business traveler, and despite the many exotic cities you have visited, all you've ever really seen is snooty restaurants and shopping plazas.
There's more to travel than that stuff.... isn't there?
That's what I want to talk to you about today. You're going to learn how to immerse yourself in another culture so you come away with those incredibly
you'll have to speak up and engage the world around you. travel alone. But I think those "deep travel" experiences contain a few common elements. They compared notes on places to see. that place in turn causes me to look deeply within myself. . places to avoid. and cultures subscribe to many different standards of behavior. those are the real gems. cleanliness. in cafes and on buses. they all ended up in exactly the same places. Don't hold that place up against the standards of your home country or city. When you go with others. or you'll never see beyond your own preconceived opinions. When I look back at my notebooks. I quickly realized that everyone carried identical guidebooks so they could circle identical passages and mark identical maps. There are as many different travel styles as there are travelers. morality and personal space. Learn to Use the Guidebook in Reverse When I first started backpacking in Central America. All of that changes when you travel alone. A couple travels in a self-contained bubble that others are reluctant to breach. it's important to practice nonjudgement. You seldom interact with the world you're passing through. One of the best parts of solo travel is the memories and associations each new place calls up.deep experiences that shake up your worldview. even if only for a couple weeks. the trip is about the dynamics of the group. The world's a big place. change your perspective and stay with you forever. And sure enough. And you'll be completely drawn into the rhythm of that place. The Power of One If you want to understand a place. As I go deeply into a place. And the effect is magnified for couples. You'll fall into random conversations with strangers. And while you're there. If you truly want those walls to fall down. try to immerse yourself in your host culture's way of life. Your attention is focused on your surroundings. and cheap hotels where they would be sure to meet others of their kind. If you're an introvert. Embrace this and enjoy it.
and scouring the maps for places that weren't written up. a sketchpad and a bit of creative acting for the rest. but talking with them taught me nothing about that country. And so I looked for smaller local hotels instead. Got a rigid morning routine that you stick to no matter what? Drop it completely and disorient yourself by doing what the locals do. Try searching for furnished apartments on sites like AirBnB. Take a good long look at it over your coffee. It's even easier to find unique accommodations today. avoiding the places it recommended.What's the point of going abroad to do what everyone else is doing. Pick up a little phrasebook or dictionary that you can flip through to point out words or common phrases. Curiosity does the rest. Take your time. Places that didn't have English signs or menus. or just a quick shot of espresso at the counter. and to hang out with other foreigners? Escaping the crowds was simply a matter of learning to read the guidebook in reverse. let's figure out what you're going to do with your time. And don't let language barriers get in your way. Sure. just to see what sort of things people eat. whether that's cafe au lait and a pain chocolat by the Seine. Bring along that detailed itinerary you made for yourself.com or TripAdvisor. The one where every moment of every day is accounted for.You're Not at Work You can't immerse yourself in a place if you're busy forcing it to fit the mold of life back home. Don't Cram the Schedule -. either by brown bagging from a supermarket deli counter or taking advantage of excellent set menu lunches at local cafes. searching the bottom of the accommodation list rather than the top. And then self-cater in your apartment for supper. there were probably some fun people hanging around those places. You'll quickly discover that a smile. Next. Pop into a grocery store and have a wander through the aisles. Sit in cafes and watch the flow of life.and the price. Eat your lunch outside on the go. The other thing I did was to avoid the hotels listed in the guidebook. either. Walk around aimlessly instead. People love to teach you about . And rely on gestures. The only difference between lunch and supper at a lot of those restaurants is the portion size -. non-judgement and a willingness to learn opens most doors. And then rip it up.
right? Much to my surprise. and even exceed it. Now don't get me wrong. I visited all the historical sites. "What's that thing?" is one of the most useful questions in your toolbox. you'll find your own "sites" around which you'll build your own mythology. meeting interesting people and just hanging around soaking it up. That helps you identify those deep continuities that are at the . Some sites -. saw all the natural wonders.. Go Deep -. I read a couple volumes of history about that place or region. or the Grand Canyon in Arizona -. You'll find that process a heck of a lot easier if you've done your prep. But they live up to it. Other sites are not. And spend the rest of your time in free exploration.how they live if you simply express a bit of curiosity. When you do this. Think about it. I'm more interested in the mundane aspects of everyday life. Some guy visited those places and wrote them down because he either thought they were interesting. I was always disappointed. guided by your instincts and curiosity.like Petra in Jordan. And then I read early travel accounts and old explorer's journals. so I do a lot of research before a trip. And I learn an awful lot more about a place by just walking around some neighbourhoods to see how people live. So do your research. and dutifully checked off every item my guidebook recommended -. Those places are absolutely worth a visit. but I finally realized that experience is the key: finding an interesting place. And then all the other guidebooks followed suit.Do Your Homework I usually end up writing magazine articles about my journeys.are incredibly overhyped. Mark down those sites that really are worth the effort. to get a sense of which aspects of life remained constant and which changed with the times.. one that grows organically from your travels.because they must know. But what about all those postcard things you're supposed to be doing? Should You Do "Sites"? When I first started traveling. or he had several pages to fill. It took me a few years to get it.
but they also isolate you from the place you're traveling through. because he desperately wants to capture the memories of places he never experienced. the struggles and joys. person or series of events -Baroque architecture. And what about drawing on local knowledge? Should You Hire a Local Guide? Guided trips can be informative. And I certainly hope you won't torture your friends and family with them either. The one who walks through the Louvre with a video camera held out at eye level. for example. You're eating in "approved" places and talking to people who are used to dealing with foreigners. of the people I'm traveling among. landmarks from the novels of a favorite author or locations from the Great Siege of Malta. A great guide can open up a whole new world. Why go to all this trouble? Because you'll find a theme to orient your trip. Don't Be "That Guy" You know him.. .heart of a culture or worldview. Oh yeah. shaped by your interests rather than the generic checklists of a tourist guidebook. It's up to you to decide. You're never going to watch those tapes. wine regions or specific schools of art. It's probably obvious to you by now. You might end up searching out sites related to a specific time period. but I still have to say it. Your interactions with the people around you are moderated by a gatekeeper. I also read fiction and poetry by local writers. and no opportunities for misadventure. And that tells me a great deal about the hopes and dreams. All that pre-trip reading makes your journey a personal one. because fiction reveals a person's intimate thoughts in a way no history book ever could. no independent discovery. Or you might decide to explore cafe culture.. And those are often the things that make the trip. and one last point. riverside life. There's no spontaneity. And a bad or incompetent guide can color your entire trip in shades of misery.
and capture memories instead. . And don't let setbacks or "disasters" get you down. experience that place with all your senses. Sometimes the worst experiences make the very best travel stories.Open your eyes.