Top Tips for the Intrepid Traveler
With the world constantly more accessible and the internet and television shows opening up our curious minds, it’s a fact that more and more Americans are traveling these days. In fact, for 49 out of our 50 states, travel is among the top ten industries and direct spending on leisure travel by domestic and international travelers totaled $644.9 billion in 2014. Economic downturn or no, terrorism travel threat aside, you can’t argue that more people are traveling. But how many of these travelers like to venture off the beaten path?
Do you consider yourself an intrepid traveler? Are you adventurous enough to try out an exotic destination, or leave without your guidebook in your bag? If you’re thinking about ditching your all-inclusive for a self-designed vacation, trekking to Machu Picchu on the Inca trail, riding a flimsy boat down the Amazon, or even just throwing your fixie in your station wagon and heading across state, then these tips might come in handy.
Be intrepid – The first tip for an intrepid traveler may sound rather obvious, but you need to be intrepid. Be fearless, adventurous; bold. And you might have to fake it ‘til you make it. It’s not always easy to feel courageous and travel alone or travel to lesser visited places. But not only can would-be thieves and criminals smell fear, but being bold and accepting the kindness of strangers; smiling, walking with confidence, and saying “yes” to invitations can lead you to whole new experiences. Just to clarify, still exercise common sense here, but opening your mind to doing things you wouldn’t usually do will lead you to the places other tourists never see and ensure you develop a real understanding for the local culture.
Listen to the locals – Shop where they shop, eat where they eat, speak to the locals wherever possible. Ask them what they really think about the world we live in and their lives. If your language skills aren’t strong, remember that a smile is the universal language and will open many doors for you. Eating and shopping where the locals do will not only save you money and make you friends, but you’re far more likely to sample the real cuisine that’s much tastier or more unusual than anything in tourist restaurants.
Go out of season – If you can avoid traveling during the peak times of year, like summer vacations, spring break, and the holidays, you’ll discover the real heart and soul of the place; see people working, children going to school, and enjoy local national holidays. The majority of tourists will have left and hotels and restaurants are less crowded and less expensive, and the locals are more likely to be interested in you.
Don’t visit tourist destinations – think about visiting cities that aren’t major tourist destinations. Instead of Venice, go to Sicily; replace Cancun with Oaxaca. Go to places that other people don’t. You’ll get to know the locals better and experience their culture in a much more authentic way.
Do something active – Arranging a three day trek, or cycle between destinations is a great way to explore slowly and see the little details you wouldn’t catch while going by bus, car or plane. Look for bikes for sale before you go so that you can choose a traveling buddy that’s right for you, instead of renting one with a patched up tire that leaves you stranded in the outback.
Read local literature – travel with a local novel, poems, or even newspapers. Reading about destinations while you’re in them is a great way to get perspective and feel the place even more deeply. Same applies to local music. Find out what it is and immerse yourself in it.
Backup your photos – whether you’re one of those travelers with a multi-zoom camera or you prefer to snap from your smartphone, make sure to backup. Phones are easy to lose, cameras get damaged, and, well, robberies do happen from time to time. If you have insurance, it won’t matter too much but the photos are irreplaceable.
Keep copies of your documents – in the same vein, be sure to scan and email your documents to yourself. That way, you will always have access to the numbers you need and can cancel your credit cards or documents if necessary.
Have several ways to pay – not all countries readily accept credit or debit cards. Make sure you take cash in local currency and in dollars – not too much though – just enough to get you out of trouble if your accommodations don’t take card, or you already ordered in a restaurant and then found out it only deals in cash. Take more than one card if possible too. International communications can do strange things to credit cards and your perfectly working one may suddenly stop or be rejected. Have a back-up.
Travel light – once you’ve finished packing, unpack. Take everything out and try to halve it. If you can halve it again that would be even better. That’s what you’ll actually need. Most people who travel over pack, and it can be a real hindrance if you want to do something spontaneous.