When I was younger traveling felt like a race to see as much as I could in a short period of time. I was more concerned with collecting passport stamps than anything else. I learned the hard way that although I covered a lot of ground I didn’t really gain much from the places I went besides a few photos.
It’s only recently that I realized that one authentic experience during a trip is better than 50 tourist stops.
-Chris Burkard, Author & Professional Photographer
I landed in Tokyo on a Saturday afternoon, was in Kyoto the next evening, and had a whiskey tasting at the Yamazaki Whiskey Distillery in Osaka on Tuesday morning. This was all done while getting ready to spend that weekend in Melbourne, Australia. While I had an amazing trip and enjoyed many great experiences, it was too much too fast. I missed out on a lot in each city I visited, and I would have been much better suited spending twice as long in half as many places. Rather than regret my rushed trip, I turned it into a great learning experience to make my future trips more meaningful.
My first step towards self-reflection was asking myself: Why did I pack so much into this trip? What was really going on here? After some reflection, I came up with some good reasons for filling my itinerary with so much, as well as some not so good reasons:
I love seeing new and different places, and I’m always excited to explore the world
I have a curiosity to experience exciting new cultures and I wanted to go to many different places
Not So Good Reasons:
I felt the need to check boxes so I could say that I’ve been to a greater number of countries and cities
I realized I was trying to impress others and gain approval by traveling to many places
Growing up I was controlled, so in an attempt to take back control I went too far in the other direction
What I Learned: Traveling is for me, not to impress others. Not for a Facebook post, an Instagram shot, or for the ability to tell others where I went. Now I travel at a much more reasonable pace. I see the ins and outs of each city I visit, making sure to go on spontaneous adventures and connect with locals. Quality over quantity. There’s a quote I now implement when planning travel: “Don’t climb mountains so the world can see you. Climb mountains so that you can see the world.”
Brighton Beach in Melbourne, Australia
Visit & Hang Out With Locals
Spending time with locals can be a travel game changer. When I landed at the airport in Melbourne, Australia, my friend was waiting for me in the arrivals area! From being driven around the city to having a free place to stay to seeing some of the best sites, meeting up with and/or staying with a local can take your travels to the next level. What did I learn? To repeat this experience with others on my trips going forward.
While having cool friends across the globe sounds easier said than done, you’d be surprised how many options are available to meet locals, especially with technology today. Here are some ideas:
Do a post asking if your Facebook friends know anyone who lives in the city that you’ll be traveling to. You can also go through your friend list to see if anyone lives where you’ll be headed
Word of Mouth
Ask your friends and family. You never know where your friends of friends may be living
Similar to Facebook, and you can also send direct messages to locals
Stay With Locals or Fellow Travelers
Try Couchsurfing.com for a free place to stay with a local
Stay in an Airbnb or Hostel
Tours and Meetups
Go on a walking tour or day tour to meet fellow travelers
Do a Google search for local meetups
Phone apps like Tinder can be used to connect with locals. Just make sure to swipe responsibly!
Just landing in Melbourne, Australia and checking out Brighton Beach with my awesome host Nicola!
Practice Being Present
If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.
Many times during my trip I found myself enjoying meaningful experiences and living in the moment. Activities like walking along Brighton Beach in Melbourne to dancing in a Colombian nightclub almost force you into the present.
However, during my down time, whether it was when I was back in my room or on a train ride to a new city, I often found my mind moving over to thoughts of worry or anxiety. It would be common for me to get anxious and worry about returning to work in New York the following week, or to start thinking about other issues that were either in the past or in the future.
By practicing mindfulness through relaxed breathing techniques and listening to meditation recordings on my phone (do a quick search in the App Store and you’ll find many options), I have been able to quiet the mind and achieve a state of relaxation that allows me to enjoy my travels on a deeper level.
Solo Travel Is Great, But So Is Traveling With Others
In 2015 I visited Beijing, Hong Kong, and Japan by myself. I had an amazing time and I was able to meet many locals along the way. It was a fantastic experience and I continue to enjoy solo travel.
However, as I began planning this trip a friend expressed interest in coming with me. Given some of my past tendencies to isolate myself, I thought it would be a good experience to travel with a friend. And I couldn’t have been more right.
From helping with logistics to having a great companion to share activities, meals and drinks with, traveling with friends is a fantastic experience that I look forward to doing again.
As in all areas of life, though, I recommend traveling with the right type of people for you. I always advocate for surrounding yourself with healthy people and I make no exceptions when choosing travel partners.
Tie Personal Growth Into My Travel More
While I continue to go on trips to explore new places and engage with local cultures, I have since tied personal growth into my travels much more. Beginning in 2013, I began a journey of personal development and self-improvement work that has allowed me to achieve a new level of happiness. It has also given me the ability to connect with people on a deeper and more meaningful level. I find myself rapidly changing as a person for the better, and as a result, I have combined forces with self-improvement and travel.
To accomplish this, I now connect my traveling to events like Tony Robbins’s Unleash the Power Within course in San Jose, California as well as other growth events. I also plan to participate in yoga and meditation retreats across the world, which will give me the opportunity to grow as a person while also experiencing new destinations.
. . .
My trip to Australia was memorable for so many reasons, but I am also very grateful for these 5 takeaways so I can continue to learn and grow from my experiences, while also experiencing new countries and cultures along the way.