If you’ve ever admired the travel chops of a friend or coworker and thought that, someday, you’d like to have enough travel experience under your belt to travel as smoothly as they do…I have good news for you. You can travel like a pro without any travel experience at all. And it has nothing to do with packing or web surfing for deals – rather, the keys to truly rewarding and easy travels lie in the decisions you make before you book a single hotel room:
1. Make the commitment. Travel is a choice…and an investment. Mainly, it’s an investment in yourself. Few things are more educational and enlightening than international travel. But you have to really embrace it as an important component of your life, and that means being willing to spend money on it. We all want to spend our money wisely, but nickel-and-diming your travel plans will only diminish your Return on Investment. Pro travelers know when to throw a few extra dollars at parts of a trip, for the betterment of the whole.
2. Know thyself…and to thine own self be true. This may sound obvious, but to get the most out of your travels, it helps to know what you want to get out of them before you start. Are you an active, always on-the-go person, or do you like time to relax? Do you prefer the energy of a city or the calm of a nature retreat? Do the “must-see” attractions in a given city actually appeal to you, or do you, like me, feel “meh” about almost all museums? Are hotel amenities important to you, or would you rather sleep in a dormitory so you can spend all your money on gourmet food? The destinations you choose, how you plan your itinerary, and what you spend your money on are all highly personal and highly dependent on your travel goals. Certainly, compromises are often necessary, particularly if you’re traveling with other people, but there’s zero chance of having a satisfying vacation if you don’t first know what you want and then plan accordingly.
3. Let other people do things for you. Some travelers attach a badge of honor to doing everything on their own (I’ve been guilty of that, too). But how many people really have the time (or the desire) to figure out all the minutiae involved in a complex international trip? Travel becomes a much Bigger Deal when it requires a large upfront time commitment from you and when you feel responsible for executing the trip by yourself. Defer to the experts, instead of trying to become one. From big picture choices like using a travel agent or booking an escorted tour, to little things like choosing a private transfer from the airport to your hotel, delegating some of the responsibility of travel will make the entire experience much easier and less stressful (dare I even say “stress-free”?), which translates into more fun.
For many people, sadly, travel is stressful and viewed foremost as a money pit. But when done well, travel can be profoundly life altering. You don’t need experience to make it so; anyone with the proper attitude and the right approach to planning and execution can travel like a boss.