When planning any holiday or extended period of travel, the aim, or hope, is usually to have the experience of a lifetime. There are of course practicalities to consider and arrange, such as insurance, injections, and packing appropriate documentation and clothing, but once the logistics are covered, what can you do to ensure that you really get that magical experience once you touch down on foreign shores?
Meeting local people and getting to understand their culture or customs is invaluable in carving out memorable travel experiences. The internet makes it easy for you to pick up a few words of the local lingo before you reach your destination and just a little effort on your part to learn, will earn you a lot in hospitality once you arrive. Use your outgoing flight if possible to practice your phrases and where you lack the words, smile and gesture. People, regardless of culture, age or gender, recognise sincerity and will reward it with kindness. Some of the best travel experiences ever have been those which have uncovered the kindness of strangers.
If the locals eat there, try it, and be brave enough to select foods from the menu or supermarket shelf you’ve never tried before. You’ll find the more interest you show in local flavours, the more responsive residents will be to share their way of life, or even their lunch with you. Just remember that tastes vary so if something disagrees with your palate, try to swallow it graciously, spitting it out will offend your host.
Public transport is generally available in some form in most countries, but timetables – if they exist – can be sporadic and difficult to understand. Don’t make life difficult for yourself; hire a car. Renting a car gives you not only the means to get from one place to another, but an opportunity to turn off onto unknown tracks for spontaneous adventures, to pull into a roadside café or snack-stop to pick up supplies or just stretch your legs, to pause, take in a view or pick some low-hanging roadside fruits. Booking before you travel with reputable companies like Holiday Autos will ensure that a vehicle is reserved and that you won’t find yourself stung by hidden charges or documents in languages you don’t understand.
Never rely on tourist information or a travel guide for the low-down on the best places to visit. Instead, use online resources such as TripAdvisor or VirtualTourist which are compiled by those in the know, and what’s more, just because you’ve done your research, don’t assume you have all the answers or information regarding what to see once you arrive. Ask questions constantly, because whether speaking to locals or fellow travellers, any place worth visiting will be talked about enthusiastically. If you lack the confidence or opportunity to ask for tips, check any notice boards in backpacking hostels, hotels and stores for information.
Go with the flow and let your travels take you where they will. Plans, itineraries and maps are all well and good but if you stick to them too rigidly, you will almost certainly be missing out on unique opportunities.