Going on a trip is nice. There’s a big, soft spot in my heart for all inclusive resorts, ski in/out chalets, and tightly organized tours. But going on trips is not quite the same as true traveling. While the former is mostly associated with leisure, the latter requires a special sense of adventure, resilience and strength of character. I believe there are several traits and mindsets that every one of us who sets out to travel must be equipped with if we’re going to get the most out of our journeys.
Sense of humor. While glorious sunsets, desert tours, and five-star dining are delightful, the true traveler understands that language barriers, upset stomachs, missed connections, and a multitude of other mishaps are the real stuff a travel legend is made of. I firmly believe in prioritizing health and safety, but at the end of the day, life happens. Once you make it through a storm, don’t hang on to your frustrations. Learn to find the comedy in your less than shining moments. Appreciate them for the lessons they teach you and for the stories they’ll become, and make your way to the next adventure along your path.
Humility. You’re awesome—we know this to be true. You’ve taken hold of the reigns of your life and decided to traverse the globe, and you have every right to be proud of that. But, the people in the places you’re visiting also have every right to keep on keeping on as they were, long before you and all your admittedly awesome ways arrived. True travel isn’t so much about your fabulous itinerary as much as it is about how you learn to interact with the environments you go into.
Take a beat and observe the customs and everyday ebb and flow of your new locale. Ask questions. Be willing to try some new things, to make some mistakes and to learn from them.
Let people show you what makes them so proud about their culture, and be appreciative of the time they’ve taken to show you. When you do you’ll find a world of genuineness open up to you, and you’ll have a much greater access to even more of the things that you likely traveled to discover in the first place.
Creativity. If life hands you lemons, travel can dump the whole orchard on you. There’s just no way to predict so many things that may happen to you when you’re away from home. As such, resourcefulness and creativity are must have traits in any traveler’s toolkit. Instead of fretting over details that haven’t gone according to your plan, try to embrace the opportunities to think on your feet. The more comfortable you become being uncomfortable, the more you’ll be able to get out of the experiences you’re going to encounter. Chances are you’ll find yourself not just surviving, but thriving in those unexpected situations.
Open mindedness. I’m learning to lay down whatever pre-conceived notions I may enter my travels with.The moments that stick with me most from my travels aren’t the times I’ve learned about cultural differences. There are the times I’ve seen the simplest, sweetest similarities between people.
You don’t have to understand or accept every aspect of every culture, nor do you need to change your world view every time you disembark at a new locale.
Sometimes it’s just nice to gain an appreciation for another perspective, and see that there’s far more that connects us than divides us. In that sense, you can take a little of each place you go with you in the form of a renewed way of seeing the world and the people in it.
A sense of the moment. Each day, each experience and each moment of your travel is special. No matter how mundane or average they may seem, it’s good to take into consideration that not everyone gets the opportunity you’ve been afforded. Savoring the moment doesn’t mean snapping every photo or jotting down every detail of your trip. It means being present—fully tasting the wine, feeling the breeze on your cheek, counting the colors in the sunset. Your appreciation of those small moments will put an imprint on your spirit that no picture or diary entry could ever do justice. And those imprints? They’re the reason why we travel to begin with.
This story was curated by Njaimeh Njie.