Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a traveller, about the profound effect travelling can have on our lives and our outlook, and about how the decisions we make as a traveller are important and have a knock on effect.
We can allow travel to do what we really want to do: become better, more aware and conscientious people, who are bold yet humble, who act on their own terms and do what it takes to fulfil their own dreams, yet also give from their heart to those in need. We can allow travel to ignite our soul, lead us to who we want to be. Or, we can allow travel to not change us at all, to continue to be subservient to the status quo. To travel just to get drunk. To follow the crowd. To be the unconscientious traveller.
I think most of us want the former. But sometimes it’s hard to really focus on what we want. We get stuck because of money, we follow the crowd because we’re unsure what our next move should be, we follow the well travelled road because we are scared to break free.
So, I present to you this manifesto, if you want to move forward, if you want to follow your own beat and feel your own fierce flame, if you want to go your own way.
1. Talk to a variety of people and really get to know your fellow travellers. Compliment them, ask them questions, and be honest. Sometimes when we start travelling it can be daunting going up to a group of people and making conversation, but we forget that same group of people probably only met each other an hour ago. So put yourself out there, because part of the beauty of travelling is getting to know people and making friends from all over the world. Don’t be afraid to make an effort with people who you feel have views that really resonate with you. Travel is a great opportunity to ‘find your tribe’ – to find the people who just get you.
2. Don’t stay in the same place if you hate it. Move on. There’s a whole world out there. And don’t feel guilty for wanting to move on, for not seeing the same beauty others see in a place.
3. In the same merit, if you love a place, stay. Don’t leave before you’re ready. If you fall in love with a place stay until it spits you out. Explore every nook and cranny. Wear it out until it wears you out.
4. Don’t do it just because everyone else is. Don’t feel you have to go to the bar, travel a certain way, do a skydive, etc. do what you feel is right for you.
5. Take everything for what exactly what it is. If you go to Nha Trang in Vietnam knowing it’s the Russians answer to Benidorm and not expecting anything else, then you can enjoy yourself there for what it is. Even if a place isn’t to our usual taste, if we can appreciate it for its own weird and wonderful beauty, then judgement can disappear.
6. Be a conscientious traveller and think about your impact. Don’t let the fact you’re not at home stop you from taking care of the environment around you. Recycle. Support the local community wherever you go. Read up on the environment and culture and respect it. See the ways you can help the area you may be travelling to, and avoid tourist traps which are damaging to the environment, to local customs, to the local people and to animals. Spread the word to others. Don’t ride elephants or go to ‘Tiger Temples’. Participate in beach clean ups. Volunteer (and make sure you do your research when you volunteer to make sure it is ethical and truly helpful to the community). Give back.
7. Travel with an open heart and an open mind. Don’t write anything off. Allow yourself open to opinions, circumstances, experiences, adventure. Be a travelling sponge. Absorb. Allow yourself to learn wherever you go.
8. Talk to locals. Get to know the local area in the best way possible. Learn phrases in the local language. Ask about the cuisine or the history or the different customs. Get out of the habit of surrounding yourself only with backpackers.
10. Document your travels. Write in a journal. Take plenty of photos. Make a scrapbook. Share it with everyone or keep it to yourself. Document in any way you like, in the way that feels most natural for you. I met one girl who is an illustrator and documents her travels on a blog through drawn up comic strips. Be creative, or be formulaic. Just make sure you have those little things to hold on to, to look back on and cry and laugh and reminisce. Real, tangible proof that you really did live that, glorious, wonderful, flamboyant and colourful life.
11. Travel your way. Travel slow and stay until your visa runs out if that’s what you want. Travel year long. Or travel only on weekends. Travel on a shoestring or travel on a blowout. Eat street food in India. Gamble in Vegas. Travel with just a day bag, or with a huge suitcase with three pairs of heels. People will always try to give you advice on the best way to travel. Listen to it. Take it in. Contemplate it. But ultimately do it your way. Even if it goes against my advice or your parents advice. Just do it the way you want and need to. Because it’s your life.
12. Live in the present. This is something I often forget to do. It’s good to reminisce and it’s good to be excited for the future, but ultimately, make sure you live in this very moment, even if this moment is kinda boring. Appreciate where you are right now. Be present and mindful and grateful and you will forever be the best kind of traveller and the best kind of person.