How to get the most out of your travels

We love to travel and travel often. We always come back home with a wealth of memories. But do we always come back a better, improved and stronger person? Maybe or maybe not.

Here are some ways to challenge yourself on your next travel adventure.

Challenge yourself physically.

Create an itinerary that involves hiking or other outdoor activities. This can be as simple as choosing to walk instead of taking a taxi or bus. Not only will you stay active but you will maximize your time exploring each destination. My first trip to Las Vegas was purely to party and watch a show or two. The next time I went to Vegas, I rented a car and did day trips to Valley of Fire State Park and Zion National Park. I did the Angel’s Landing climb at Zion and loved every minute of the challenging (and dangerous) climb to the top. I pushed my body to the limit and my reward was a breathtaking view at the top. I drove back wanting to plan my next mountain climbing trip. What are some of the challenging travel hikes that you have done?

How to get the most out of your travels
The climb to Angel’s Landing
How to get the most out of your travels
Angel’s Landing

Engage yourself mentally.

I have found that to truly appreciate a foreign destination, you should take time to learn its history and culture. This will give you a context when doing your sightseeing and people-watching. Take time to socialize with locals, sample local cuisine and take part in their traditions (if appropriate). This will make it easier for you to connect with the city and its people. During my trip to Istanbul, I took the time to visit the local mosques (some of them were former churches) and the Istanbul Military Museum in order to understand the rich history of this beautiful city which was once known as Constantinople.

How to get the most out of your travels
Hagia Sophia (A Church during the Byzantine rule which was converted to a Mosque by the Ottoman Empire)
How to get the most out of your travels
Mehter (Ottoman Military) Band with a quote by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey

I visited the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul to learn more about the Korean War. North and South Korea are still officially at war as a peace treaty was never signed. Seoul is one of the largest cities in the world and its infrastructure is world class. The fact that modern day Seoul was built on the ashes of the Korean War is simply amazing.

How to get the most out of your travels
War Memorial of Korea

Eat authentic local food.

Unless you are visiting areas off the beaten path, you will find an abundance of international cuisine in any major travel destination. Research some of the favourite spots that locals go to and visit them. You will be surprised by the warm reception and even better cuisine at these spots. This is not to say that you shouldn’t visit the local McDonald’s or Starbucks. Do what appeals to you. On my trip to Istanbul, I visited the Kale Cafe for breakfast after watching Anthony Bourdain eat there on “Parts Unknown”. I had a great seat for watching the ferries go up and down the Bosphorus strait and I also ate like a sultan. What are some of the best eats that you have had on your travels?

How to get the most out of your travels
Turkish breakfast at Kale Cafe
How to get the most out of your travels
Looking towards the Asian side of Istanbul

Turn off your camera.

Most travellers will carry their phone, camera, and even a camcorder. During my trip to Seoul, South Korea, I went to Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is one of the biggest tourist attractions there. They have a “changing of the guards” ceremony which is very powerful and colourful. I saw plenty of tourists recording the entire ceremony from start to end and holding their cameras up for over 10 minutes. There is a good chance that video may never be watched again. Better to put the camera away and take in the sights and sounds. It will make for a good story and you can always show your friends a video on Youtube that someone else may have recorded.

How to get the most out of your travels
Changing of the Guard ceremony at Gyeongbokgung Palace

Learn some key phrases in the local language.

I like to learn a few helpful words and phrases in the local language before I travel. Not only will this help you but this can be an excellent ice-breaker when interacting with locals. During my trip to South Korea, I learned how to say “Hello”, “Thank you”, and learned the names of my favourite Korean foods. This helped me tremendously during my stay in Seoul and Busan. Interacting and connecting with locals will enhance your travel experience and give you motivation to learn more languages.

Thank you for reading. There are many other ways for travellers to get the most from their travels. Can you think of any others? Please comment and let me know!

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