Our top ten travel tips for happier travels (for everyone concerned)

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Oceania » Australia
September 1st 2012
Published: September 1st 2012
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There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign...” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

This is a very different kind of travel blog to those we normally write while we are travelling overseas. There are a few reasons for this:
- firstly - this post is to let you know that we are planning a trip to Cambodia in a few months, and we are very very excited;
- secondly - we’ve had a bit of encouragement from fellow bloggers to continue writing outside of our overseas trips. Even though I think they meant for us to blog about Tasmania and Australia (which we will do at some point), for now we’re choosing to take that encouragement in the broader sense; and
- thirdly - if the truth be known, the real impetus for writing this blog was the fact that we suddenly find ourselves with six ‘recommends’ from bloggers! Which usually means that a blog we write could end up on the front page of the website. Yes we are slightly shallow like that. 😊

Anyway, back to the actual writing of the blog. Andrew and I have endless conversations about what makes for happy travels and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to share them with you. Please note that some of my opinions may sound harsh, but this is genuinely how I see the world of travel being a happier place for everyone. In no particular order, here they are:

1) Consider your destination. People seem to be getting caught up in travelling to ‘hot’ destinations as dictated by the media, rather than going somewhere that really suits their tastes and their budget. The planning stage should be extremely joyous, and you should be over-the-moon-thrilled about going there! If you’re not, you probably should reconsider if the destination is right for you.

2) Consider staying at home. This point is brutal but honest. Well brutally honest I suppose. We see people who force themselves into travelling overseas to other cultures and then act genuinely surprised when it’s not exactly like back home. I can’t figure out what makes people spend money and precious holiday time travelling long distances to be unhappy. If you’re going to get grumpy and complain about the food being different, or the weather being extreme, or the roads being basic, or that the locals don’t speak or understand your language – my advice is travel within your own country or stay home and invest in a travel channel or a good travel book. You will be much happier, and so will the rest of us.

3) Pack light. As a general rule, less is definitely more when packing. Even after years and years of travelling, I still manage to over pack on most occasions. I find it really hard to pack when we travel through more than two climatic zones on one trip (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). Not surprisingly, it’s always the packing of too many shoes that gets me. Andrew has a mantra that you don’t need more than two pairs of shoes, but the jury is still out on this issue for me. Oh...and try leaving any other baggage at home too, it would make for a much more relaxing trip.

4) Be alert but not paranoid. By all means read up on all the known travel scams, but don’t get so paranoid about the warnings that you can’t tell the difference between touts trying to rip you off and the genuinely nice people trying to help you.

5) Eat the food. I know that food isn’t a very important factor to everyone, but local food is one of our defining features of travel and we have met so many interesting local people through eating at local eateries. We have also developed a much better appreciation of the culture and traditions through understanding the food. Just try it. If you don’t like it that’s ok, but be open to trying it. You may just love it.

6) Learn the language. If you don’t speak their language, don’t expect them to speak yours. In most situations, a phrase book, charades and a smile go a long way to making yourself being understood. As tempting as it is, if someone doesn’t understand you the first time, try not to repeat the same sentence in a louder voice. It doesn’t work – I should know – I catch myself doing this more times than I care to admit, and then squirm on the inside. They aren’t deaf, they just don’t speak English. 😱

7) Be nice. Smiling and saying hello to the locals goes a very long way. It promotes interaction, makes you feel more comfortable, and most importantly it builds a better reputation for tourists and bodes well for all visitors who will come after you. And keep your fellow travellers in mind too – if you wouldn’t want half your plane seat taken up by someone else thigh, please don’t do it to others. In the same vein, if you don’t wish to have your own seat kicked for the duration of a long haul flight, this would be a great opportunity to teach your children not to do it to other people.

8) Consider donating to a NGO rather than giving money to begging children. Facing high levels of poverty is quite distressing, and deciding how we respond to begging can be quite hard. After researching it, we decided that the best option was to give one lump sum of money to a local grassroots organisation rather than giving a few coins here and there to begging children. There is evidence that giving to begging children actually perpetuates their poverty rather than helping it. At best it encourages more begging, and at worst it makes the venture of pimping kids out on street corners more lucrative to criminally organised gangs. This being said, it is very hard not to give to kids who have mastered every trick in the book to get your attention and melt your heart...but we know we are doing the right thing. Check out Childsafe International for more information.

9) Revel in the unknown. It is almost guaranteed that things will go wrong or off schedule at some point. The only way we know how to survive this on the road is to adjust our attitude and focus more on the good than the bad. I know it’s not always possible to smile through tough situations; however, we keep reminding ourselves that we have had some wonderful and memorable experiences when things haven’t gone to plan.

10) Be curious. Lastly, I urge all of us to be open minded and curious about the world. I honestly don’t believe that curiosity ever killed any cats – but stupidity probably has. 😊

I think it always helps to be a happy person in order to be a happy traveller. So here are my ten thoughts:

1. Smiling. Travel can be stressful – currency conversions, crowds, persistent hawkers and loud tourists all take their toll. I stay on top of travel stress by remembering where I am, what I’m doing and who I’m with. If this doesn’t make me smile, I know I shouldn’t be travelling.

2. Being open to new experiences. We travel with open minds and curious natures. We love eating local food, travelling on local transport and communicating with local people. It’s so liberating to be open to new things that come your way.

3. Understanding difference. We love the time it takes to adjust to a different country and culture. Observing, interpreting and adopting local customs is such a rewarding experience – it’s a great feeling when you’re comfortable enough to find your own way around big cities and tiny villages.

4. Being pleasant. As a transient and often disorientated traveller, it’s so welcoming when locals take time to understand you. We repay their hospitality by being pleasant and respectful travellers.

5. Laughing. It’s difficult to travel in a new country without incident, and I always manage at least one major embarrassment. Laughter is the only remedy, and it’s something we do a lot.

6. Being organised AND spontaneous. We keep track of where we’re going and where we’ve been. We plan our days, but we’re continually open to new things. Unplanned experiences can turn up anywhere, so we try not to miss them. They make great travel stories.

7. Capturing experiences. We try not to capture everything through a digital lens. We make a point of capturing our experiences as well – flavours, smells, feelings, emotions. The stronger they are, the longer they stay with us. I’ll never forget the rabbit stew I had in Gubbio.

8. Listening. I love being aware of everything around us, and listening is such great way to take it all in. I listen to everything – especially the underlying sounds of big cities and tiny villages. I make a conscious effort not to listen only to myself.

9. Relaxing. Travel can be exhausting, and when I’m exhausted I’m more likely to miss unplanned experiences. I love unwinding on planes, trains, buses and boats. I really enjoy travel downtime.

10. Being thankful. We are very fortunate to be able to travel. Many can’t. The unhappiest travellers I’ve met are those that think travel is a right, not a privilege.

*Please Note*: It’s no secret that we both have very similar views on life and travel, but in this instance even we were quite surprised at how very alike our opinions were. We questioned if we should re-write parts of it, but decided against it as we wanted this to be a true representation of what we each thought. So sorry readers, instead of 20 travel tips, you may have only ended up with 14 or so...

Well people, that's it for our musings for the moment. We'll try and post at least once a month from now on.

Until next time. May your travels go forth and multiply! 😊


2nd September 2012

I agree with everything you said! What you wrote about beggers over seas is a great suggestion and I am deffinitly considering donation to an organization as the alternative. I encounter people all the time that don't have the luxury of affording to travel... so being thankful, like you suggested, is something I do every day. Great blog and thanks for your insights. Cheers! Jennifer
2nd September 2012

Thanks Jennifer! Glad you enjoyed the post :)
2nd September 2012

We concur oh wise ones!
Hey Ren and Andrew- after less than a week away so far I can see that all these tips are true! You are our travel gurus! We are loving Spain and are starting to unwind into the process a bit...I am using your tips 6,7 and 9 as much as possible with a sprinkle of Andrew's 1,3,6 and 10! Muchos gracias chico y chica!
3rd September 2012

Re: We concur oh wise ones!
Haha Lou, not sure about gurus, but we've found these things work for us; and you know i love a good soap box moment every now and again! so happy that you are enjoying espana, we love that place so much! x
2nd September 2012

So glad we had the time to read your blog today!
Great that you are blogging and very cool that you are front page. Indeed we never understand why people want to travel to foreign lands and want it to be just like home. Does not make any sense to us. Oh but the food is so important, as the customs, language and religious preferences. Icelandic languages have been kicking our butt --- and we keep trying. Love, love, love this blog. Excellent!
3rd September 2012

Re: So glad we the time to read your blog today!
Hey Merry Jo and Dave - thanks muchly! it was a fun post to write. loving reading about your nordic travels and looking forward to the next chapter... travel safe :)
3rd September 2012

Very true!
As you know from our last blog, we are baffled as well by people who travel and then sit there all miserable or want food just like home. Seriously, why bother?! We also hate it when people go to places just to 'tick it off'...if you aren't interested in seeing something, why spend money to do it? It's one thing we have never done and we are glad, life is too short to waste it on doing things you don't enjoy. Good to see you on the front page - hope you are well!
3rd September 2012

Re: Very true!
Haha yes which is exactly why i loved that blog of yours ;) and life is indeed too short to go be a grumpy bum, traveller or not! happy and safe travels guys x
3rd September 2012

Great list
Want to congratulate for managing to summarize your approach and point of view which I truly also share with you, in such a good way - well done. I would only add to your list something about who you travel with - need to make sure you are travelling with people you love - it truly helps for the smiling, for the loughing for the charishing of memories. Our experience have also shown that if you travel with your kids - it also helps a LOT with connecting with local people, learning their ways and getting their help. Not to mention how much your children gain from the travel, which is hopefully at least this point of view on travel, well actually on life in general - smile, plan but be flexible, be ready to co-op with changes and surprises, be curious, open and respectful to everything (other languages, other cultures, other food other weather, other...) and even learn how to pack light (which als translate to use less, need less, leave the bad fillings behind and more). Keep writing!
4th September 2012

Re: Great list
Thanks Sapir family! you are so right - who you travel with can really make or break your trip. we also completely agree that travelling as a child teaches kids invaluable life lessons. :)
4th September 2012

Wise words..
Very good and sensible travel tips. One should experience travel with ALL your senses and I think that one of the best things you should take with you is a sense of humour! As enjoying as what travel is for us, there often is an occasion where you need it. Hope to read more of your blogs - from all corners of the earth!
5th September 2012

Re: Wise words
Thanks Alma! I think our sense of humour has been our saving grace on many occasions - especially our ability to laugh at ourselves and each other. It certainly keeps thing grounded :)
5th September 2012

Insightful and helpful
Found this to be a really interesting blog, and it confirms a number of my beliefs as well. This blog has been featured on Travelblog's Facebook page!
6th September 2012

Re: Insightful and helpful
Thanks Shane! Will check out the FB page :)
5th September 2012

Great Stuff :)
I certainly got caught out by your number one tip. I went to Bali earlier in the year, what a dump that place was. Sometimes the brochures and glossy magazines with their liberal doses of Photoshop conceal the reality. So, it's back on the unbeaten track for me next time :) Cheers!
6th September 2012

Re: Great Stuff :)
Thanks Nick! As an Australian I feel I should apologise for Bali ;)
6th September 2012

How true!
I'm hearing ya!
6th September 2012

How true!
Thanks! Really enjoyed your post on africa - looking forward to more :)
6th September 2012

sound advice!
Oh so true. We met some people today who on hearing we were going to Marrakesh were warning us about it. Third world, food, dirty etc, didn't like it, wouldn't go back. sounds just our type of place, can't wait to go!
7th September 2012

Re: sound advice
Thanks Meryl! Marrakesh is very much on our short list...looking forward to reading about it :)

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