When it comes to travel, we all do it for different reasons.
Whether its taking a vacation from work, pushing ourself out of our comfort zone, fulfilling a personal goal or desire to visit a specific place, or improving our language skills or chasing a dream... we all should consider what it means to be a conscious traveler.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
Top tips to be a more conscious traveler
(Before the trip)
1. Try not to overthink everything
Your journey begins the moment you decide to take it.
It's at this precise moment of choice when you get a taste of the real freedom of travel; of true spontaneity and what it really means to go-with-the-flow.
You begin by choosing your destination; then, making some rough plans of what you'll do while you're there, how long you'll stay, and when you'll return home... or continue onwards to the next.
The feeling of planning your first trip is unparalleled; it's all up to you! Although freeing, this can also be a little overwhelming. So here's my first tip: try not to overthink everything.
Try and be flexible with your travel plans while keeping your hopes and goals in mind. You'll soon discover that in regards to travel, some things are better left unplanned. Don't try and control your experience, and instead welcome all the possibilities that await you.
(During the trip)
2. Be outgoing; socialize outside of your comfort zone
Push yourself to be more outgoing.
If you see someone sitting at a café drinking a coffee alone, approach and ask if they don't mind you joining them! You could end up having a fascinating conversation, and it's also a great way to start your day.
Who knows, maybe they're going to the same walking tour as you are or they have a fantastic plan for the day and you end up being a part of it!
Personally, I was a little shy when I first began traveling. I always watched other people seem to have a much easier time interacting with strangers. When I was volunteering in Paris, I noticed that many people would strike up conversations with a simple, "excuse me, do you have a lighter?"
Since I don't smoke, I decided to find my own social tool — my own makeshift cigarette — wine! Who doesn't like wine?!
I can't even describe how well this went! And the best thing was, I was not only enjoying a tasty wine, but also making a lot of friends, sharing cool stories, exchanging Instagram accounts and even planning reunion meet-ups!
I encourage you to discover your own social tool and be outgoing. At the very least, until you get comfortable being a social butterfly. You'll soon discover yourself making friends with people from all over the world... with ease!
3. Listen more than you speak, but don't be afraid to voice your opinion
You don't have to fake anything. But before you speak, listen.
When traveling, you are a guest in someone else's country, and it's best to be respectful and keep an open mind.
Care about the conversations you have — about what other people are sharing with you. Then, share something too! Share your passions, your thoughts, hopes, dreams. Try and connect on what you share, rather than focusing on where you're different.
4. Always dedicate quality time to roots and connect with your loved ones
Because you'll be far away from home and immersed in a new experience, you might find it more difficult to reach out to friends and family as frequently as you usually do.
But it is so important to remember your loved ones and make an effort todedicate them the time they deserve.
In addition to texting and calling, you can always send them a nice postcard from the places you visit. It's really such a sweet gesture and they'll be so appreciative.
5. Keep a journal
This is such an important one! Aside from writing down all of the typical, local sayings you listen to in the street or maybe an amazing new dish you tried, keeping a journal is a great practice of reflection and is a fantastic way to check in with yourself while you travel.
Also, travel is a great way to get inspired, and why not jot down the inspiration that comes to mind? Who knows, you may end up being a blogger!
6. Be curious. Ask questions. Learn.
This applies to everything.
From people to places — if something or someone catches your attention, approach respectfully, be curious, and ask questions! It's not awkward if you don't feel awkward.
And when you ask something, be sure you're literally listening and being open to learning new things.
Here's one of my own travel stories about the power of curiosity:
The following day we were having breakfast and I told him how awesome I thought it was that he was from the Ligurian Region. I had always wanted to go to Liguria for nature-inspired activities; more specifically, trekking.
Because I was curious and asked, we end up talking a lot and he even wrote me a whole list of the best trekking paths in Liguria. Furthermore, because of my openness and expressed interest, he emailed with a list of all the things I should visit, all the food I should try and many interesting historical facts about Genova.
I was so inspired by our conversation and all of his kindness that as soon as my current volunteer program finishes, I'm moving to another hostel in Genova to experience all of the amazing things he told me about!
One of the most magnificent things about travel is that it has the power to truly humble you.
Whether you end up back home or in a new country, or even stay in the country you originally went to visit... stay humble, keep an open mind, be kind.
The fact that your trip is over doesn't mean you should shift back into the person you once were. Keep your expansive worldview, the humility you've gained through interacting with different cultures, belief systems, and attitudes, and use all that you've had the privilege to see, feel and experience for good!