Since I’m also always looking for ways to travel or go on a little ‘get away’, why not share my experiences with the world! Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you travel more often, carpe travelem! I just invented that one 😉
1. Eliminate boundaries: know your languages
I speak 4 languages: Dutch, English, French and German, and with some effort, I can understand Spanish. This always helps when you travel, since explaining things to people who don’t speak the same language as you can prove to be difficult and time-consuming.
English is a great language for this and it often acts as a bridge between people with different nationalities and languages. However! In cities in Europe and also in Asia and Africa, you can expect people to understand English, may it be with a bit of ‘hair on it’ 🙂 But in more rural parts of a country (and in many cities, too, when they haven’t been discovered by the big tourist crowds yet, and thank god for that!), many people speak only their OWN language. I noticed this when I was travelling in Bratislava, Slovakia and even Budapest, Hungary. There, I found it very useful to at least know some common words and expressions in the local language. So please make an effort and try to learn these before of during your trip. In my case, I made a spreadsheet in Excel, with 4 columns: 1 for Munich / Salzburg / Vienna, 1 for Bratislava and 1 for Budapest and then 1 with Dutch words/expressions I wanted to know in the local language. It took me some time, since there were about 30-40 words and expressions, but it was eventually worth it.
People always appreciate when you at least try to speak their language, I know I do.
The downside of this: if you pronounce the word as it should be, people often think: ‘Aha, he/she understands and speaks my language! Let’s talk some more!’ And then you probably will have a very confused look on your face 🙂
2. Work for an international company and go to international meetings or seminars if you can
You, as a working person who loves to travel, (maybe) have to work somewhere, so why not try to go work for an international company? Not only do you feel part of a bigger whole and get to work together with colleagues from all over the world (depending on the job you have), you sometimes, even if it’s not very often, get the opportunity to go to an international meeting, seminar or training.
And when it fits in your schedule, why not stay longer for a few days and enjoy the city/area a little longer? 🙂 Do realize that travelling light will not be so easy to do, since you need to pack for your business trip and for your own-time trip, which usually requires a different kind of dress code.
3. Reserve all your holiday time for travel if you can and plan efficiently
Not an easy one if you just bought a house (and are renovating it) or when you have kids and are bound to school holidays, but still, efficient planning is the key! In Belgium, for example, there are a lot of days off in May, so you don’t have to take as many days off. Use your calendar, or even an Excel-file, whatever is most convenient for you to see windows of travel opportunity.
4. Plan up front, as soon as there is a window of opportunity, you don’t have to look for your next location
Now here is a useful tool if you want to plan your trip by yourself, based on recommendations on TripAdvisor and other travel websites/ travel books! I you really want to see a country or area, you have to travel around. Google Maps can help here! Not via the ‘normal’ maps, but via this link: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/. And here is how to use it.
Given the limited time you have (one of the biggest downsides of working and travelling: you don’t have a huge amount of days off…), you can’t afford to NOT plan and prepare your trip. One of the things I would hate most: when I return home and meet somebody who also visited the country I’ve just been to and this person says:
– “Oh, and have you seen X and done Y? Amazing, isn’t it!”
– ‘Euhm, well, no, I guess I missed that one…’ (in Dutch: godnondemiljaardedju! = damn)
Terrible feeling, right?
Especially since I’m travelling with the vision: I’m here now, I want to see as much as I can (without having to race through the country, because then you won’t be able to enjoy it as much. Relaxing and doing nothing, just enjoying the view is also a part of travel bliss) because I still have so many things to see, I probably won’t come back again.
Luckily, thanks to my preparations, I’m usually the one saying:
– ‘Oh, you have been there, too?
I think X was one of the best local dishes I ever ate! Have you tried it?’
– “Euhm, well, no, but we did a lot of cool stuff too!”
– ‘Of course you did, what a great place!’
*thinking about that fantastic traditional garlic soup I had in a typical pub in Bratislava or the little restaurant I found in Salzburg, purely by accident. I was so hungry and couldn’t find any restaurant that was still open, and there it was: best Wienerschnitzel ever! (they are not on TripAdvisor, and I hope they will never be, if you want authenticity, go look for it)
I get a lot of inspiration from National Geographic, certainly now they started with travel guides on different countries, and also sites such as Budget Travel and even news websites such as the Telegraph Travel. Inspiration is just one click away!
5. Nobody to go with you? Go solo!
Quality time with Me, Myself and I
If I would wait until I found a travel companion every time the opportunity to travel is there, I probably would return a lot sooner after an international meeting. You want to see X, your companion(s) wants to see Y? Compromise, or go by yourself, no better way to get to know who you really are than to travel solo to a new place.
Of course, it’s always scary in the beginning, and you need to be more aware of your surroundings, there is nobody to watch your bag when you have to go (you know) or when you want to go swimming, and you can’t share your experiences right away. Just talk to yourself instead (apparently that’s a sign of intelligence 😉 ) or write it down in your travel diary if you want to. And with things like Skype and Social Media, everyone you want can enjoy your trip with you, just don’t forget to enjoy it first, live in the moment.
The sense of empowerment you get from travelling solo is so rewarding! Your confidence grows, and you (start to) appreciate your own company, something which is often forgotten in these ‘always-rush-hour-times’. For more tips on solo travel: check out these websites: http://solotravelerblog.com/, http://www.solotravel.org/, https://www.statravel.co.uk/travel-blog/2014/05/why-everyone-should-go-travelling-alone/.
Go and explore!