Travel is my reward for working hard all year round. I save up and then, I splurge on a trip and because the trips are so desperately awaited, it becomes all the more important that I make every moment count.
I have come up with a list of things that you should do during your trip abroad to enrich your experience.
1) Try the local food/beverage
Every country has its own specialty when it comes to the food. Instead of sticking to conventional choices, you should explore the local cuisine. Try the local tea and coffee.
Most countries you visit will have a unique way of making tea & coffee with flavors that you’ll forever associate with that particular country.
There is a reason why the Swiss Fondue, Italian Pizza, and Vietnamese coffee are so famous. If you do a little bit of research, you’ll find out that every country has something special to offer. An easy goal to have on your travel bucket list.
2) Morning & Late-evening walk
Wake up early and go for a walk! It’ll be less crowded and noisy. You’ll get to see the whole place bathed in the soft, luminous light of the morning sun. Then, once you are done with your day’s exploration, post-dinner go for another walk.
Every city looks different at night. Most famous attractions are lit up at night and appear quite beautiful. Apart from everything else, when we are busy striking off ‘must-visit’ places from our list, we don’t really take the time to stop and enjoy the beauty around us.
Before you know it, it’s time to leave and you depart with a lot of pictures in your camera, but none locked up in your heart. Stop and take in the essence of the place, you may never again have the opportunity to go back there. Make the most of your time.
3) Interact with the locals
I had such fun talking to people in Italy. They are the sweetest, warmest people I’ve ever met! I’ve been to a few countries, but so far, the Italians have been my favorite. Speaking to the locals can be educational and fun. It will also build your confidence because meeting locals is not easy. Approaching a stranger and striking up a conversation is hard.
Another benefit to this is that you get a lot of great advice. The locals are the best source of information. They know exactly what places to visit based on your interests. Ask them about their favorite places and the history of the local attractions. They can give you tips on money-saving tactics and restaurants and pubs to avoid.
4) Be Spontaneous
Leave one day or at least half a day absolutely free. Once you have a general idea of this brand new city you are visiting, you would know what you would like to see more of, so do that. Tag along with a tour group. Just spend a day without any planning and have some carefree, spontaneous fun.
5) Public Transport
Oh, yes! Public transport is different everywhere. The basic offering is the same, but the way it is used and utilized, its setup and usage – it’s all very different and varied. You want to judge the local conduct, do it on the basis of the public transport.
The Swiss metro system in Lausanne was delightful. In India, experiencing the public transport will give you an idea of what it means to travel in the second most populated country in the world. People in London mind their own business.
In my entire year there, I never once made eye-contact with anyone while traveling the metro. Also, using public transport means that you get to explore more without spending too much money. Figuring out the routes is a fun exercise. All in all, it’s worth a shot and practical!
6) Local Markets
I love Migros- the supermarket I found in Switzerland. I loved the local jewelry market in Venice. Indian local markets can offer you fabrics with colors and textures you’ve never seen before. Shopping from the local markets is an opportunity to pick up stuff that is different from what you already own and, they are always cheaper than the stuff you find in boutiques and high-end brands.
This is on the top of my bucket list. Someday I will gather the courage to visit a country at the time of a popular carnival or festival. I was lucky enough to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in London…oh, the dancing and laughter!
I am usually uncomfortable around drunk people, but the excitement in the air kept my spirit up and there was so much fun to be had that I simply had no time to feel uncomfortable.
Definitely an experience I would like to repeat. It’s also a good way to get up close and personal with the local culture. Based on the pictures I’ve seen, the events have parades, costumes, colorful masks, music, and food. What’s not to love!
8) Sleep under the stars
An ideal setup would be traveling to Norway and sleeping on a hired boat with a view of the Northern Lights. The very thought of it makes me giddy with excitement.
So, sleeping under the open sky is definitely on the bucket list. Maybe renting a hotel room with a glass ceiling or a tree house. Camping is also an option. I would prefer having an actual bed under me so, maybe I’ll stick with the hotel option and there are many. Here’s a link to a bunch of them.
Shopping at the local markets in the morning and fine dining in the evening – from one extreme to another! It will keep things interesting. Fine dining all over the world has some things in common obviously because it is FINE DINING!
So, the sophistication, dress code, a billion spoons on your table – all of it has to be there, but I do feel that every place adds it’s own unique elements to the experience. So, definitely worth trying.
10) Learn common phrases of the local language
Even if it’s just hello, goodbye or excuse me, you should learn a few phrases of the local language. It will make you feel less like an outsider. The locals will respond with more warmth. They may laugh at your accent, but they’ll definitely like you more for it.
11) Wander & wonder
Shut off your GPS and put away the list! Pick a random lane and just wander down the road and see where it takes you. You might just stumble upon something beautiful which would be all the more exciting for the sheer unexpectedness of it.
If your phone is stashed away in your pocket and not the recipient of your constant attention, you’ll be able to enjoy your surroundings a lot more. Just stick to places that look safe and have a fair amount of crowd and you’ll be fine.
12) Picnic/al fresco
I implore you to try this! One of my favorite things to do! I love picnics. Pack your favorite food and go to a nearby park, preferably next to a nice view or in the grounds of a castle. My last picnic was on the grounds of Chillon castle.
Picnics are so simple to put together and barely cost anything. You get back to nature and really de-stress. Before you know it, you are enjoying good food with a cool breeze on your face and the birds chirping nearby.
13) Local Performances
Someday I am going to travel to Greece and watch Greek dancing. Local performance should definitely be on your bucket list.
These are one of those things that are exclusive to the country you visit and therefore, you should take advantage of your visit and add to your experience by taking in a dance or play.
14) Get off the beaten track
Don’t just explore the brochure or tour guide recommended places. Explore areas that are not as commercialized. In Switzerland, I got on a random bus (thanks to Swiss Pass) and took the scenic route through various small towns. I packed quite a bit of exploring in the span of a few hours and enjoyed sights that were not on the original itinerary.
15) Give away your leftover currency
Collect some karma points and add a little bit of brightness to someone’s day by giving away your leftover currency. You’ll be giving away money that may not be very useful to you, but it might become the means to someone’s next meal.
This was a list of my favorites. What are some of the things you love doing during your trips? Let me know and for more travel tips, subscribe to the newsletter.
Travel shouldn’t be about clicking perfect pictures, it should be about experiences that leave a mark on our minds and souls. You are lucky enough to travel, show your gratitude by enjoying every second of it as much as you can.