Travel the Way You Want To

Five years ago, my mother and I walked into the Prado Museum in Madrid.  Forty-five minutes later, we walked out.  The museum is world-renowned, full of famous art, and on top of that, it was free.

But we just didn’t care.  I’ve never been a big fan of art museums and the Prado was no different.  We should’ve spent that 45 minutes doing something that actually interested us, like sampling a thousand tapas.

I'm not ashamed to say my favorite part of visiting Madrid was eating all their amazing food.
I’m not ashamed to say my favorite part of visiting Madrid was eating all their amazing food.

Traveling long-term brings time to spare.  Every day, there’s something I push to later on my agenda, saying I’ll visit that great attraction the next day.  When you always have a next day, it’s a fair mentality to live by.  In the meantime, I end up spending my days doing the things I want to do, activities that will bring immediate satisfaction.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve accidentally run out of time to see everything, realizing I’m moving on to the next city before I took a photo of every famous church, visited every weaving cooperative, or sampled every tortilla in town.  I’ve spent my days talking to locals, wandering through town and taking note of everything they do differently, and playing Scrabble (in Spanish) with people I barely know.

Just chilling in the park and watching the world go by.
Just chilling in the park and watching the world go by.

I’ve certainly fallen into the trap of doing something because it was recommended by a friend or simply because its famous.  I’ve wasted time standing in line for attractions that only added minimal enjoyment to my trip.  I’ve stayed in upscale hotels because it seemed like they’d enhance my experience.  And I’ve unfortunately foregone activities I think I would have loved because instead I did something the guidebook said was “best”.

Why did I go to San Francisco instead of spending longer in Yosemite?
Why did I go to San Francisco instead of spending longer in Yosemite?

I’ve also been chided by other travelers for the way I travel.  Yes, I travel with a plan.  Yes, I travel with my laptop instead of disconnecting.  Yes, I think that sometimes group tours have a lot to offer.

Tweet: I've stopped caring what other travelers think of me after realizing what works for me. http://ctt.ec/48XR_+

I’ve stopped caring what others think of me after realizing that these options work for me.

 

As often as I give travel advice on my blog, it seems only fair that I share the best piece of advice I have to give: travel the way you want to.  Throw all my rules — and everyone else’s — out the window.  Grasp the adventure you’re seeking or forget adventure altogether and enjoy a relaxing week on the beach.  Immerse yourself in culture when you want to learn a new way of live and don’t be afraid to crave a comfortable bed, hot shower, and familiar setting when that’s what you need most.

Bonjour, Auberge Saint Antoine (Quebec). Thank you for a warm welcome when I wanted to come in from the cold.
Bonjour, Auberge Saint Antoine (Quebec). Thank you for a warm welcome when I wanted to come in from the cold.

No matter how you travel, you’re still seeing more of the world.

I’ve met people from all over the world in the “non-authentic” form of traveling by cruise ship, eaten in a local family’s home even on a bus tour, people-watched in the inside of a mall.  If an activity appeals to you, seize the opportunity…no matter what it is.

Travel is about opening yourself up to experiences, enjoying time away from responsibility, and discovering something new about yourself or the world.  Don’t be afraid to skip the world-class museum or scenic view if you just don’t care.  Spend your time enjoying your vacation, whether that’s at an all-inclusive resort or roughing it at a dingy hostel.

Travel the way you want to and you’ll create memories that you’ll passionately remember for years.

1 thought on “Travel the Way You Want To”

  1. Love this. Travel really should be personal. Some people want to see and do everything, others want to spend the entire day doing nothing, and just relax. My ultimate travel guilty pleasure (some of you will cringe at this) is that I love watching cable TV and movies on vacation, even overseas. I build at least an hour a day in for it, more if there are DVD’s to be lent from the front desk. Also helps when you’re on US time and it is 2am locally!

    My wife and I almost never watch tv or movies when at home, so when we travel we catch up on all that we’ve missed in the past few months. And…the movies aren’t even good, “The Watch,” “Grudge Match,” “Last Vegas,” “The Green Hornet.” in fact when a new movie comes out and looks terrible we call it a Vacation movie. “Lets remember to watch Neighbors, it looks like a total Vacation Movie.”

    The absolute lowest example of this was watching a DVD bootleg with Russian subtitles of the Lifetime Made-for-TV movie “Who is Clark Rockafeller?” on a tiny island near the Thailand/Malaysia border. Anytime news of the case comes on I’m back on that island…

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