The more you put in to travel, the more you get out of it. The depth of your preparation will equal the depth of the experience.
Do your home work on the places you'll visit. If it's a sun resort, the preparation is simple but do some research on interesting places near the beach in case you get bored or it turns cooler.
For any other kind of travel, dig in. Read a novel featuring the country or city or region. Do a little Wikipedia digging.
Websites now produce a fantastic range of information as even small towns compete for your visit and finally, think carefully about what you'll take with you. The more you have to carry, the less satisfying your trip will be. Good luck.
Here are some of the tips for a more satisfying travel:
1. Slow Down.
Forget the roses. Smell the street food.
On our Sunday walks here in Hanoi, we often stop at a street food stall, seat ourselves in the small stools and join the crowd of locals enjoying coffee, a bowl of Pho or in some cases, listening to their songbirds sing.
Before you know it, you talk to people and you have become part of the family or the group.
A smile goes far. Pick a city. This works everywhere. Get out on the street if you can.
2. Stroll into temples and poke about.
Take your hat off. Once we went into an open temple here in Hanoi with a crowd chanting inside.
We sat down with the group and before we knew it, we were given booklets of the chants. Afterwards, some family members approached us and explained the ceremony for their ancestors.
Once in Cambodia, it was Pchum Ben, the celebration for the dead ancestors, we went in and a monk approached us.
He wanted to practice his English and so he explained the ceremony to us. As he was then studying in the university, we sometimes helped him with his home work and until now, we are still friends.
Sitting in a temple talking to a Monk…what a takeaway that was…and we learned a fair bit, too. In fact, when our family came for a visit, he gave them a really good tour of the temple.
3. Schedule downdays in your itinerary when all you need to do is go for lunch.
No plans for the day. Go and wander. Just allow yourself to be surprised.
4. Sit at great historical sites.
Let castle or tomb or Basilica or Forum chat to you of the time it was built, the lives of people who built it .
Once when I was away with friends, Grumpy decided to go to Angkor Wat on his own.
It rained that day but he didn’t care. He just sat in one of the corners of Angkor Thom and contemplated what it must have been like to be an Angkorian at that time when this temple was at its peak. It was an experience for him and he still talks of it years later.
Another place we did this is the Aya Sofia in Turkey. I could here poets and dreamers and priests and mullahs, all asking for equal time to whisper their stories.
If you relax and hear your breathing, the conversations start. And if you do just a little homework the night before, the rewards are incredible.
Ostia Antica close to Rome, an ancient Roman port where the whole Empire came and went. The catacombs. Syracusa in Sicily with its 2 thousand year history of power in the Mediterranean. Changi and the ghosts of wars. The Reichstag and the tales it can tell. There is so much there to think about.
Places in London and New York. Amazing. If you are a reader, all the novels you’ve read come flooding back. So many places have this effect.
The secret is to soak yourself in them. Slow down.
Come back the next day and do it again. Stop ticking boxes for your friends or your Facebook feeds and start a lifetime conversation with history. The marinade.
Don’t sprint to the next place. Buildings..monuments…temples…all just stone. Let the people talk to you in your mind.
5. Stay longer in one place when on vacation.
Slow down. Live close to the locals. Go to the market. Enjoy coffee in the cafes. Really look around and smile a bit. Take a tiny risk…the rewards can be amazing.
Have you soaked yourself in your travel? Share your experience with us. Let’s find some new places and new conversations with history.