What Makes One A “Good Traveler”?

BY EMMA CUNNINGHAM, of Foremmayoung.com

“All things considered there are only two kinds of men in the world – those who stay at home & those who do not. The second are the more interesting.” – Rudyard Kipling

I feel ya Kipling, but you’re missing something pretty important. The THIRD. Which are the one’s who are GOOD at leaving home. The professional nomads if you will…

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Now, I’m not saying that I’m an excursion expert. I still have the world to go with my own travels (pun intended) and have only hit roughly 20 countries. But I 100% believe there is a right way to travel and a wrong way to travel.

You get what you give.

The more people I meet and vibe with, the more countries I check off my list, and the more I wander and soak up every foreign experience; I’ve been able to pick up on some valuable knowledge of the “absolutely-s” and “don’t you freaking dare-s” of being a stranger in a strange land.

Saying goodbye to your roots for temporary (or permanent) jaunts can be sorted into three basic categories:

Homebodies, tourists, & travelers.

I recommend these pointers when interviewing your next potential travel partner, or to take note of so you’re not the ultimate kill-joy of someone else’s trip, or for an overall stress-free time.

1. Keep an open mind.

Say “yes” to whatever comes your way, whether this be eating what once was a former house pet, hiking a mountain in the middle of the night to see the sunrise from the summit, sipping straight from a bottle of moonshine that a fellow traveler hands to you. Say “Hell yes!” and let it all change you, because it is the only way to truly experience another place. You truly never know what could happen.

2. Venture to the places where the tourists aren’t (in addition to hitting the “must-sees”).

If you see lots of selfie sticks or busloads of people following a Chinese lady with a name tag and a bull horn, you’re doing it wrong. Doing so makes you a “tourist” not a “traveler” – yes, there’s a big difference.

3. Be easygoing about sleeping/eating/comfort issues.

Don’t nag, complain and crush any or all good vibes about which room or seat you get. Suck it up because you’re an adult and bad accommodations and seats come with traveling. Be grateful you’re getting to where you’re going or have a roof over your head. Chances are many people in the country you’re visiting don’t have one.

4. Be aware of your travel companions.

AND be aware of not being contrary to their desires/needs/schedules more often than necessary. If you find that they want to do things differently than you, or make other plans you happily tell them to go on without you in a way that does not sound like you’re saying, “This is a test.” They’re traveling for their own experience, not yours.

5. Be able to figure things out.

This includes but is not limited to: maps, menus, signs, tickets, hostels, rental cars, etc.

And if you don’t actually know how to figure these things out, DO NOT ACT like you DO know. If you’re directionally challenged, don’t volunteer to navigate. NO ONE wants to walk x amount of miles out of the way of the waterfall, temple or village you’re heading to. If you don’t know what something is on a menu, ask the waiter so you don’t wind up with your head in a toilet the rest of the trip. Thinking smarter, not harder is key.

6. Go with the flow in a spontaneous, non-uptight way.

If you stumble into something amazing that will bump some plan off the day’s schedule, you roll with it. Last year, I was in New Orleans with some friends and while heading out to shuck some oysters, we stumbled upon something even more raw. A traditional New Orleans street band banging on stop signs and wailing their saxophones. The entire intersection was stopped and people were dancing in the streets. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Needless to say, the oysters were put on hold.

7. Itineraries are pointless and waste of time.

You never truly will know how things will end up going. Your flight can get delayed, you can get lost, you might end up at a random party. Get off the plane, grab a beer and see where the new land takes you and what you discover.

I leave you with one final thought. And that is to go for the good. Find yourself. Take it all in. Take in every last drop. Drops of tears. Drops of sweat or drops of rain or drops of blood. Because they will come and you will need to soak it back up. Allow yourself to get lost. Allow yourself to get scared. Force yourself to embrace everything.

That’s what makes one a good traveler.

Photos: Emma Cunningham

What makes you a good traveler? Share with us in the comments.

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