Travel Tips: 5 Ways to Make Your Trip More Relaxing
Travel can be fun
Travel is supposed to be relaxing. You've been working hard all year, looking forward to those glorious weeks when you can get away from the rat race and explore the Pyramids or just put your feet up under an umbrella in Aruba. You imagine everything is going to go perfectly smoothly, but it rarely does. There are going to be hiccups along the way: that's guaranteed. Follow these 5 tips to make your trip more relaxing and those hiccups won't turn into ulcers.
Travel tip 1: Get Ready for Customs
Customs are a pain? Accept the fact that you will be facing an inevitable hassle the moment you set down in a foreign country. Going through customs is a tedious and boring process at the best of times. When you're feeling tired and jetlagged after a long flight, a long line at customs can easily ruin the first day of your vacation. If you expect the worst, then you will be prepared for it if it happens. Don't make any plans for your first day that can't be broken. Find some mellow music to play on your iPod while you're waiting in line at customs. Relax: you'll be out in the sunshine soon enough.
Travel tip 2: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
I've seen many backpackers ruin their entire trip because they feel duty-bound not to get ripped off by tuk-tuk, motorbike and taxi drivers. Haggle, yes, but don't get carried away. I was having a coffee at a little streetside café somewhere in SE Asia one afternoon. Two couples and a single guy got up from the table next to me and started negotiating fares with 3 motorbike drivers. After a few minutes haggling, the two couples went happily down the road with their two chosen drivers. The single guy, however, was incensed that his driver wanted the same fare from him, though he was alone. I tried to intervene, explaining to the young man that it cost the driver just as much in time and fuel to take one person as two, but that just made him angrier. He finally stormed off, looking for a cheaper fare. In the end, he may have saved himself 50 cents, but he ruined his day.
Travel tip 3: Expect the Unexpected
You're on a bus bound for your next destination when a tire blows and you're stuck in the middle of nowhere for hours. This happened to me once in a desert in the Middle East. At first, I huddled in the shade at the side of the bus along with the other passengers. The locals, used to such delays, took it in their stride, while we Westerners became increasingly stressed out. Finally, I decided to take a short walk alone and see what was beyond the nearest sand hill. I crested the hill and spotted a shady spot to sit in the valley below. Down in my little nook, there was nothing but desert and blissful silence all around me. Then I heard the distant tinkling of bells. After a few minutes, I discovered the source of the sound: it was a flock of sheep. The shepherd and I spent a few moments nodding and grinning at each other until he went on his way and I returned to my bus. I'm not kidding; the experience was positively Biblical. To this day, it remains one of the most vivid memories of my first backpacking trip.
Travel tip 4: Take Care of Your Belongings
Pickpockets and thieves are everywhere - this can't be stressed enough. It doesn't need to be stressful, though, if you take the right precautions. Never carry all your cash and credit cards with you if you can possibly help it and always leave your valuables in the hotel or hostel safe. Keep only a small amount of cash in your wallet, and keep other cash and cards in a hidden money belt or money pouch. Put the odds in your favor. While it is possible that your room will be broken into while you're out, it's not likely that someone will break into your room and you will be pickpocketed and bandits will rob the hotel safe. As long as you have access to fall-back cash, you'll be alright, so stop worrying and enjoy the Louvre or the Taj Mahal.
Travel tip 5: Don't Try to Do Too Much in a Day
Sure, you've got limited time and want to take in all the sights. However, when you're in an amazing city like Florence or Paris, you will burn out quickly if you try to see everything - it's impossible. Instead, get the most out of the sights you do see.
There's something to be said for "Living in the Now," but that doesn't mean you should "throw caution to the winds." Take reasonable precautions, expect the unexpected and then cut loose and savor every moment of your travel time. There's plenty of time for stress when you get back home, so don't take your worries with you when you travel.
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