We’ve all had the experience of visiting somewhere amazing but leaving with the sense of ‘things undone.’ There’s nothing worse than spending your money on a once-in-a-lifetime trip and feeling like you didn’t even scratch the surface of what it had to offer. Over the years, I’ve learned some simple ways to make sure I go home with a million memories and not an ounce of regret.
Have ‘Half A Plan’
Have a good idea of two or three places you’d really like to visit, and then let the rest of the trip unfold. Too much planning won’t leave room for spontaneous adventure. Some of my best experiences came on a day when I had nothing planned. However, not enough planning means you could miss out on some wonderful opportunities when someone asks ‘What do you want to do today?’
On the heels of my point above, when you have something you’d really like to do, don’t forget to be flexible. Maybe you want to see a certain cultural ruin and you have a clear plan of where you’d like to go. Next thing you know, your buddy says he knows of an amazing spot at a different ruin. Be flexible enough to say ‘Let’s go!’ If he’s right, you hit the jackpot, and if he’s not, you always have tomorrow to go back to the place you originally wanted to see.
Get Off The Beaten Path
Every city you visit will have tourist areas, and often for a good reason: they’re places everybody wants to see, and that’s great! But if you’re hoping to experience the real soul of a place, you’ve got to be willing to go where other people don’t. This could be as simple as a dive bar on the other side of town, or as elaborate as taking a 12-hour hike to camp out on a remote beach. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals which parts of the area they love – this will point you in the right direction to see the city in a way other travelers won’t.
Do Some Research
One of my favourite ways to really get to know a place is to actively try and learn about it. We have the advantage of having the world at our fingertips. Next time you walk past an old building, pull out your phone to take a quick pic and while you’re there, Google it! You’d be amazed at the history you can learn in 2 minutes, and the locals will love it when you show a strong interest in their roots. No wifi? No problem. It can be as simple as writing down the name in your Notes app, then going to the internet cafe on your next rainy day.
Live In More Than One Place
Even if you’re just visiting one city, I always try and stay in more than one place. I might start off at a hostel for the first week, and then once I’ve met enough people I can usually find a new spot on the other side of town to try out. While Airbnb is great, it can be really expensive. My best bet is to find out if someone living in the area is looking to rent out a room. This gives you the added bonus of experiencing the true culture and living like a local.
Don’t Be Afraid To Split Up
Traveling with friends or significant others has many benefits, including safety in numbers, lowered costs from splitting transportation and accommodation, and fostering strong relationships. My last and biggest piece of advice is to split up (when safe to do so). It doesn’t matter how close you are or how much you love each other, sometimes you’re going to want to do different things. When this happens, I wholeheartedly say, ‘DO IT!’ You both get to have an experience you’ve been craving, and when you come back together you’ll have plenty to talk about and share. I don’t know about you but, for me, a quiet day alone is something to be treasured and often much-needed when abroad.
Got some ideas to add? Feel free to comment below or send me a message on Instagram @themeiberry
Mei is 4th-year veterinary student who manages to make travel fit into her crazy school schedule. When not abroad, she travels across Southern Alberta in her motorhome with her drunk cat Dusty. To see what the pair are up to, you can find her on Instagram @themeiberry.