With the new Corinna B’s World Glam Italia Tour just days away from taking off, I am prepping my ladies for their big overseas trip. Some of the info I’m giving them is really good advice for anyone heading out on an international adventure, no matter which countries they are visiting, regardless of how many times they have already traveled.
If you are thinking about traveling any time soon (or at any time in the future!), bookmark this post, share it with friends, or maybe just read through this list a few times as you plan your trip.
All too often people tell me how exhausting their trip was, how they only saw the main tourist sights, or that they can’t remember the names of the things they photographed.
They blast through places as an observer, and miss out on the experience of being there. They miss out on the flavor of the place, the essence of what makes it special. And that is a huge shame, so here are my 10 tips to get the most out of international travel:
1. Plan To Get Up Early In The Morning.
Early mornings in foreign cities are pure magic. Especially big tourist cities such as Paris, Florence and Rome.
Early mornings are when you see the city come to life, the locals heading to work, the fabric of the place is all exposed.
This is the time before the tourists disgorge en masse from their tour buses, cluttering up every statue, every famous building or sight, instead leaving you wide open spaces to take amazing photos in the beautiful morning light. You also have the sidewalks (almost) to yourself and can stroll freely rather than get caught in the crush of the tourist shuffle.
I adore early mornings in Florence. At 8 am the city is mine. The statues are my own to look at, for as long as I want, completely unencumbered.
Watching the vendors opening their stores on the Ponte Vecchio and taking in every view in every direction an hour before the entire world arrives is just sensational.
It’s well worth getting up early.
2. Slow It Down – Spend More Time Visiting Fewer Places
Trying to go to too many cities or countries in a short time is a huge mistake.
You don’t get to experience a place, you merely get to snap a few postcard pictures, and it’s time to hit the road again.
You will never ever get enough time to see and do everything.
Slow down, breathe it in, and take time to enjoy the place you are in. When you aim to go to fewer places you will find that you see so much more.
And it will cost much,much less in transport, in accommodation (you get better rates when you are staying more days in one place), and in the total mental exhaustion that comes with repacking and checking out every day.
3. Keep some Free Time In Your Schedule.
Rather than blocking off every spare minute of every day, allow some flexi time to do the things you don’t yet know about. Along the way you will meet people who will tell you about things to do and places to go that you have never even heard of before. You will also find that you want much more time in some of the places you were already going to. And then there’s my personal favorite – taking time out to enjoy a coffee where the locals go. I adore time spent having coffee in the piazza in the morning, or ending the day with a pre-dinner glass of wine with the locals. if your schedule is too full and too rigid you end up missing out on some of the very best experiences.
4. Get To Know The Locals
This can be the very best part of traveling. Spending time talking to the locals, making new friends (friendships that can last lifetime), learning about different cultures, different life experiences, different ways of thinking – all these things add a richness to the tapestry of your life.
Chatting with the locals is the best way to find out about fascinating places that aren’t in any guide book, restaurants where tourists don’t go (where the real local cuisine resides) and festivities and events happening in the area.
5. Travel Light.
I pretty much suck at this one, but I’m making a concerted effort to pare my packing down.
I don’t subscribe to the “one black dress and 3 different scarves and you have 3 different outfits!” routine. To me it looks like the same old dress with a couple of different accessories.
Plan your outfits, don’t bring too much, leave room in your suitcase for shopping.
If you can’t easily pick up your suitcase and put it in a car trunk, you’ve packed too much.
Last year we had the most amazing apartment in Florence, but it was up 4 flights of stairs with no elevator, so we were wishing we had packed light!
6. Keep An Open Mind.
Not everything will go as planned.
When Plan A is a fail, for whatever reason, Plan B is invariably more interesting anyway. Keeping an open and flexible mind is essential when traveling.
Don’t expect everything to be the way it is at home, don’t judge, just take in every new experience. We travel to experience something new, and sometimes that “something new” can include cultural differences, religious differences, social differences that go against our own beliefs. Keep your mind open and adopt a “how interesting” attitude rather than a “you need to change this” attitude.
7. Don’t Compare It (Out Loud) To Home
One of the most nauseating things when you are overseas is having to listen to travelers banging on about how there is a better one or a bigger one at home. Or how it’s better at home.
If you feel the need to compare everything to home, stay home. Keep your travel dollars and your narrow mind in your own country. It’s insulting to the locals, it’s insulting to the people who have traveled here to experience something new.
Remember too that most people make sacrifices and save up their money to go on an international trip. They have been looking forward to this trip, are excited to be here, they absolutely do not care what you have at home, and your negative and stupid energy can really ruin something special for them.
8. Don’t Be Rude
Following on from number 7, don’t be rude. To anyone.
You are a guest in their country so be polite. When you are being rude to someone you are not in a happy state. You upset you, the other person, and everyone around you.
Chill out and let whatever perceived slight or annoyance that has you all riled up roll right off you.
You will be amazed at how well everything goes for you when your personal policy is to always maintain grace and dignity.
You may be traveling on a set daily budget, but when it counts, throw the budget to the wind and treat yourself. Maybe it’s a killer meal at a famous restaurant, or a 16 euro hot chocolate in Paris. Maybe it’s climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge or going on a safari while you are in Africa – don’t miss the chance to do something truly incredible, or to experience something you will remember and treasure for the rest of your life. So what if the next few days or week you are living on a shoestring? So what if you have to live on bread and apples and water for a few days to catch back up? (been there, done that) Or maybe you blow up your credit card on something special. It doesn’t matter in the bigger picture of your life.
Personally, my only travel regrets are for the things I didn’t do.
So live a little.
10. Plan To Walk. (or bike!)
Be like Kwai Chang Caine and walk the earth.
Hitting the streets and walking is the best way to experience a city or town. When you are walking around you get to see the real life of the locals, and you find fantastic details that you miss from the window of a bus. You discover the best places to eat, drink and shop, you find little museums and galleries that aren’t in the tour guides, and you really get a feel for the place.
You can’t discover too much from the window of a moving vehicle.
And when we travel, we travel to experience and to discover.