Many travellers make the mistake of trying to do too much. In a mad attempt to optimise their time, they try to prepare too much, carry too much, see too much, eat too much and expect too much. After spending long hours on buses and in hotel rooms, they wonder why they begin to feel exhausted and unfulfilled. They are unwittingly ruining their trip because things are too complicated.
Keeping your trip simple is one of the most important aspects of successful travel. Create a simple and achievable itinerary, carry simple items in your pack, and have simple expectations from simple plans. The secret is to realise before you leave that in the time you have, you can’t see and do everything. Remain flexible but make your choices and take time to enjoy them. Take some time to enjoy the moment you are in rather than thinking about and planning for the next one.
By all means read your guidebook and visit the sights. Go to the museums, castles, temples, cathedrals, art galleries and beaches. Enjoy the speciality cuisine of your destination, take a boat ride, hike up and enjoy a spectacular vista or even go to a local festival. Take photos, embrace little surprises, have a laugh and feel the wonderful sense of accomplishment.
In between all that excitement though, take time to slow down and smell the roses. Realise that every neighbourhood has its unique charm and story to tell. Stop and embrace it by having a chat to the locals, explore the hidden treasures in narrow back streets or sip a coffee while watching the sunset. Sometimes it is the simplest things that leave the deepest impressions and become your most abiding memories.
When I was in the Philippines I had a frustrating day missing various transport connections between different islands. The result was that I got stuck in a town I had no intention of staying in. Initially I was disappointed but as I took time to wander the streets and chat to the locals it became one of the best experiences of my entire trip.
It was relaxed and the people were friendlier than anywhere else. I did some shopping, watched children playing in the park, captured snapshots of daily life on my camera, enjoyed the sunset over the ocean and talked to some local people while I had dinner in the evening. If I’d made the ferry that afternoon I’d have been caught up in the hustle and pollution of another big city and never enjoyed those special moments.
It took me some time to understand, but often the slower you go, the more you see and the more fun you have. I love walking or cycling around a city. It provides insights into the culture and lifestyle that you never get from taking a bus or taxi. It lets you discover pleasant surprises along the way that you don’t anticipate. If a band is playing in the park as you’re walking through, take time to stop and listen for a while. The museum will still be there for you later.
Travelling simply and sedately helps you prevent travel fatigue and overcome culture shock more comfortably. It takes time to absorb your new surroundings and discover the best things about it. So instead of rushing around take an extra day after your arrival will give you a feel for the climate, lifestyle, travel logistics and culture of your destination. When you are comfortable with everything you can start exploring.
As you do so, the words of renowned travel writer Arthur Frommer will start to ring true: “The less money and more time spent, always seemed to create a better trip”.