1. Know your own strengths and weaknesses.
For some strange reason, I always thought I had an excellent sense of direction. Boy, was I wrong. After getting Casey and I thoroughly mixed up on a train in Paris, I have officially removed navigator from my resume. While my sense of direction is definitely a weakness, I have found one of my strengths to be arranging the itinerary, accommodation and activities. Just don’t give the map to me when we get there 🙂
2. There is such a thing as over planning. But sometimes it pays off.
I am the first to admit, I have OCD. My travel plans usually benefit… or suffer depending on your view. I make spreadsheets, take notes and read all of the travel forums. Jason says I enjoy planning the trip more than actually taking it. (I disagree but I sure do enjoy planning!) And it does pay off! Case in point, the Eiffel Tower in Paris. If I hadn’t purchased our tickets months in advance, we wouldn’t have been able to go up. The lines were insane!
3. A weekend getaway can be just as rewarding as a two-week vacation.
This may seem obvious but for me, this lesson was really solidified with a trip to Glacier National Park last year. Jason and I only had a few days to explore this massive park but it was one of the best trips I’ve taken yet.
4. Learn your travel style.
I found out during our trip to Thailand, I am not a resort person. Some people simply love the idea of spending a week at a beach resort, sipping margaritas, ordering room service and generally doing nothing at all. I’m not one of these people… but I’m glad I gave it a try. My most memorable experiences to date have been staying in studio apartments in both Buenos Aires and Paris. It gave me an entirely different perspective and I almost felt like a local!
5. The early bird always gets the worm.
Whether you are getting up bright and early to beat the line at the Palace of Versailles or catch an amazing sunrise in Glacier National Park, this saying will always ring true. I will never be a morning person and always need an alarm. But if I am in a new place, I want to see it at it’s best. And sometimes that means getting up at the crack of dawn!
6. Hiring a local guide can enhance the experience.
Some of the things I have been privileged to do and see would have never happened if it weren’t for local guides. They know the area and they know it well. You share stories and laughs but also end the day feeling like you made a new friend. I have had great experiences with all of my guides and the cost is easily forgotten when compared to the knowledge that is shared. And as a bonus, you are also contributing to their livelihood! (Thanks Juan Carlos, Tong and Yo!)
7. When it comes to food, just eat everything.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I used to be the pickiest eater on the planet. Now with a sense of pride, I can say that I will try just about anything! Whether it be sea urchin and sweetbreads in San Francisco or escargot and duck confit in Paris, these “Food Adventures” (or so Casey and I call them) have really made my travels even more rewarding. It’s also a time to indulge. Diet and exercise out the window!
While on the topic of food, pack snacks. Being hangry is a vacation killer.
8. Don’t be (too) cheap.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for sticking to a budget and finding good deals while traveling. Knowing your destination and average costs before you go are critical. But in the end, money is just money. Know in advance when to splurge and when to save. This is especially true for me when flying. I am the girl who will gladly pay more for the flight with only 1 connection or none at all. With only 4 weeks of vacation for the entire year, my time is valuable!
9. Just do it.
Yes, it’s a cheesy Nike slogan. But no matter how cheesy, they are words to live by and we only live once. Did I like getting sick on the helicopter ride over the Nepali Coast? Not really… Did I like getting caught in a torrential downpour on a night walk in Costa Rica? Not at all… Did I like my legs feeling like jello after a full day of hiking in Patagonia? No way… but I wouldn’t change any of it. And most of the time, these are the memories that stick with us forever. And make for the best stories too!
10. Choose the right traveling companion.
This may be the last on the list but it’s probably the most important. This lesson has ties to all the others. It is so critical to choose a travel companion who shares your vacation style and you can have fun with!
And this isn’t really a lesson, but the last few years have confirmed that at some point in my life, I want to live abroad.
Now before my family reads this and starts the line of questioning, I’d like to stay “it wouldn’t be forever!” I have yet to decide on a location but I am confident it will happen. Waiting for the right opportunity to come my way (or Jason’s!)