I am unable to put into words how I feel when I’m on a plane that’s about to land in a new country. As I look down to the unknown, a rush of emotion overcomes me. A combination of happiness, anxiety, fear, regret and gratitude is the best way I can describe it. Thoughts of “oh my GOODNESS our world is beautiful” mixed with “why the hell did I travel this far away, what am I doing here?” race through my mind at the same time. This feeling is a high that I’ll be chasing for the rest of my life, because it continues to get better and better each time.
There are many other reasons, aside from this rush, why I choose to I travel though and why we continue to pour a large chunk of our funds into a “travel account”. With every trip I take, I grow as a person and I feel so fortunate to have had the privilege of exploring over fifteen countries so far. Each adventure has challenged me, shaped me and taught me more about other people, the world and myself than I could’ve ever learned in a classroom. If you’re thinking about embarking on a new journey, here are some tips on how to make the most of your trip:
BE A GUEST
Whenever I enter a new country, I treat it as though I am in someone else’s home so it’s only polite to be on my best, guest behavior. Culture, religion, dress and traditions are different in every country and I never want to be disrespectful or ignorant of this. It’s important to do some research before going to a new place to make sure you pack properly before you go and act appropriately while you’re there.
Since I’ve already taken the risk of traveling to a new country, I like to challenge myself while I’m there. Whether it be something physical like a challenging hike, taking public transportation in a country where I don’t speak the language or adventuring outside of a large city into a smaller community, I find I learn the most about the place I’m in when I am able to step out of my comfort zone and allow myself to truly absorb my surroundings. Remember, people are the same all over the world and generally, they’re good. Do yourself a favor and leave the ‘touristy area’ – you won’t regret it!
SAY HELLO AND ASK QUESTIONS
Be friendly! Say hello to other tourists and local people. In all the countries I’ve been to from Sri Lanka to Vietnam to Greece to Laos to Turkey…everyone has always been friendly, welcoming and hospitable. I have formed life long friendships with other travelers and have created the most amazing memories by conversing with local people. They can help give you suggestions as to where to go, what to eat and often have better tips than the guidebooks – because they live there, after all.
I believe there’s a fine line between being generous and imposing charity where it’s not welcome, but if there’s an opportunity to share, always do so both at home and abroad. When I was in Cambodia, I spent some time volunteering in a few orphanages and although the people I was learning from didn’t have a lot, they taught me how to be humble and resourceful. They taught me to be thankful and to always share with others, no matter what. Surprising amounts of people in the world live in extreme poverty and go through life feeling thankful and happy. These are ‘wake-up calls’ that a lot of us in the West can benefit from. Share when you can.
Travel can be very difficult and when everything’s going wrong and jet lag’s weighing you down and your luggage is lost, it’s easy to feel low and discouraged. In these moments, choose laughter. There’s always something to laugh about, even if it’s the silliest thing. I was once robbed in Thailand and lost over $2500.00, my wallet, my ID, my credit cards everything. After crying for many hours, I laughed. After being assaulted in Sri Lanka, breaking my hand and not having a doctor to go to for ten days and after crying for many hours again, I laughed. Because I was going to finish my trip with a small wrap and…well, although it’s not funny, I laughed anyway. Because it’s always easier to get through a difficult situation when you make light of it. So choose laughter – there’s always something funny.
KEEP A JOURNAL
Write, write, write! The best way to reflect back on an adventure is to pour your heart out onto a page, without judgment and without fear. Write what you see, what you taste, what you feel. Write about who you meet, the challenges you’ve had, the struggles…anything you’d like! Always write because overtime you can look back through your journals and reflect on how you’ve grown as a person. And that is truly rewarding.
I hope that whatever travel you choose to take, near or far, outward or within, that you’re able to connect with yourself and grow as a person. Because after all, that’s what this life is all about.
ASHLEY WOOD is a recipe developer and writer from Winnipeg, Canada. With a passion for health, wellness and vegetables, Ashley creates simple and inexpensive vegan recipes made from whole ingredients that are often seasonal, sometimes gluten-free and occasionally raw. Ashley believe in celebrating the benefits of living a vegan lifestyle and at the very least, hopes to inspire others to eat more plants, smile and live with some Sunshine.