I love my grandma; I really do. As kids, we’d go to the dollar store with her to pick out toys. My siblings and I went to her house to play dress up with her colorful scarves and watch poorly-made VHS tapes about trolls. Even though we can recite them word for word, she still tells us her stories about walking three miles to school. I love her lots, but there’s one spot where we’re different—she’s a homebody and hates traveling.
It’s funny that she has a granddaughter with a wanderlust itch. I’ve ridden the London Eye and sweated buckets at the Roman Forum. I’ve walked along the Adriatic Sea’s shorelines in Slovenia. I walked down every last step of the Eiffel Tower and even spent an entire summer working in Toulouse, France. I savored every bite of that Nutella gelato in Florence and spent several nights at my French friend’s castle. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
And as stressful and scary as it can be, travel exhilarates me; it’s grown me. I’ve learned that discomfort leads to better compassion and understanding of other people. It reminds me of how small I am in the grand scheme of the globe but how humans all share common experiences. Travel helps me understand everything from different cultures to my high school history textbook. And while we always have more to learn, here are some of my biggest pieces of advice for the aspiring traveler.
Be open to different travel experiences.
I don’t make a lot of money. A lot of people don’t and that’s okay. I live in mid-Missouri—yeehaw, so glamorous, I know. As much as I love trips to Europe (who doesn’t?), my bank account doesn’t like them as much. But you don’t need thousands of dollars to travel. Several years ago I went on a 10-day European tour through London, Paris, Rome, Florence and Assisi. It costed a pretty penny but worth it. Last summer I volunteered in France for several months, which cut down costs immensely. The costs are different, and while the experiences are vastly different, travel is doable.
You may not be able to drop everything to go volunteer, but your car, a train and even a bike can take you to some cool places. I haven’t been able to leave the country in awhile, but I’ve been able to take some road trips to small towns nearby. It may not feel as schnazzy as fine dining in Manhattan, but it’s travel. It’s a time and space to explore and adventure outside the norm.
Step outside your comfort zone.
“Wanna go to Slovenia with us in July?” my coworker asked me. I responded with a hearty yes because it’s a chance to travel. Once I committed, I proceeded to look up where this country is on a map. Slovenia had never been on my bucket list, but now that I’ve been, I’d love to return. This country wasn’t on my radar, but because I said yes to something outside my comfort zone, I experienced the sparkling Adriatic sea, eastern European architecture and creamy gelato. That’s a win in my book.
Do your homework.
Brush up on your destination’s hubs—what is this place known for? Pinterest is full of travel information, and while there’s no way you can use all of its suggestions and tips, it’s a great place to start. Ask people who have been to this location—what was cool, what wasn’t worth the time or money? Even better, ask locals for suggestions—what’s not in the travel books and articles that we should see? It’s important to have at least a vague idea of cultural expectations and traditions if you’re traveling abroad, but no matter where you go, be sure to schedule time just to explore, rest and meander wherever your heart desires.Travel is famed as a hobby for the rich and sophisticated, but I’ve found travel can take on many different forms and benefit a variety of people. It is possible! If you’re looking for more travel tips and stories, take a look at my latest project 40 Ways to Travel Better: Your Complete Guide to Maximize Time, Money and Energy.