Today I’m leaving on a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. And with any travel, whether a weekend roadtrip or travel by plane, there are feelings of a whole lot of excitement mixed with a little anxiety. Rather than focus on the details of plane tickets and quart sized bags and gate numbers and whether we closed the refrigerator door – I choose to reflect on lessons I’ve learned on past travels – in an effort to start this adventure with a sense of curiosity, wonder, peace, and humor.
8 Lessons to Remember When Traveling
- Don’t let the rain (or other things outside of your control) get you down. There are many things out of our control, including the weather, like rain. They say when it rains, it pours… but I say, don’t let it. An alternative choice would be to embrace the unexpected circumstances (or expected, if you’re watching the weather). In Rome, Aric and I bought bright yellow touristy ponchos and wrapped the hood tightly around our faces. It wasn’t even raining. Just kidding, it was. And we still enjoyed the Colosseum and getting lost through the winding narrow streets. On a summer trip last year to the Superior Coast in Minnesota, we spent our first day of the trip inside playing lots and lots of card games and reading while the rain came down. It was the perfect way to start vacation – by relaxing and spending time together. On our honeymoon while canoeing the Green River in Utah, it rained hard. Our clothes were wet, our tent was wet, our firewood selection was very wet. But we mustered up the courage to finish our 70 mile journey, while talking to the herons and asking them to fly ahead and tell the outfitter we were coming. We may have been a bit delirious toward the end of the trip, to be honest.
- The cost of an experience can be high – but can also be worth it. I pride myself on having a discerning eye when it comes to tourist traps and other things deemed not worthwhile. But sometimes, just sometimes, you find yourself in a hotel bar in Rome paying $40 for two drinks because it’s 2008 and that’s the exchange rate and because it’s the only place that’s open. To be fair, we didn’t know the price until the drinks had been poured. It’s something we’ll never forget – so in that way, it was worth it. Trips are expensive and rather than feel guilty over spending money on delicious food and once in a lifetime experiences, just choose wisely. Basically, don’t go to Bear Country USA or places similar.
- Always laugh after (or during) travel disasters. I booked us accommodations in the Red Light District in Paris. I thought it would be fun. Montmartre & Pigalle looked lively and unique, but at 11:00 at night when we arrived, luggage in hand, it was lively and a little scary. We were approached by several people asking us for money and cigarettes, neither of which we had. It took us a few wrong turns and an extra mile or two to figure out how to get to our hotel. But by the next day (or maybe it was a few weeks later), we looked back on it and laughed. Or maybe I was the only one laughing. I’m not sure if anyone else was. But if they weren’t, they missed the opportunity to turn a disaster into a fond memory.
- Plan, but be ready to throw it all out. While it’s great to be organized and have a well-defined plan, it’s even better to have the willpower to throw it all out the window when an opportunity presents itself or plans go awry. Follow your curiosity a little and see where it takes you.
- Check the hotel security box. Because if you put something in it, you’ll want to take it back out. Take this from someone who drove nearly the length of Ireland a second time to retrieve passports we had so securely locked up.
- Many cities and countries around the world have socks, toothbrushes, and Tums. Pack lightly. You don’t need 10 shirts for a 4 day trip. And if and when you forget something, know that you can pick one up when you get there. I’ve forgotten swimsuits on beach trips, warm boots when we’ll be outdoors in the cold, and coats when we’re on top of Mt. Haleakala at sunrise. Luckily I had an airplane blanket on my head to keep me warm… while Aric proposed to me. It made for great pictures.
- Let go of guilt. Eating too much, spending too much, not getting enough exercise. These are all feelings we can have while traveling. But they interfere with our enjoyment of the present moment. You’ll miss the beautiful opportunities around you if you are instead thinking about how you should have worked out more. If you don’t want to feel like you’ve gorged on food all week, overspent, or relaxed a little too much, be mindful about it. Pick up some fresh fruit and protein bars to keep you satisfied between meals. Skip the museum you weren’t even sure about to begin with. Do 10 minutes of body weight exercises while you’re waiting for the shower. Find a balance that works for you so you end your trip feeling like you experienced it fully.
- Set an intention. Mine for this trip is to “I will be present at every turn.” In setting this intention, I aim to experience the glaciers whose time here on earth is limited, the emerald green lakes, the expansive land in which to explore, and the time spent with wonderful people. We get to explore a brand new place for the first time– and there’s nothing more beautiful than that.