At the age of 14, I was still in eighth grade. I was living a fairly typical middle-school life: getting ready for high school, hanging out with my friends, and hating math class. By all means, I was more or less an average teenager. There was, however, one defining difference. In January of my eighth grade year, my first novel was published.
It was a sailing novel about the Volvo Ocean Race, a global ocean race in which teams compete for nine months, sailing a grand total of nearly 40,000 miles with stopovers on five continents. After race officials found out about my novel, I was flown to Boston, the only North American stopover in the 2008-2009 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, as a journalist. I was given full access to the Volvo Ocean Race crew, events, and even business meetings. It was there that I caught the travel bug. And boy, did I ever catch it.
I had always been into aviation and flight, but the Volvo Ocean Race was an entirely different experience. I talked to sailors, who had spent the past half-year traveling to countries around the world, experiencing the culture and traditions of each stopover country. I talked to the communications and PR staff, all relatively young, hip twenty-somethings who made their living seeing the world. Some from England, some Spaniards, South Africans, even some folks from New Zealand.
It was the first time that the world had really taken shape in my head. I always knew that the world was a big place, and that there was more out there than Annapolis, Maryland, but I had never experienced it before.
The wanderlust factor continued to grow, and in summer 2011, I was fortunate enough to take my first international trip, to Belgium and Morocco. Later that same summer, I again ventured to Europe, this time to teach English in Spain, a trip that was repeated this past June.
There’s no doubt that I’ve been blessed to have parents who are supportive of my interest to travel, as well as some unique opportunities abroad, and the means to make it all happen (through summer jobs). Regardless, I appreciate travel more than ever. It’s not only taught me a lot about the world, but also about myself.
Though my travel life is just beginning, I feel that I’ve learned a lot in just a short time. I try to keep these things in the back of my head whenever I set off on another adventure.
Take no trip for granted
Though I’ve enjoyed several international jaunts, I’ve learned that traveling anywhere is better than traveling nowhere. Make the most of every trip, whether it’s to San Francisco or Singapore. Appreciate the opportunity to break routine, no matter how near or far the destination is.
Make the most of your travels, and appreciate the little things
To be honest, I’m sort of addicted to travel. If I had my way, I would board a plane at the beginning of June and not return home until the middle of August. Unfortunately, that’s not a reality, so when given the opportunity to travel, capitalize on the opportunity. See, eat, and explore your way around the city.
Go out of your comfort zone. Every city has tourist attractions of some kind, and everyone goes to said tourist attractions. With the help of a local (see next tip), or even on your own, it can be easy to bypass the typical tourist draws and see more of the raw, real culture that a city has to offer. One of my most incredible journeys so far was to Morocco for a traditional Muslim wedding. It was one of the most, if not the most, amazing things I’ve ever seen.
Use local knowledge
In Marrakesh, we stayed in a riad, sort of like a Moroccan bed and breakfast. Our host, Lamia, was a young-ish Marrakesh native who gave us great advice about things to see and how to get around. Her advice was to steer clear of many of the major tourist attractions, and we ended up seeing Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle and taking a camel ride through the desert, both off the beaten path, but well worth a visit. Tourist guides are good, but sometimes having local directions just puts you a step ahead of everyone else.
I read a post on LandLopers awhile back that gave tips (in a very sarcastic manner) on how to be the most obnoxious tourist possible, and I encourage you to read them as well. It’s often quite intimidating being in a country where very few people speak English, especially when trying to find a certain place, with no luck. However, you’ll find that most locals, especially shopkeepers, are willing to help you out if you ask nicely. Realize that you’re in a foreign land, and you can either grin, bear it, and have a fantastic time, or grumble until you’re back at the airport. I strongly recommend the former.
The most important rule of travel, in my opinion, is to love it. There’s no definitive formula for creating the perfect trip, or a guide on how to be the perfect traveler. Any trip is basically the sum of all it’s parts – whatever you put into it is what you’ll get out of it, and the key to a successful trip is making sure that you enjoy every minute of it.