As those who have traveled a lot and over a short period of time know, traveling can start to feel redundant. I remember last year I visited Greece, Egypt, Guatemala, Japan, and Cambodia all within the space of a month and a half. Imagine seeing the Acropolis, the Pyramids, the ruins of Tikal and Angkor Wat, and the lights of Tokyo within that short period of time. As amazing as it was to see all of these things, it also left me feeling a little empty.
I felt like an idiot. I was so privileged to be seeing these sights and to have the experiences that I had had. What was wrong with me? How could I find these adventures kind of hollow? I began to think about what it was that made travel so exciting for me in the beginning, and what I could do to bring some of that excitement back.
Here are 5 things I started doing to make my travels more meaningful again.
1. Take a lot of photos
When I first began traveling, I figured I was a better writer than photographer and that I would remember every detail of where I went and what I saw or did. Hint: I didn’t. After a few years, I began to take a lot more pictures, and I find sometimes enjoying those much more than the experience themselves. I’m reminded of stories that seemed hilarious or hard at the time, but have slowly faded away after so many countries and journeys.
2. Keep a journal
Like taking photos, my journal used to be a place where I would talk about what I was feeling instead of experiencing. While this was super helpful as a teenager, as a twenty-something, it doesn’t serve me nearly as much. I began writing down what we did on each day of our trips, pasting in tickets, and scribbling down some general thoughts I had to share on the blog or in another piece I would write. Keeping which observations I want to jot down in mind has added another layer to my travels overall.
3. Meet some locals
While I’m not going to turn down the opportunity to see the Great Wall of China or the Pyramids of Egypt, I’ve also learned that I’m not going to turn down the opportunity to meet new people from another culture. Some of my fondest memories of traveling is not what I’ve seen while on the road, but who I’ve met. I’ve learned and grown more by the people who have interacted with me while traveling than I could from any museum (which is still important and you should still go). I’ve made it a new goal to make a local friend in every place I visit—it adds so much more than going through the motions as a tourist.
4. Get rid of expectations
I think we all have an idea of what life will be like once we travel to our dream destination or live abroad. Before I moved to Florence, I imagined myself learning to make homemade pasta, writing some short stories, and taking some time to “find myself” after college. I did none of those things, but I learned some other valuable lessons that I was not expecting. I feel as though ridding yourself of those ideals opens you up to the adventure that you really need—so I’ve been trying to keep my expectations curbed when I head to new locations now.
5. Take time off
What? You mean, not travel? As crazy as it seems, sometimes you need a break from traveling to really appreciate your next journey. Part of what made the Camino de Santiago so meaningful to me was known I had our apartment in Spain to go back to and think about my walk. Daniel and I recently flew back to New York, and I’ve welcomed having some time to think about our past few months in Southeast Asia and let it all sink it. If you’re constantly experiencing new things, you have no time to consider why you have chosen to try them in the first place.
What ways have you made your travels more meaningful to you?