By Morgan Stoecklein
Well, I’ve been travelling. A few months back a very kind woman at the local shopping mall stuck a needle in my arm and since then I’ve been following the ways of John Denver.
Kansas City, St. Louis, Orlando, Illinois, Arkansas, Hilton Head, Dallas, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Greg Steinhoff’s house.
I’ve been all over the place. And I’ve picked up some travelling tips along the way.
Tip #1: Know Where You’re Headed
Right along with choosing where you’re headed, is deciding why you’re headed there.
Like anything in life, you’ve got to have a purpose.*
Like the toddler to his mom on my most recent flight, if you ask “why?” enough times some sort of answer will get dug up eventually. Thinking of your most recent get-away, which I know can be hard to recall in the year 2021, even it had purpose: to get away. Whether from work or children or just from the hustle and bustle, you longed to leave your life behind for a holiday hiatus. And l‘ll double down and say that “just because” is still a purpose too. Just because you want some time away, just because you had some extra cash to spend, just because you miss that place or you’ve never been. You get it. Whether you like it or not, your trip has a purpose.
And tacking meaning on to your vacation is a good thing. It gives you a clear direction in how you want to spend your time and who you want to spend it with. For example, you can confidently skip out on the world’s largest aquarium without feeling an ounce of FOMO because you didn’t come to check out the attractions, but explore the local food scene across the table from old friends.
This makes it easier to know what to say yes to and what to say no to while abroad. Without a purpose, you’ll look back having regretted the things you didn’t do, and wishing you hadn’t done some of the things you did do. A goal gives you the freedom to spend your time how you wish and look back on your trip free of remorse.
So, what’s your reason?
Everything has significance. At least I think so! And even if your trip is lacking an objective, I believe that there’s an objective to discover along the way.
*Could be a dumb purpose, but there’s a purpose nonetheless.
Tip #2: Be Prepared to be Unprepared
When it comes to travel, my husband and I have a rule. Don’t ask don’t tell. It all started when we boarded our first flight together.
“Aw man I forgot my phone charger.”
“Shoot my contact case is still on my bedside table.”
“Did I pack underwear? Do you know if I packed underwear?”
My husband externally processed these questions while I simultaneously began to unravel.
“Underwear?? What do you mean? How could you forget that? OH don’t even THINK about borrowing mine! What DID you pack?”
I was panicking while he had already moved on to perusing the selection of free movies available onboard. To me, forgetting something was the end of the world, to Cole it was a part of life.
So, now we’ve got our rule. Ignorance is bliss. Cole wears the same pair of underwear all week and I enjoy my vacation in total oblivion.
One thing I’ve come to learn is that you don’t have to know it all or have it all to enjoy your vacation. Sometimes, learning how to manage as you go is the key to an adventurous trip.
You can’t pack forever. At some point you’ll either have to hop on the plane or not. Perfecting your packing list isn’t going to do much if you never move beyond that. Eventually there comes a time when you have to accept that you may have forgotten something, but you’ll zip up the suitcase and leave the known for the unknown anyway.
Tip #3: Accept the Unknown
Be willing to say “I don’t know.”
For one reason or another we’ve found ourselves in a time period where we all have to know everything. Some would say our phones are turning us into people who can’t just be content with not knowing the answer to something. We’re in this stretch of history where we don’t really know everything, but through Maps, and Weather, and Google apps we’re invincible.
Do you feel it? I do. I’m afraid to speak up on a topic I’m not an expert in. Why would I share my half-knowledge if I could google first and circle back later to spew out my fabricated knowledge? Of course there’s the different but similar issue where amateurs are speaking up as if they’re experts. But, that’s beside the point.
Vacation is a great place to say “I don’t know.” Where’s the nearest grocery store? I don’t know. What time does that restaurant close? I don’t know. Going somewhere new takes a bit of faith. Refuse to compare yourself to the locals, but lean in to their treasure trove of knowledge. From there, decide what of that you’ll include in your trip. Give yourself grace and accept that the journey is part of it, not the means to an end.
Travelling into uncharted waters is humbling. But what a relief to stop pretending to know everything!
So, try it out! Don’t use maps, but ask a passerby if they know how to get somewhere. Refuse to use google, and accept that despite what the weather app says, you have no idea when or if the rain is coming. Sit for a moment or a week in the beauty of wondering and wandering.
Tip #4: While you’re there, say hello to a stranger
Picture this: You’re standing next to a stranger in the local coffee shop line. They don’t know you, and you don’t know them. (That’s the only criteria for being a stranger!) None of that awkward nuance found back at home where you know their middle name and blood type but they have no idea you exist. You say hi and ask how they’re doing and it spirals into a conversation about their newfound love of pickle ball. Simple as that!
Why aren’t we talking to strangers these days? Or at least saying hello?
Are we scared of rejection? Afraid they’ll ask us a deep question? Or worse, ask us a question we don’t know the answer to? Worst of all… what if we disagree on something?
Like I said, I’ve been travelling a lot, which means that I’ve flown quite a bit. Once I board my flight, the ritual begins. I find my seat, pop a Dramamine, and turning to the stranger on my right or left. I disrupt the silence with a “business or pleasure?” icebreaker to then kick off our 2 hours of silence sitting next to each other. A great precursor for my constant nearly puking. A great way to keep the person who gambled enough to sit next to me on their toes.
Anyway, the principle applies. Have a go-to question. Where are you from? What do you love? Whether an Uber driver, or waiter, or store clerk or fellow patron, talk to a stranger or two while you’re away.
Travelling is fun. Sometimes. Sometimes it’s stressful and jam-packed, or unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It’s hard to adjust to sleeping in a new bed and eating at new places and having a new schedule. Sometimes, by the end of the trip, a feeling of longing for home arises. Which is only more of a reason to squeeze the day! Take advantage of the days you’ve got, and make the most of them. There’s no time like vacation time! We’ve got to soak it all up.
We all want our vacations to be full of good things. Whether that’s full of relaxation, full of good food, or full of adventure, we want to make the most of our time off, while we’ve got it. Making the most of my time travelling fills me up. It brings a unique joy that never seems to come from extended time in front of a TV or a phone screen. So if you’re considering getting out and about in the near future, pack your bags, say hi to a stranger, embrace the unknown, and remember your purpose. It’s sure to bring you a distinctive experience filled with the joy that comes from the wonder of a wander through the riches of the planet and its people, with its wrong turns, forgotten underwear, and all.