I enjoy travel, I’m willing to wake up at 7 a.m. to catch a plane. I’ll wait until 4 a.m. to catch the first bus out of town. I will do insane things, just to see the world outside my hometown.
However I am unrelentingly lazy.
I hate trying to accomplish too many things in one travel day. I might have workaholic tendencies when it comes to my job, but when it comes to travel, I’m the exact opposite. I have a few simple rules to keep me from overwhelming myself with new things.
1. Do one new thing each day
Since I’m in a new place already and half my life is motivated by food and booze, I don’t feel compelled to do too many touristy things. I like to pick a new neighborhood each day to hang out in. I might see a tourist site like a museum, but mostly I just like to wander and get a feel for the area. I may opt for something that’s an all-consuming touristy activity like a bike riding tour.
2. Book early
Book flights, trains and hotels early. When you are booking think about the kind of experience you want to have. Some hostels are great for partying while others are better at providing a quiet comfortable place to relax. Read websites, comments and ratings of different hotels and hostels to find the right place for you.
Hint: Booking early is a good way to get lower prices too.
3. Hang out
Half the fun of travel is meeting new people and making new friends. Recognize you will at least have to pretend to be an extrovert for a few hours if you stay in a hostel. People will want to be friendly and talk with you. Traveling solo can be a little lonely. Most hostel guests seem to be travelers alone or in small groups. It doesn’t hurt anything to be nice to these people you’ll potentially share a bedroom, bathroom or kitchen with.
4. Chill out
For some people, this might mean relaxing with all their new friends after a day of sight-seeing. But for me, I need some serious alone time before I can be expected to be friendly to new people. My favorite ways to relax include hanging out in coffee shops with a good book for a couple of hours before heading on my way.
I don’t do well dealing with new people for extended periods of time. I need quite a lot of alone time to handle the stress of travel in addition to the stresses of new people. Most of my travel days start off with a quiet morning in a cafe with coffee, books and internets. This makes the afternoons and nights of travel much easier for me to take.
4. Keep the plan flexible
I hate when people tell me this. “Be flexible.” What does that mean? I’m supposed to bend my schedule to a stranger’s desires? I’m slowly learning that it means recognizing, despite my best efforts, things will go wrong. The guidebook, the internet, the research may not warn me when a museum is closed on Mondays. The subway may be closed for construction. The bus system may be wholly unreliable.
5. Make the best of the worst
There will be bad travel days. There will be nights in bus stations and run-ins with creepers. It helps to have a sense of humor about it all. Learn the lesson in the situation–whether it’s planning ahead better or spotting a creeper from more than three-inches away.