While it is true that we have rarely (ok, maybe never) taken a trip that I really didn't like, there are certain aspects of travel that really feed my heart and fill my soul moreso than others.
I can sit happily on a beautiful beach, watching my kids play whilst drinking fruity drinks. its just that this type of trip is not the kind of trip that keeps me up waaay too lake, months before a trip, all fluttery with anticipation.
Here are four things that make me excited to travel:
Authentic and Immersive Travel
Ok, I am going to admit something. I am not really a "resort" sort of person. Nothing against resorts or the people that love them. I enjoy relaxing on the beach or by the pool, too (and I have had my share of fruity drinks ;-) ) I just couldn't see myself spending a whole week of vacation relaxing in a resort and not really experiencing anything real and authentic about the place that we are visiting. Maybe this is why I like cruises so much, because you can experience relaxation AND authenticity in the same trip.
When I travel, I want to experience the real place, not some touristy, prepacked version of it. I like to go to the local markets, I actively seek out restaurants where locals are eating, and I like to meet REAL local people. One of our favorite things to do when we travel is to hang out at the local playground to let the kids play and make new friends. It is a wonderful way to get a snapshot of real, daily life.
Deep, "Off the Beaten Path" Travel
Before we go on a trip, I spend weeks...sometimes months digging through travel blogs, travel books and internet forums. What am I looking for? Off the beaten path, hidden gems. These lesser known attractions and sights are the icing on our travel cake.
While I remember all of the "big", must see sights that we visit, it is those lesser known places that really stand out in my memories long after our trip is over. I think this is because I feel like I found a little secret that I don't need to share with the world. The experience that we have in these lesser known places is less crowded and busy, giving us a more authentic and immersive experience.
For us, a big part of this is simply getting out of the big city. I really feel like if you travel somewhere and don't get out of the big, touristy city, you really are missing out. For example, you can't go to France for the first time and not visit Paris, but if you don't get out into the French countryside to visit some of the little towns and villages, you are missing out on a big piece of French culture and what truly makes it special and unique.
Getting away from the city will give you a completely different perspective. These small towns are usually less commercialized and "westernized" than a big city, meaning that they will give you a more authentic view of the country. Also, you aren't jostling with thousands of other tourists. There is less stress, so you can enjoy the place in a more real way.
The people in smaller towns also seem (IMHO) friendlier. They are willing to take the extra time to interact with you because they aren't usually dealing with hundreds of other "tourists" in a day...which makes the interaction with them more relaxed.
I have to admit it...I have just never been very good at taking vacations where all we do is relax. Nothing against those of you who love these kinds of trips, but if we don’t get out to do a few things during our trip, it just doesn’t feel fulfilling to me. When I choose a destination (even for a “relaxing” trip), there has to be a few things of interest for us to see and do.
Now, I also have to admit that I have been guilty more than once of going WAY TOO FAR to the other end of the travel spectrum and of planning trips that were too packed with activity and did not contain enough downtime.
After years of planning trips, I have finally gotten to the point where I have found a happy medium between activity and rest, and have developed specific methods for planning itineraries that have the right amount of both.
Transformative, Cathartic Travel!
Ok, this might come off as sounding a little "duh", but when I travel, I like to FEEL LIKE I traveled. For me, travel should be something that pushes my outside of my comfort level a little. It is an opportunity to gently expand my boundaries and gain a wider perspective on the world and its people.
If we only travel to places that feel "comfortable" and "easy", I don't really feel like we are getting all of the potential transformational benefits of travel. If I wanted to feel "comfortable", I would stay home. This is not to say that you need to do anything "extreme" or unsafe (always trust your guy instincts and use common safety sense when in a new place)...but feeling a little uncomfortable somewhere because no one speaks your language, or because none of the foods look familiar is part of the reason that you set off away from the comforts of your home to begin with.
I embrace these uncomfortable moments as an opportunity to grow and connect with the local culture and to learn something about myself.
By slow, I definitely am not talking about boring. What I mean is that we would rather spend more time in once place rather than not enough time in a bunch of different places. There are a number of reasons for this.
First, from a logistical viewpoint, every time you pack up and move, you lose a day of travel. By the time you get everyone packed, out, to the next lodging and settled again, you have lost a day of possible travel. This is especially true if you have kids.
From a cultural perspective, staying longer in each place allows you to DIG DEEPER than just the "must see" sights and attractions. It allows you time to visit the local market each day for fresh foods. You will have time to get to know some of the locals, and to let THEM tell you about some of the lesser known gems that most tourists never find. It allows you time to develop a relationship with that place and its people, and to let it sink into your heart a little bit deeper. Isn't this what travel is all about? And you really just don't get this experience when you are busy running from one place to the next.
This could mean spending your whole two week vacation in one country rather than two or three. It might mean spending a week in a beautiful rental farmhouse in one town, exploring, taking day trips and really feeling like a "local". In a two week trip, we stick to only 1-2 countries and we generally spend a minimum of 3-4 nights in each place.
If you loved that you read here, I have created a free guide to the top four things that keep you from living your family travel dreams (and how to overcome them).
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