Kathmandu ambassadors Alesha and Jarryd are professional photographers, writers and founders of adventure travel blog NOMADasaurus. They’ve been exploring the world together since 2008, searching for culture and adventure in off-the-beaten-path destinations.
If you’ve made the life-changing decision to pack your bags and head off on a global adventure, you’ve probably researched your destinations, created perfect packing lists, and have an idea of what activities you’ll do when you get there.
But there’s more to travel preparation than a good list. To get the most out of your adventures, you need to chill out, be open and mentally prepare yourself for what’s around the corner. Here’s our top tips to make your experience the best it can be.
Take your time when travelling
There’s a lot to be said for travelling slow and focusing on your day-to-day experiences. By giving yourself a few extra days in a destination (rather than the bare minimum) you’ll really get to know the neighbourhoods and delve deeper into the local culture.
Visit a couple of places in the morning, then spend the afternoon walking the streets, relaxing in little restaurants and soaking up the atmosphere in town squares. It might mean you skip a few attractions, but what you’ll gain is worth more than money can buy.
Try food that makes you turn your head twice
There’s a good chance that the local cuisine will become a highlight of your travels, but don’t just stick to the Western-style dishes you know and love. Mexican food in Mexico is nothing like the Tex-Mex you make at home, and good luck finding a honey chicken dish in China.
The real joy can be found in what the locals eat, and this might not be something you’d normally try at home. But in the spirit of getting out of your comfort zone, you should push yourself eat new and unusual food ,
This is especially important if you find yourself in a local’s home for a meal. Many people take immense pleasure in cooking for foreigners and are proud of their cuisine. Try a little of whatever you’re offered, even if you don’t necessarily like it. It’s interactions like this that will leave a lasting impression not only on yourself, but on your host as well.
Don't always look through your camera
If you’re anything like us, coming home with incredible photos of the places you have been is very important. We all want to capture images that will help us remember our travels for years to come.
But when you spend every moment trying to capture your holiday, you’re inadvertently removing yourself from being a part of your surroundings. Before you take a shot of a street market or captivating landscape, put the camera down and appreciate exactly where you are. Breathe, admire and fall in love with that moment in time, then take the picture. When you look back on your snaps you’ll remember so much more than just the visuals.
Redefine your comfort zone
As John A Shedd said, “A ship is safer in harbour, but that’s not what ships are built for.” When you travel, take that mindset with you, and be willing to break outside of your comfort zone at every chance you get.
This can be as obvious as going skydiving or bungy jumping, as challenging as staying in a dorm room if you are slightly introverted, or even as simple as going to a local play on your own. The more you step outside of your comfort zone the more you’ll discover just how far you can grow as a person.
Be open minded towards everything
One reason to travel is to explore new cultures and places, and along with this comes a world of intricacies that may challenge you.
In a new country, it’s important to be open-minded towards new cultures and beliefs so you can have a more meaningful experience. For example, you might be a vegetarian, but in places like Mongolia they depend on meat for their survival. Even though you may disagree with some aspects of a culture, if you seek to learn more about it, you may also learn more about yourself.
Getting lost is not always a disaster
When we arrive in a new city we always spend the first day exploring. We’ll head out from the accommodation and start walking, with no real idea on where we’re going or what we’ll find. For us it’s the perfect way to get a unique introduction to a place, because we never know what we’ll stumble across.
Of course you must always keep your wits about you, and always listen to your instincts. Some cities like Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg aren’t places that you would do this, and if you see a dodgy looking neighbourhood or alleyway it’s best to turn around.
Be patient, it's the only way you'll get through
When you travel , you’ll discover that some places are more lax when it comes to punctuality and customer service . In times like this you need to master the art of zen.
Take life slower when you travel, and don’t get frustrated if your food takes a little longer to come out or if the receptionist at the hotel isn’t in a hurry to check you in. Some places just don’t understand the concept of being in a rush Take everything in your stride, breathe, and in doing so learn to be patient in all of your interactions on the road.
Things will go wrong, and that's okay
No matter how much you prepare, you can’t control every situation. Your flight might get cancelled, or your bus takes a 4-hour detour on bumpy roads, or the heavens open up when you’re standing on top of a mountain peak. This is the reality of travel between all the amazing experiences and pictures on social media.
The most important thing to remember is that this is all part of the adventure, and will shape who you are as a person. When things go wrong, embrace them with an open mind, a sense of humour, and a willingness to improvise.