Last week my best friend Rachel came to visit us. She was on spring break (she’s a Chicago Public School teacher) and decided to take a visit to NYC & D.C. for her vacation. Typically, when people come to visit a popular place, they want to do all of the popular tourist things. In the case of NYC, that would be Times Square, Rockafeller Center, and of course, Central Park. Since NYC is such a destination hub, I have evidently done these touristy things multiple times so far this year…and obviously, I’m a little sick of it. So when Rachel’s visit came around, I asked her if we could avoid as much tourist stuff as possible.
Luckily for me, she felt the same way. So with this in mind, we went about our days in the city very differently. I took her to a book store in the Upper West Side that had a “Blind Date with a Book” table. We picked out our blind dates, grabbed lunch at the Halal Guys cart, and enjoyed a picnic overlooking Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Afterwards, we hit coffee shops and more bookstores, laughed and read a lot, and ended the day on the couch in my apartment, drinking champagne and eating cookie dough while enjoying three glorious hours of Harry Potter.
It was an absolute perfect day, and not once did we join a tourist crowd. As Rachel left for D.C. she told me how glad she was to experience how I live in NYC versus doing what everyone else does when visiting this iconic city.
This got me thinking about travel in general and all of the mistakes that people, including me, make while abroad. Sure there are tons of sights to see, but if that’s all you do, aren’t you going to feel even more tired at the end of your vacation than when you started? And isn’t vacation all about relaxing in the first place? Is pushing yourself to the limit really how you want to spend your journey?
Maybe you disagree with me and you positively live to see the sights. But if you’re one who is nodding at this post and fully wanting to change some habits towards your travel time, then here are a few tips I have picked up along the way:
Prioritize what you want.
I think this is the most crucial step in making the most at of your journey ahead. Before packing, or even booking your flights, prioritize what exactly you want to get out of your journey. Is it all about taking cool photos? Exploring local shops? Food? Antique hunting? History? Viewing monuments? For me, I prioritize great food, photo ops, and time to write in little cafés. Set yourself a goal of what you would like to get out of the trip. This will help you in planning out what you want to do, and stressing less (aka no FOMO) when your journey finally happens.
Do your research.
Once you set a goal of what what you would like to get out of your trip, take some time to do a little research. Some of my favorite sites for original travel guides including Darling Magazine, Refinery 29, PureWow, and The Every Girl. Don't feel like you have to write out an hour-by-hour itinerary, because honestly I think spontaneity can make the trip exciting. I'm talking write out a list of a few things you would like to do that match your original goal, which will help guide your overall journey and the things you would like to see.
Like I said, the last thing you want at the end of your vacation is to feel even more tired than when you left. Vacations are supposed to feel rejuvenating, so if you don't take some time to relax a bit you're going to miss it. Plus, amidst that relaxing time, you'll be able to get a serious glimpse at what everyday life looks like in the place you are traveling.
Make an album on your phone for your images.
I'm a huge photo nerd when I travel, so I had to develop a system that wouldn't overwhelm me when surfing through my images once my trip was over. At the end of each day, take five or ten minutes to choose your favorite images taken that day. Edit the photos. Once your finished, delete the extras. No need in wasting all that phone space! Add those photos to a photo album on your phone's photo app. That makes flipping through images to show your friends and family later way easier! Even choosing photos to print for a scrapbook.
Allow only one post a day.
I'm talking social posts, because I know all of you love to post and show off to your friends. Trust me, I do it too. So let me be the one to tell you to stop!!!!!! You're going to seriously miss out on all of the fun adventures if you're so worried about posting the perfect picture. Save it for later! Allow one post a day to limit yourself, or better yet, forget posting at all. Get off the grid for a while and enjoy your trip, because it will be over before you know it.
This pretty much goes without saying, but sometimes people need a little reminder. Remember the goal you set in the first place and just enjoy the journey. Forget having to hit all of the sights and do what everyone told you to do. Have a little experience of your own, because this adventure is yours and no one else's! Unless, of course, you are traveling with a partner. I think the same still applies though...just enjoy each other's company and forget about having to "do it all."