To the Desert go Prophets and Hermits; through deserts go Pilgrims and Exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values of retreat, not to escape but to find Reality.
-Paul Shepard, Man in the Landscape
A friend of mine is traveling to India for the first time and has been asking for advice on what to see, eat and do to make the most of her 10 days. Our chat ranged from the practical (bug spray, exchange rates, hailing a cab) to the more esoteric life lessons we as travelers seek. Like, why do we choose to travel at all? What are we seeking anyway? What does traveling tell us about ourselves, especially when our plans turn into a big mess?
Here: a collection of the best travel tips. Some are from personal experience, but most are borrowed from wise, seasoned travelers. Like my dad, the wisest traveler I know, who has trekked the planet from Santiago to Siberia, and whose incredible adaptability and belief in the goodness of people is simply inspiring.
Roll with the punches. Sometimes the worst situations end up being the most memorable.
Rest well. Take care of yourself. Nothing is worth the cost or effort if you sense you’re compromising your safety or health.
Be a traveler, not a tourist. Be insatiably curious.
Trust people, and talk to them. If you need help, ask.
Plans change, for better or worse. Be flexible. It’s part of the journey.
Read the literature. Read Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie) on a train from Delhi. Read One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) on a beach in Central America. Read Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy) while hiking through the Arizona deserts.
Take time to reflect. Keep a journal.
Carry grapefruit seed extract. It has natural antibacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, antiviral superpowers. Rub a few drops between your hands if you can’t wash them properly. Squeeze a few drops into your water to prevent traveling woes (like Montezuma’s Revenge).
Have a home base. Spend time in one region or village, and take day trips from there. Live like a local.
Go on retreat. Devote an entire week to Self. What about a week practicing yoga and surfing in Costa Rica? Did you realize we’re headed there this April?
What about you? What wisdom has served you in your wanderings, or changed the way you look at the world?