You’ve saved up some money, you’ve planned some time off, and you’re looking to embark on the adventure of a lifetime – a truly life-changing, epic vacation. You don’t want to do the same boring trip to Paris or London everyone else does (although trust us, you can have an epic vacation in Paris or London with these simple tips.) You want an experience you’ll remember for years to come – and one no one will be able to beat next time you find yourself at a party comparing travel tales. Here’s how to make your next vacation truly epic:
Kiss, Marry, Travel
It might seem like perfect sense to invite your best friend or boyfriend along for your vacation, but clashing travelstyles can put a damper on any trip away. If you want to travel on the cheap in youth hostels and wing your travel plans as you go, don’t pair yourself up with a friend who’s used to luxury and always needs to know what’s next in the plan. If you hope to get off the beaten path and explore the great outdoors, consider your travel partner’s fitness level (and tolerance for bugs) before committing to traveling with them. The same thing goes if your idea of an epic vacation is taking on the world’s highest bungee jump or going cage-diving with great white sharks – choose a timid travel partner and your exciting plans could easily go up in smoke. If you plan to travel alone, make sure you’re aware of safety issues in the countries you’re visiting (especially if you’re female) and plan to check-in with someone back home on a regular basis.
Plan? What Plan?
The most epic adventures are not the ones that come in pre-planned tour packages or carefully hatched preparations you make before you even depart for your destination. Make room in your itinerary to explore the amazing temple your new friends at the hotel bar told you about, and if you happen to get the chance to detour for a few days to camp in an Amazonian jungle, do you really want to be fretting about your lost hostel fees? Most experienced ‘epic’ travelers book a beginning and return flight to their destination and a hotel or hostel for the first few days, then see where the road takes them. Yes, it’s a little riskier than planning everything to the last detail – but it makes room for experiences you could never have imagined back home.
Loco for Local
If you get the chance to meet some locals (or if you prefer, meet up with an expatriate group from your home country – you can usually find them online) you’ll get the inside scoop on what to see, where to eat, and how to have an authentic experience of the country you’re visiting. You might even be invited home to meet the family and experience everyday life in your destination country! Of course, always be wary of potential scams when dealing with locals promising you big things… but if you connect with the right people, you’ll get to see a side of your destination most tourists never even know exists.
Don’t Be Too Cool
The point of an epic vacation is to cram as many awesome experiences into your travel time as possible, and I’m sorry, but if you’re visiting Malta, that means you have to see the Mdina. Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, everyone does it. But being ‘too cool’ to see the sites on the standard tourist trip isn’t cool at all – why go all the way to Cambodia and skip Angkor Wat? Some tourist havens are so popular because they’re epic, and you won’t do yourself any favors insisting on visiting Venice without going on a gondola ride.
Sorry – Facebook posts don’t count. Whether you write a little about your travels each day or keep a photographic diary with your trusty camera, recording what you did on your trip is always a good idea. Memories fade, long trips can blend into a random patchwork of recollections, and details can disappear from your mind faster than a tuk-tuk drives in Thailand. Keeping a diary is a way to reflect on your days, stay in the moment as you travel, and have an amazing memento of your trip that will jog your memory in the years to come. How else will you remember the name of that awesome café you found for the next time you visit Madrid?
Spread Some Pixie Dust
For a lot of people, traveling to a developing country for the first time is a real wake-up call that they’ve lived a life of relative ease and privilege, and the hospitality they experience from the locals they encounter inspires an urge to improve things for the people of the country they’ve fallen in love with. Whether you plan ahead and bring little trinkets to give to local children or return home and start a book drive for the school in the village you spent a week in, giving back to the place where you had an epic experience is a way to keep that experience going and that far-off place alive in your heart. You’ll also engender goodwill for the next traveller who discovers your favorite place… so look around you when you travel and think about what you can do to make a difference while you’re there and when you get home.
Make sure your next vacation is an epic one. Either you embark on this journey alone or with friends, collect as many positive experiences as possible to have proof of a life lived well!