To Travel Like a Pro, Don’t Do These Things

There are thousands of books on how to travel, travel guides, what to pack, what to buy, what to eat, etc. What about what not to do? A list of what not to do, for me, is far easier to follow. For example, we know not to do heroin, but for people who use it it is the toughest habit to break. In my travels, these are the things that I do not do that maximize the experience.

Do Not Recline Your Seat

Unless the seat behind me is empty of another cramped human body, I do not recline my seat. Why? Because, I know how it feels when the person in the seat in front of me reclines their seat during a transatlantic flight.

I won’t be able to open my laptop, and have to hunch over like Quasimodo to eat a meal in economy. If I was logical and lacked empathy like my fellow passenger sitting in front of me, I  would recline my seat to regain space. But, I know that that would set off a domino effect of inconvenience throughout the economy cabin.

I say, “No,” to reclining my seat if there is someone behind me. It’s rude. It signifies a lack of spatial awareness and emotional intelligence.

By not reclining my seat, I am in the safest position for turbulence, maximizing my posture, allowing the person behind me to maximize their comfort during a flight, and maximize their first hours after the flight.

Leave Cell Service at Home

Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Your cell phone will not stop you from getting mugged, raped, or beaten up. At the time of this writing, there is no app substitute for physical self-defense, street smarts, and environmental awareness.

Your cell phone is good for reactive reporting, not for proactive defense.

If we travel with the purpose to gain new perspectives and to explore ourselves and the world around us, how is carrying our carrier around with us going to help?

Yes, maybe we must know what the top 3 restaurants in this medieval village are or the trip will be a failure. More on that later.

Last year I caught a ride from Fort Lauderdale Airport to Fort Myers, a 4 hour road trip across the Everglades of South Florida. I used a shuttle service that picked me up, for $30, in a Chrysler Minivan.

In the back of the van I sat next to a couple from South Africa who were visiting Florida for a honeymoon cruise. This was the husband’s first question to me once we hit the road:

“Do you know the wifi password?”

I laughed out loud and thought to myself, “You expect wifi in a Chrysler minivan? GTFO!” I asked the driver if the van had wifi and he looked at me like it was the 8th time he had heard it that day. Stoically he replied, “No.”

What in the world is so urgent that we need to be connected at all times? The short answer is, “Nothing.”

Not having cell phone service while traveling is one of my favorite parts of travel. I am able to connect 100% without the dings and distractions of home. No one is there to interrupt my sabbatical. And the best places I have travelled are the places where there is no signal.

I’m sure that even these spots on earth will soon be covered by 5G LTE to support augmented reality apps.

We cling to our phones for security like heron addicts return to the needle.

When traveling, experience more by forgetting the service. Use your instincts.

Ditch The Guide Book

Surrender to the spontaneity and synchronicity of life and ask locals for recommendations and directions. Avoid the white bread tourist recommendations of guide books.

When you are deciding on where to eat, how do you decide? Do you use your judgement, walk outside and find a place based on your instincts, or do you go to Yelp! and save time by choosing only a top-rated restaurant?

When you travel, do you ask the fanny pack tourist for recommendations, or do you brave it up, hit the street, and ask the local barista about their favorite spot?

A guide book is written for tourists. Follow the guide book, and you will be sure to see what everyone else has already seen, and meet people who are also following the guide book.

Your Instagram will be a redux of Lonely Planet’s top locations for each destination. If there is anything the world needs less of, it’s tourists. Which reminds me of:

Cruise Towns

Have you ever been to a Cruise Town? A Cruise Town is a small town on a small island that only comes to life when a cruise ship arrives at port. The Cruise Town’s purpose is to create a facade of culture and sell the cruise passengers jewelry, t-shirts and art that represents the strongest stereotypes of the island life.

On some islands the Cruise Town is walled off from the rest of the island. And I mean literally walled off with a physical barrier only accessible to locals with a vendor ID, or those with a cruise ship card, pale skin, a Tommy Bahama shirt and cankles.

Guide books are the cruise town equivalent to an island. You visit an island, but the book keeps you within a safe bubble shielded from the rich, real culture of the other 98% of the landmass.

Don’t Overpack

One of the greatest travel pitfalls is overpacking. Here’s your solution:

Fit everything into a carry-on bag.

If you are a normal traveler not going on a National Geographic-sponsored expedition thus not in need of heavy equipment, cameras, arctic gear, and custom scuba diving rigs, you can fit your stuff into a carry-on bag.

It gives me a simultaneous sense of anxiety and relief to witness these Jersey Shore-looking, fake-tan, tourist types who haul multiple suitcases of outfits with them on their journeys. These are the same people who will travel to the Maldives and be the first to complain about the wait time at a beachside restaurant.

The relief comes from not being them. And the relief also has financial and mental benefits.

Financial Benefits

No checked-bag fees. No time wasted checking bags. Public transportation is a breeze and a feasible option, whether bus or train. Try carrying luggage with you on a bus during rush hour in any city.

Because you have a carry-on bag, or backpack, there is no need to pay for help with your bags. And, because it’s rolling by your side or on your back, there is no waiting at the magical conveyor belt crossing your fingers that the airline didn’t lose your baggage. What a relief.

For weekend to two week vacations I travel with all of the requisite belongings in this 15″ laptop backpack. The backpack is small enough to be considered a personal item and allows me to fly on budget airliners, like Frontier, at the lowest fare.

Mental Advantages

Being accountable for just yourself and a backpack frees up the mental capacity to enjoy the experience, rather than worrying about your belongings.

If you go hardcore and travel with a personal item sized backpack, you will be able to land at your destination and immediately begin exploring without worrying about checking-in your baggage at a hotel.

Carrying baggage is like carrying an extra person. Shed away the stuff and get as close to just carrying you, without going full nude, as you can.

Over to you

What travel ‘don’ts’ have you discovered in your travels? Let me know in the comments.

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