A few of the obvious, not so obvious, and down-right strange suggestions I have following my experiences in travelling and living in strange new worlds…
- ALWAYS know where your passport is.
- ALWAYS know where your wallet is.
- ALWAYS know where your keys are.
- ALWAYS know where your phone is.
For these, I guess they are all similar in the fact you need to know where something is in the physical sense. But some hints I have found very handy are thus; keep them in the same place each time- whether it be a specific spot for your wallet, a particular travel case for your passport, back inside pocket of your handbag for your keys, bra for your phone (don’t think this would be particularly comfortable for long periods of time, but you-do-you). Know where the “right” spot is for each item, and try as you might, to stick to it. Yes, there’s been mornings I have awoken to missing keys, only to find them in my shoes from the previous night, but if you know where they’re “supposed” to be, you’ll know when they’re missing a lot faster! AND NEVER keep your phone in your back pocket, or stand at an intersection with a loose grip, as it might just be swiped by a passerby on a bike. Just saying…
If you’re as invested in keeping track of your important things as I am, one of the greatest inventions I have come across is the TILE. It’s a small device that slips into your wallet or passport holder, onto your key ring or can even stick to your laptop. It’s so FANTASTIC that you can even make them buzz when you’re within a certain range- great for when you’re in a rush and have stupidly left your keys in your shoes again.
- Have a rough idea of where you’re going
Apps like maps.me, ways and of course trusty-dusty good old Google Maps have been a lifesaver. I have only recently been actually using some of the functions on google maps, where you can drop pins, save and favourite locations you want to go and want to return to. Honestly, this saves SO much time when navigating around the city. When you don’t have data, it’s as simple as loading the map before you head out, and you’ve got your locations ready to go- but maps.me is great as you can download the map whilst in wifi and use the search toggle to find your way around. Here’s an example of my map of Sevilla:
- Get absolutely lost.
While yes, it can be stressful when you have a time pressure to stick to, and you have to know where you’re headed, but the absolute BEST way to explore a city is without your head in a map, without worrying where you’re going and getting lost in the alleyways. I played a game with a friend exploring the streets of Toledo. Get to the next intersection and pick/ flip a coin for left or right. No phones, no maps, no thinking. A split second decision that can make the difference between exploring some of the hidden gems of the city and lapping back on yourself without realising. What’s the worst that can happen? A few extra steps in your day and hitting a dead end? I will never tire of exploring the back streets.
- Don’t be afraid to make the first move Whether it be staying in hostels, sitting in a cafe or at a bar, there’s something about being ‘on holidays’ that gives you a bit more confidence to go up to a total stranger and start a conversation with them. From experience, people are usually partial to a bit of light conversation, and it can literally be the one second conversation you have with someone that gives you the vibe of – “yep, they’re my kind of person”. Especially in hostels, people are usually sympathetic to people travelling alone, so GO FOR IT! Make some friends!
- Don’t be afraid of being alone. Don’t be afraid of taking time out. Travel can be exhausting. Moving from place to place, packing your overly stuffed suitcase, carrying the said suitcase around- pretending it’s as light as a feather so you don’t have to pay excess baggage on the trains, meeting new people and constantly explaining ‘your story’, being hot, being tired, being hungry. It all takes its toll. Unless you’re Bugs Bunny, we all need a bit of a time out from time to time, so just because you’re ‘travelling’, don’t forget that it’s ok to have a slow day.
- Don’t be afraid to say no More often than not, when you travel somewhere, it’s your only opportunity to do what you want to do. Whether you’re travelling in a group, in a pair, family or couple, don’t be afraid to say what you want to do in each particular city. Don’t just follow along with the crowd, especially if they’re doing something you have zero interest in.
- The two-night rule. Ideally the three-night rule.
If you’ve got the time, like I do, it’s pretty simple. do NOT stay anywhere, unless it is literally a stopover in the middle of nowhere, for less than two nights. Three nights is ideal, but I will settle for two nights. This gives you the opportunity to do some of the touristy things, explore, get a good feel for a city, without feeling exhausted and running yourself into the ground. It also maintains a much better relationship with your suitcase and your poor back having to lug that thing around.
I’m not talking about weekend getaways or day trips. For me, even eight days in Barcelona wasn’t enough. But two nights in Granada was fine. It depends on the city, sure, to help you determine how long you want to stay. But book your holiday as a series of one-nighters, and you’ll run yourself into the ground before you’ve run out of clean socks.