I’ve traveled quite a bit in my thirty years. I’ve learned a lot about how to travel along the way. So, as I set out on my next adventure, I thought I’d share with you a handful of tips for the next time you travel.
1. Never leave without a book… or five.
I have the worst luck when it comes to traveling. I honestly don’t remember the last time I was on a flight that wasn’t delayed (which explains why my family won't fly with me). I’m also one of those people who likes to get to the airport at least two hours early, even though I have TSA Pre-Check and even though I know the flight is not going to leave on time. The upside to the countless hours I’ve spent sitting in airports is that I’ve read many more books than I would have otherwise. So, always have more books than you think you need. You never know when you’re going to end up waiting longer than you anticipated.
NOTE: If you ask my family, they will tell you that I like to arrive at the airport five hours early. Don’t believe them.
2. Always bring an extra pair of underwear.
The bad luck I experience when traveling extends well beyond delayed flights. Once, when I was going to Ireland, I spilled an entire cup of Starbucks down the front of my shirt and pants just as I was settling in for the six-hour flight. I’m not easily embarrassed, so the coffee stains didn’t bother me in the least. But, sitting in coffee-soaked underwear? That’s not all that enjoyable. The moral of the story is always have an extra pair of underwear readily available in your carry-on. Or, just don’t spill your coffee.
3. Be open to getting out of your comfort zone.
I tend to keep to myself when I travel. I am not that person who strikes up a conversation with the stranger trapped in the seat next to me. I’m more of the put-on-my-headphones-pull-out-my-book-and-avoid-eye-contact type. But, I’m also the person that always ends up next to the strike-up-a-conversation type. I used to try to send subtle signals that I didn’t want to talk. As it turns out, the type of person that likes to talk to strangers on airplanes is also the type of person that can’t read social cues. So, I gave up. Do you know what I found? People are fascinating, and God works in mysterious ways. Since I began engaging in conversation with the folks that wanted to talk, I’ve only sat next to a Christian once. He has opened up countless opportunities for spiritual conversation – and opportunities for me to share my faith. I would have missed out of them all if I hadn’t been willing to get out of my comfort zone. Talking to strangers on airplanes may not be out of your comfort zone, but what is? What might God want to do in you and through you, if only you’d step out? You might learn something. You might encourage someone. You might even make a friend.
4. Be exceedingly kind to the ticketing agents.
Ticketing agents deal with cranky travelers all the time. Don’t be one of them. Also, they could “accidentally” send your bags to the wrong city.
NOTE: I have had my bags sent to the wrong city, but I don’t believe it was because I was rude to the ticketing agent. I have, though, witnessed travelers berating men and women just trying to do their job and I would be tempted to send their luggage to Bangkok. if I were them. I wouldn’t do it, of course. But, I would be tempted.
NOTE: This recommendation applies to TSA agents, flight attendants, fellow passengers (especially those traveling with small children), and the rest of humanity.
5. Write down your stories.
I’ve never been good at keeping a journal. I always make it about four entries before I give up for six months, at which point I decide to, once again, dedicate myself to journaling and, obviously, have to buy a brand-new journal. I have dozens of journals that completely blanks, save for the first three pages. A friend of mine, though, encouraged me to start writing down stories during my travels. Admittedly, I’ve only recently taken up this practice, but I plan to continue. Reflecting at the end of each day – even for just a couple of minutes – has allowed me to capture experiences and conversations I would have otherwise forgotten. It has also helped me think about and articulate what I learned. I don’t want to squander the unique learning opportunities that travel affords. Writing it down helps me make the most of the experience and provides the added benefit of being able to revisit those lessons later.
NOTE: As you jot down your stories, think about how you could tell them succinctly. People will ask about your trip, but most will lose interest if you start to ramble (a special thanks to those friends that indulge my rambling). So, decide on the couple of stories or lessons you want to share and think about how you would tell them in less than five minutes.
NOTE: If you can’t fathom telling only a couple of stories, I would highly recommend starting a blog, so you can share to your hearts content.
Well, that’s all folks. I’m off to Nairobi. I hope these tips prove useful, in your travels and in your day-to-day.
Here’s to the next adventure – mine, and yours.