Let’s not get too carried away with our optimism here.
Stop right there… in all the flurry and excitement of the upcoming vacation, you are bound to make some choices that compromise the quality of your trip. I can definitely speak for myself when I say that I look back at my first few travels with regret and much shaking of the head in disappointment. Admittedly I could have remedied many of my rookie mistakes by immersing myself into the wisdom that Google had to offer, but I easily see myself frustrated after reading article after article of tiny nuances to fuss over ultimately adding stress to the vacation. In response to the existing worrisome do and don’t lists on travelling, I intend to make mine simple, de-stressing, and above all realistic.
To start off, I wouldn’t even think about bringing 5 different activities with you in your carry-on to keep you busy at the airport. Even though you may have a 4 hour stopover in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you will be bored mindless for that entire time. I would allocate a whole hour to comfortably getting myself to my next gate, and also factor in my discomfort after spending hours seated in a stuffy plane. Bring a book, but even a self-proclaimed bookworm like me couldn’t be brought to read more than a chapter after so much mental exhaustion. So as of right now, you can unpack the Sudoku, crosswords, knitting, embroidery, and especially any sort of coloring or painting with watercolors from your-carry on.
Secondly, ladies (although this can apply to gentlemen too) please take the bare minimum grooming materials and accessories with you. Over the years I have narrowed it down to the single hair tie holding up my ponytail at the airport, a toothbrush with toothpaste, sunglasses, and a comb. No tissues or shampoos or wet napkins for “freshening up”, and definitely no accessories (this means no earrings, necklaces, and bracelets you think you don’t wear often enough). What better opportunity to buy the crafts of your travel destination and wear them on the spot? Quite frankly there is absolutely no need to ‘take one of everything’ you own. I found that this ultimately led to clutter, and this was especially brought to light as I packed my luggage to return home.
Lastly, for packing clothes I would strongly recommend against packing uncomfortable clothes just for the sake of wearing them. Since I was guilty of this myself, I experienced the unfortunate distraction from ‘taking the moment in’ during my travels with incessant wardrobe malfunctions. I can even confidently say to completely omit formal wear; should an occasion pop up a semi-formal outfit should pass, but I like to test that this same outfit would not appear to be out of place if you were for a walk in the park.
On the other hand, I would by all means encourage leaving lots of space in your luggage for souvenirs. It has taken me 7 trips to realize that it is most optimal to arrive at your destination with a half empty luggage. For anyone who enjoys shopping this is the perfect opportunity to justify splurging on one-of-a-kind local products, instead of constantly restraining yourself by the lack of room in your luggage.
Secondly, as a highly introspective person, I cannot emphasize enough the impact of journaling, especially during eventful times such as travel. In my experience, to make such an activity work it must be concretely scheduled within the day. Personally, I engage in this during my afternoons as a way to wind down, and I am fortunate to have reaped the rewards so soon. When staying for half a year in Cairo, Egypt, I kept weekly note of the funniest event, most interesting purchase or sight, and a myriad of thoughts and worries I had back then. Reading back, it is comical to see how my priorities shifted and it was insightful to read a stall by stall description of the trip through Khan Khalili Bazaar, the biggest in the world. I regret not doing the same for my recent trips to Portugal and Morocco, since I arrogantly assumed that my memory would retain it all.
My final regret is not taking enough pictures with friends and family. The unfortunate realization dawned upon me when I looked though my pictures of the charming cities in Portugal and likened them to the plethora already on Google images. There was nothing to set mine apart, other than the inferior professional photography abilities. The few photos that did capture the exhaustion on my sister’s face or the determination in my mother’s eyes as we stood waiting in a two hour long line for some tourist attraction are now priceless to me.
All in all, I encourage you to reflect, compare, laugh, and learn from these experiences. Nothing but pragmatism in the preface of travel will guarantee a smooth ride, and it is the lack of restraints during the vacation that embody the sought-after relaxation. Embrace these two points and bon voyage!
By Nia A.