After 32 years of travel, 18 years of on-and-off solo travel, and having my style change from time to time, I think I finally found a balance in how I want to travel. Now each location is different and offers you something different but I typically have the five things I want to do when I travel.
1. A walking tour.
On day one of every country, a walking tour should be the first thing you aim for. It offers adventure and entertainment. The adventure part, most of them requires some navigating to get to. The starting point is always a central park or plaza which is a central location for buses and trains. If you aren’t staying in the city, you get to explore the first sights of the city via taxi. Either way, it’s a great start. The entertainment aspect comes from the tour guides. Most of them are very knowledgeable of their country and always have a passion unseen by most other interactions you might have. They also are the key to a great trip as they know all the secret places to visit and the money-saving tips you might not have figured out on your own.
2. Visit a Market
I visit the market for two things. One is to buy fruits. I love fruits, especially the vast array of fruits you get in South America. My favorite is the Paloquemao market in Colombia. They always have something I’ve never seen before. The market trips not only let me buy fruits and the occasional dish from local vendors but it gives me an insight into how the locals live and what typical dishes I might need to try in the country.
3. A really lovely restaurant.
My friend Jorge visits Michelin star restaurants when he travels and I can see why. The food at some of these places is an experience in itself with the addition of the food. And the service is always top class. I don’t always do Michelin stars but I always have a guide on what are the best ones. Whenever I get to a country and I use my card for the first time, it prompts American Express to send an email that includes places to eat and activity recommendations in the country. I tend to pick my restaurants based on that list, and they never disappoint.
4. Hang with a local
I will admit, I am not the best at making connections quickly. I even have a hard time asking someone to take my picture but if you meet a local and spend time with them, it’s a cheat code for travel. They offer experiences you would have never had on your own but you have to be careful of the locals you meet. I tend to ask my tour guides about their plans for the rest of the day or join meet-up groups around my interests. A top choice to meet locals is at the beach. Everyone is having fun at the beach.
5. An attraction
I take a lot of weekend trips. I want to visit every country in the world but with 4 weeks vacation a year that might take a while. So having only been in some places as little as a day, I pack in one tour that focuses around 1 attraction I want to see and make a day of it. Even if the tour walks past the attraction, you know where you need to go to find it afterward. Some of the most impressive places I’ve seen are the Pyramids of Giza, the rock-cut architecture in Cappadocia, and the Taj Mahal in India.
No matter the reason for travel or how often you do it, it’s one thing I urge everyone to experience. Travel as much as you can, as far as you can, and as long as you can. Remember, travel is the only thing you spend money on that makes you richer.
Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any parties mentioned. None of the entities mentioned has reviewed, approved, or endorsed the content listed in this post.