5 Simple Tips to Make Your Travels More Meaningful

Are you so accustomed to being a tourist that you’ve gotten comfortable in that role? Ready to immerse yourself more fully into your next destination? It may be time to make things more interesting. Here are my tips for some small changes you can make to your travel habits that will help you create more meaningful journeys in the future.

1. Step away from the camera.

But you may ask, “Say what?! But Krista! I am a tourist! And I need to document this amazing trip! That is what tourists DO.”

Putting your camera away may seem like an unlikely tip coming from a shutter-happy professional photographer like myself, but hear me out.

It is so easy to default to Tourist Mode when you’re in a new place. When you’re busy snapping away on your iphone, it’s entirely possible that you might actually forget to experience your destination altogether. It’s like those scary times when you’re driving and for a split second you start thinking about something else, and then you snap out of your thought, wondering how long you’d been driving on auto-pilot. Seconds? Minutes? (Yikes!) Well, auto-piloting your camera while on a trip is kind of the same thing. This, my friends, is a call to be mindful about using technology as a crutch.

GYTO girlfriend Jen often refers to it as “taking pictures with your heart” instead.

While traveling, try being selective of the photos you’re going to take each day. Give yourself a limited number of images to capture for each segment of your trip, and stick to it. You might find that this actually improves the quality of your images because you’re more focused on making good ones. But also it forces you to be more present in general. Bonus! And while we’re at it, this applies to cell phones as well. If you find yourself getting antsy while in a foreign place, resist the urge to pass the time staring at your phone. Passing time checking your email or facebook has become a natural reaction for all of us 20-30 somethings, and it really detracts from the total experience. The actual world around you RIGHT NOW is likely to be much more interesting than what Aunt Gladys had for lunch today.

2. Pick a playlist.

Imagine an epic, dramatic scene in one of your favorite films. There is a good chance that there is music associated with that scene, right? Now, imagine the same scene... but silent. How does it feel? Music is used as an effective tool to set the mood of the film. It works for movies; why not use the same tools to create the soundtrack to your travels?

When I studied abroad for a summer in London during college, I loaded The Postal Service album onto my ipod and listened to it while walking through the city in the daytime, and on long bus or train commutes. At the time, the music was like a companion to me. It added introspective depth to my experience and a hop to my step, depending on the song of course.

Almost a decade later, I relive a part of London every time I hear a song from that album. It transports me back there, if even for a minute, and there is something about that that is immensely enjoyable. I highly recommend giving some serious thought to your own travel playlist in preparation for your next trip.

Alternatively, do what we GYTO ladies do: Shazam songs that you hear during your travels, and put them in an awesome destination-inspired playlist when you arrive home.

3. Force yourself to make conversation.

Chances are, you want to immerse yourself fully into the experience of your destination, to feel like you are a part of this new place. To connect in some way. A great way to achieve this is to step out of your comfort zone and say hello.

Greet a friendly-looking shop owner or bartender, and tell them you are visiting their city for the first time. Ask them for restaurant recommendations, directions, etc..

It feels uncomfortable at first, but once you start up a conversation with a willing local, there is a great chance that you’ll get the insider’s scoop on where to go and what to see.

On GYTO’s first girlfriend getaway to New York, we befriended a hotel bellhop, who excitedly told us all about his favorite restaurants. It’s kind of a sassy feeling to get the insider’s scoop. The only way to get a more authentic experience is to mix with the locals. You can do it!

4. Close your eyes.

Chances are, if you've traveled a bit in your lifetime, you’ve probably experienced a really beautiful location. Pretty much any traveler I know can tell you about what their favorite places looked like.

Let’s kick it up a notch: The next time you’re watching a sunset, for example, remind yourself to close your eyes for at least 10 full seconds. Taking away your sight for juuuust a little while will force your other senses to become more aware. Take a few deep breaths and feel the air on your skin. Make a mental note about any scents you detect, as well as which little sounds you note in the distance. Open your eyes again, and repeat later. There. You were just a very present part of that awesome sunset, and it was amazing riiiight? Well done!

5. Take notes.

Speaking of journals! Consider writing down the little nuances of your 10 second sense game in your journal so that you can remember it later. It is so much fun to revisit these little notes after your travels have ended.

Draw yourself sketches of buildings or landscapes that you liked, write down exactly what you had for dinner and the name of that great cafe where you grabbed your morning coffee.

Who knows. If you take enough notes, you may just be able to start up a travel blog with some of your bff’s. :)

We want to hear from our readers.  How do you further immerse yourselves into your destinations? We'd love to hear your stories!