By Brittany Jones Cooper for Yahoo! Travel
Those who travel can often make their adventures look effortless. But while crisscrossing the world, meeting with locals, and sampling international cuisine looks easy, the journey can get bumpy. You might get lost, an airline ruins your reservation, or a language barrier leaves you frustrated and confused. It’s the handling of these moments that separates successful travelers from people who simply take trips.
The explorer Sir Richard Burton once said, “The gladdest moment in human life, methinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” And this couldn’t be more true. Traveling can breathe a newness and awareness into your life that other experiences fail to achieve. The key is finding a way to truly connect to the experience, and by mastering these seven skills, you’ll be on your way to traveling like a pro.
Successful travelers know where they’re going and what they’re doing once they get there. (Photo: Getty Images)
All seasoned travelers have at least a blueprint of how they want their trip to go. They’ve researched transportation systems, they know the distance to and from surrounding cities, and they’ve reached out to friends of friends of friends to get the inside scoop on the best places to eat, sleep, and play. There is no rigidity in their planning, no strict itinerary for their trip, just a confident knowledge of where they’re headed.
Want the inside scoop on where to go and what to do? Then be sure to mix and mingle with the locals. (Photo: iStock)
There are so many wonderful things about a city or country that you simply can’t find in a guidebook. And no one knows that better than the successful traveler. These people know that in order to get to the heart of a destination, you have to dig a little deeper. They’ll connect with people over social media, make friends with the locals, and strike up conversations with strangers on a train platform. If there is a hidden gem in a city, they’ll find it way before the average traveler.
Sometimes you just need to jump in the car and go! (Photo: Getty Images)
While they’re on a trip, highly successful travelers also embrace the uncertainty that comes with trying new foods and experiences. YOLO isn’t just a saying to them, it’s a practice.
Writing things down
You might think you can remember every amazing detail of a trip, but as time goes on, memories start to fade. Highly successful travelers always keep a notebook and pen nearby. They know that in addition to documenting their adventures, writing down experiences often makes you think about the bigger picture. Writing is the only thing that really gives you the opportunity to reflect on the world and your place in it.
Surrendering to the experience
It’s no surprise that people do things differently in other parts of the world. Yet it’s amazing how often tourists will complain about an unfamiliar experience or custom they witnessed in a foreign land. Successful travelers know that these mishaps and misunderstandings are necessary to fully immerse yourself in another country. They practice patience and accept the fact that some situations are out of their control. When they look at the bigger picture, they realize that life’s teachable moments are often buried among trials and tribulations.
Packing with precision
Keep your extra shoes and “just in case” outfit to yourself — highly successful travelers don’t have the time or patience to carry an unnecessary load. First of all, checking a bag is almost always out of the question, so the pros have painstakingly selected the perfect carry-on that’s small but fits a week’s worth of clothes. And finally, the inside of their suitcase is perfectly packed with flexible outfits and two pairs of versatile shoes. They take a strange comfort in knowing that everything they need fits in just one bag.
We see it all the time. A tourist walks up to the Taj Mahal, spends 15 minutes snapping photos of the mausoleum from every angle imaginable, and then heads off to lunch. A successful traveler would have sat down, observed the beautiful intricacies of the building, and taken a moment to appreciate the surroundings. Snapping a photo is fine, but real travelers know that it’s no fun to experience the world through the lens of a camera. Sometimes it’s better to live the moment instead of capturing it.