After a recent trip to Japan with two close friends, my wife and I realized that we travel somewhat differently. Not that either of us did something better, nor is there a right and wrong here, but it was different.
Prior to this trip, the four of us got together to do some planning. Tickets and JR Passes were already bought, and we had accommodations all booked. The only thing left was planning a very rough itinerary. This part is where we did something different.
When we travel, we usually pick one thing we would like to accomplish a day. Maybe see a temple, or visit some markets. The rest of the day includes getting there and exploring on the way. We did this in Paris and discovered a mile long farmers market, where we proceeded to buy some bread and amazing prosciutto. And in Bangkok some tasty meat on a stick! You may have noticed a food theme here.
I have always wanted to travel and see the world. Before I met my husband, I never entertained that idea let alone really know how to make it a reality. Turns out it’s really simple once you figure out what works for you. We took our first international trip abroad for his sister’s wedding/honeymoon 5 years ago and never looked back. We just fell in love with the experiences and wanderlust has set in.
So far we have been to South Africa, France, Thailand, Japan, Aruba and London. Our next stops will be Vietnam with a short 24 hour stop in Seoul. I wish I could say we’ve been to more places, but working as an anesthesia resident, my vacation time is the limited resource/commodity.
You may be asking, how do we like to travel? The answer is, it’s a work in progress but so far these are the things that work for us and maybe it will help you as well.
A guiding principle we have as part of our packing is “No Checked Bags”. We want to get off the plane and head to our destination. There are two reasons why we avoid checking in bags:
- Minimize the risk of losing a bag, or waste time waiting to collect bags.
- Pack only the things we need.
The fewer bags, and especially the fewer big bags you have on your trip, the easier it is to get around. If you need to take a train from Heathrow to London, then walk from Piccadilly Station to your Airbnb in in Soho, you’d want as few bags as possible. We recently purchased compression packing cubes that helps keep the size down of the clothes in your bag.
No equipment or gadgets will help you pack as good as eliminating items that you don’t need.T
We prefer to not check in luggage on our way to our destination. I have an uncomfortable paranoia that our luggage won’t meet us in our destination and don’t want to spend the first day of my vacation figuring out logistics with the airline while also buying new clothes and essentials. That means we have to be very conscientious and strategic with packing. We only pack what we need and try to bring clothes that easily be used for more than 1 outfit. Don’t be afraid to do laundry in your hotel room, it’s perfectly normal. Even then I’ve found that I often still pack 1 outfit too much.
I admit I’m terrible at packing efficiently into our luggage so I leave that to my husband. We discovered packing cubes about 3 years ago and honestly it’s changed our lives. Then we found even more compact packing cubes and things just got better- if that’s possible!
Finally, after all the packing has been done, I negotiate with my husband to PLEASE put an empty duffle bag into our luggage “should I buy too many souvenirs.” I mean, can you have too many snacks? The answer is No. No you can’t. You have to be prepared for that right? Right. (I’m a smart wife.)
We like our coffee
I am a huge fan of coffee. My wife and I always try and find some of the best coffee shops in each city we visit. We usually bring our daily habits with us on our trips, at times it makes us feel less like tourists. Part of our daily habit at home is starting the day with a good cup of coffee.
On our travels, we will often try and find a few coffee shops in our area or on the way to wherever we wanted to go. In Kyoto, we found Arabica and Sentido. Arabica being my favorite of the two, both are very solid coffee shops. Arabica had the best latte I’ve ever tasted.
In Tokyo, we visited Café Façon and Toranomon Koffee. Café Façon was a bit pricey for a cup of coffee, but the artistry that went into my cup of coffee was special. Super strong and tasty cup of coffee.
I was the person who had to have every bit of our day planned out: from when we wake up, to exactly where we go and when we have to be there, then where we eat based off where we will be, etc. It was exhausting to be that person. And being that person made it difficult to just relax and take in the sites and smells of each new place. My experience just became a blur of my micromanaging.
I came to realize I will never be able to see or do everything on my list in one visit. Once I came to terms with that, planning our itinerary got easier.
We generally stay in Airbnb’s because we want to experience each country like the locals do and because it’s generally cheaper with more amenities like a kitchen and laundry. That doesn’t mean we won’t splurge for a night or two in a nice 4-5 start hotel.
I pick a few attractions in each country and just aim to go to one place a day. My husband and I like to walk everywhere. It gives us the opportunity to quietly explore little nooks of each neighborhood. We live for the moments were we get lost down a cute little road filled with local shops or a great family restaurant or my absolute favorite an outdoor market!! If I didn’t get to see an attraction, it’s usually because it’s not that high on my list and we can always come back.
Try it all if you can. Part of exploring a new country and culture is trying their food. My husband and I don’t eat American food in foreign countries because that’s not what we’re here for! I do my research on local specialties, google/yelp/tripadvisor the best places to have such specialty but beyond that I let my nose or locals we meet along the way lead the way. So far we have not been lead astray.
I’m lucky to have a talented husband who can take amazing photos to document out travels. But we still like to bring back a little souvenir. I have my wonderful sister in law, Sunell, to thank for this wonderful idea. She gifted my husband and I some beautiful red soil from her home in South Africa along with several small glass jars to serve as a memento of our time there. From that time forward, we try and take a little bit of sand/soil (a pinch really) from each country and fill those jars with the land that touched us with great memories.
Know what you like
There’s no one perfect way to travel the world. What works for us might not work for you, but there are many resources that can get you started. A few tips that helped us:
- Roll your shirts when you pack.
- Invest in packing cubes.
- Avoid checking in bags.
- Learn common phrases of the local language.
- Try all the local food you can!
There are probably hundreds more things one can consider when traveling. But most important: Have an open mind and be respecful. Every culture is different in the way they do things. Be respectful of that, try and assimilate and be part of what’s going on around you.T
There is no right or wrong way to travel. Find what works for you and embrace it. There is so much to learn from others and to learn about yourself when you travel, don’t lose sight of that.
I hope this helps you reflect on what you find most important when traveling and make that priority. Bonvoyage!