Travelling with a healthy dose of spontaneity makes any trip infinitely more worthwhile. That doesn’t mean blindfolding yourself after convincing a friend to book you on trip to Destination Unknown. Even if you aren’t on a surprise trip, you owe it to yourself to experience the best that travelling has to offer—that won’t be found in any travel checklists, and is yours to discover.
Why leave the travel checklists behind?
1. To discover your destination unbiasedly
Travelling is all about the joy of discovery, which is sometimes best experienced when you simply get out there and explore on your own. If you go on your trip equipped with a pre-decided checklist of things to see, eat, buy, and take photos of, you will already know everything you will do even before leaving your house. What a bummer, right?
By ditching the checklists, you will begin to realise all those preconceived perceptions you hold about the destination is untrue, as you form your own thoughts and memories about your trip based on your personal experiences. As the Chinese proverb says, “Don’t listen to what they say - go see (for yourself).”
2. To define the way you like to travel
“I climbed a mountain and I couldn’t walk straight after... but it was AWESOME!”.
“Why would I want to suffer during my holiday?”
One man’s holiday may be another’s worst nightmare. Everyone has their own idea of what makes a great trip. Perhaps it’s respite from the daily grind, trying something different, challenging oneself, or simply being alone — every reason is unique to the individual and a travel checklist is not.
Exploring and experiencing a destination doesn’t mean your holiday has to fall under a specific category of activities and checklists. It’s more about taking time to understand local culture (food included!), and people. Take this opportunity to learn more about yourself and form your own travel opinions.
Avoiding the pitfalls of travel
You’ve seen the light and now feel that need to wander. Before ditching the comfort and security of the familiar, run through these six tips to avoid bad experiences when going down the road less travelled.
1. Read the stars (ratings)
Research goes beyond looking at the number of stars a place has gotten. While reading the reviews people have left any establishment or service, never jump to conclusions about how “good” or “bad” a place might be.
The collective homestay experiences of the team from Anywhr.co, a professional trip curation service, stands testament to the plight of hosts who are often on the receiving end of (unwarranted) bad reviews from guests with unrealistic expectations. One host out in a tropical backwater related his experience with negative reviews for “not having hot water” and “having mosquitos”. But wasn't that what the travellers signed up for when they booked that listing? Get your expectations right, and you will get your holiday right.
Again, it’s all about the sort of experiences you’re looking for when you travel. Then, setting appropriate expectations for them. If it’s all too overwhelming and you don’t have the time to do the hard work (research), let Anywhr help you find the experiences you’re seeking, with the ground work done. Anywhr sends you to a surprise destination with a personalised Travelogue, so rest assured that these trips won’t leave you in a spot. But, ultimately what you do is entirely up to you. So just do you!
2. Don’t eat then pray
Street food — it’s culture you can eat. It doesn’t matter if you’re a budget traveller or not, this is Destination X in a bowl, on a stick, etc. If your stomach gurgles uneasily at the mere thought of foreign cuisines, a healthy number of patrons is a good sign that the food is (probably) alright for you to consume.
But, it’s always better to be prepared, so before jetting off on your spontaneous travels, get vaccinated (check with your local clinics or Travellers Vaccination Clinic) and pack a first-aid kit. Just in case something doesn’t agree with your stomach.
3. Don’t be walking bait for criminals
Look in a mirror — do you scream “rob me!”? Leave the dressing to impress for the nights out when you’re back home.
The naive or obnoxious foreigner flaunting their wealth and branded outfit is not only distasteful, but a bright neon sign inviting unwanted attention. Try going low-key when visiting off the beaten track destinations that are in more rural areas. You know, try not to stick your very new and very shiny iPhone X out of a tuk-tuk for a selfie.
While it’s good to be aware and a tad bit wary of the characters that you’ll meet while travelling, don’t forget to smile.
You may not speak their language, but spend some time getting to know fellow travellers or locals and you’ll realise they aren’t so different or out to dupe you. More often than not, people are simply curious, willing to help and just being friendly.
5. Be flexible
You did your research. Great, now just wing the trip—well most of it at least. There’s enough planning, scheduling and following of strict timelines, so leave that behind when you’re on the road.
Take a step back, lighten your grip on the reigns of life to enjoy the moments and you’ll be a lot happier. If a local suggests something and it sounds good to you, try it! Because why not?!
6. Do what makes you happy!
It might change your perspective on life, make you new friends or confirm that it isn’t for you. Whatever it is, do it — because if you’ve never tried it, you’ll never know. At the end of the day, do the things that make you truly happy, because that’s all that matters. No travel guide truly understands you, so it’s time to take control of your precious holidays and venture into the unknown yourself and with the spirit of exploration.
Not sure where to start? Try going Anywhr.
Article written by Matthew Leu, in a collaboration with Anywhr.
About Anywhr: Anywhr sends you on personalised surprise trips off the beaten track. Discover your specially-chosen destination only at the airport. Choose between an Adventure, Getaway, or Experience, tell them your budget, and the Anywhr trip curation team will do the rest. Now flying out from major international airports, including Singapore Changi Airport.