10 Mistakes Every Traveler Should Make

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1. Skip the Must-Sees

Despite its popularity with international tourists, some people just have no interest in seeing the Greenwich Meridian Line. Likewise, for some travelers, Times Square on New Year’s Eve is an utter dream; yet for others, it’s an absolute nightmare.

Guess what? You don’t have to see or do anything you don’t want. If you’re not genuinely interested, then skip any supposed “must see” or “once in a lifetime experience.” This is your trip: you do you.

2. Get Lost

It’s tempting to plan out each day of your trip. You wouldn’t want to miss anything or—God forbid—waste a day. But for at least a few hours on every trip, try ditching the map and skipping the planning apps, and see what happens. All the best adventures are ones that are unplanned.

3. Talk to Strangers

Chat with the server who brings you your morning cappuccino. Share a bench and conversation in a public park. Ask your tour guide a personal question. Take a shop owner up on their invitation for tea. Smile at a stranger and see what happens. A new place is all about new people—meet some of them.

4. Waste the Day

Stay out too late and sleep in. Miss a whole day of sightseeing and stay in bed all day long. (Just make the night before well worth it.)

5. Act Like a Tourist

I’m not saying that you should wear a fanny pack or only speak loudly in your own language; instead, I mean stop worrying about looking cool and wear that beret in France; take the dorky photo leaning on the Tower of Pisa; trek for miles just to taste the best fries in Belgium. Don’t be afraid to be a typical tourist.

6. Ditch the Camera

Come out from behind the lens and do something new without the burden of documenting it. Instead of reaching for your phone and considering the Instagram filter, breathe deeply and fully enjoy a new experience or place by just being there.

7. Do Something You Suck At

Scared of heights? Go rock scrambling. Can’t cook? Take a local cooking class. We spend our whole lives avoiding stuff we suck at. When we travel we get to try new things; most people look silly doing things they’ve never done before. You may suck at it—but do it anyway.

8. Forget About Your Loved Ones Back Home

In the past, I would spend countless hours searching for the perfect presents to bring home for everyone in my immediate circle including roommates, grandparents, and coworkers.

In addition to it being mentally exhausting, it also often resulted in everyone getting tacky decorative shot glasses or cheap snow globes that were hardly treasured.

Nowadays, I skip the souvenir shopping and instead bring home lots of local treats—like candy, to give out to my colleagues, friends, and family. By bringing home food, you show your loved one that you were thinking about them, without cluttering their shelves with useless and usually inauthentic tchotchkes.

9. Buy Yourself Something Useless

You’ve just been given permission to skip souvenir shopping, but don’t forget to treat yourself. Remember: Souvenir comes from the French, meaning, “to remember.”

So you know that strange piece of handmade art or that weird Christmas ornament you can’t seem to walk away from? Go on and buy it. Even if the ridiculous trinkets that you’re drawn to have no practical purpose or are just a little too silly for every day, go on and get them anyway and start a collection of unique souvenirs that will always remind you of your trips.

10. Dislike a Place

There’s no rule that says you need to fall in with love every place you visit. Despite how much money you invested or how far you traveled, you have no obligation to absolutely love a place and vow to return again and again.

The world will surprise you—there will be times when you’ll stumble upon some city that you will have an intense and inexplicable affinity with. Likewise, there will be places that you just do not connect with. Own up to your true feelings. Knowing what you don’t like is as important as knowing what you like.

About The Author

Nicole Trilivas is the author of travel-themed the novel Girls Who Travel (Berkeley Penguin, December 2015).