“Ideally, travel broadens our perspectives personally, culturally, and politically. Suddenly, the palette with which we paint the story of our lives has more colors.” ― Rick Steves, Travel as a Political Act
One of my passions outside of the office is travel, and creating adventures outside of my usual day-to-day life. To me, travel is about experiencing new things, pushing yourself to get outside your comfort zone, and taking a moment to step back and see your place in the world. Right now, I’m in the midst of planning a summer trip to Europe. I’m lucky enough to have a friend getting married in Gothenburg, Sweden in July, so I’m planning a few extra stops around that event. I approach my travel planning much like I do with my programs here in the office – it’s all about being intentional with each decision.
First, I deep dive into the ‘client’ – me! What is my goal on this specific trip? What story do I want to live out in this travel? For a trip I planned to Costa Rica in 2017, I realized my biggest goal was to maximize nature encounters, so I prioritized finding a resort that would immerse me in the environment. I ended up in a small villa set into a heavily forested hillside, where we could wake up to sloths, monkeys, and toucans in the trees right on our balcony! For this trip to Europe, I am prioritizing getting in some solo-travel time before I meet up with friends. Traveling solo allows for some amazing experiences: through finding community in new environments, giving me the courage to do things I wouldn’t normally do (no one was there to talk me out of bungee jumping in New Zealand!), and granting meditative time to reflect on my journey. Even on a social trip like this upcoming one, I make sure to allow at least 36 hours on my own.
Then I get flexible. What am I willing to compromise on? What experiences are non-negotiable? For this Europe trip, I’ll need to compromise on direct flights (I don’t have an unlimited budget!) and not being able to choose the dates since this is based around a friend’s wedding. While I’d love to spend time in Berlin, the best flight deals will probably have me spending my first 36 hours solo in London – a compromise I’m willing to make! I also usually compromise on accommodation – I’ll stay at well-accredited hostels (Youth Hostel International is a great starting point!), and use the money saved on more unique, local experiences.
Next, it’s time for the deep dive in logistics. I start with my homework: reading 10,000 articles about weird museums, off-the-beaten path tours, and where to find the best dessert (or stroopwafel!). A good event – and a good trip – engage all my senses; I want to move, to see, to hear, to taste, and to feel the city. Unusual group walking tours are always a top pick for me (ghost tours in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Staunton, Virginia are highly recommended), and I always make a point to try the local foods – I even ended up on a street food tour in Shanghai that included snake, yum!
Finally, I leave some room for exploration. I feel that no trip, and no event, should have every minute planned, but instead leave room for the surprise and delight as it comes. Yes, I’ll have my accommodations and transportation booked before I go, and will have absorbed a lot of information about possible itineraries, but I rarely will have more than one or two reservations set. The rest is left open – you never know when you’ll need to book a last-minute ticket to a cooking comedy taiko drumming performance (yes, this is a thing…check out “Cookin’ Nanta” in Seoul, South Korea)!
Adventure is out there!