Sunday, January 11, 2015

Stop Following The Crowd

Image: www.telegraph.co.uk
In a previous post I responded to 21 Travel Resolutions To Make For 2015, a post by Suzy Strutner, writing for the Huffington Post. Today I thought I’d offer a few more suggestions not covered by Suzy in her post. But first, a word or two from Albert:

“The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.” ~ Albert Einstein

Using the wisdom of Albert Einstein as my guide, I offer these additions to Strutner’s selection:
  • Break out of your comfort zone and try something different (a new location, food, activity)
  • Travel Solo (if you normally travel with others, or travel with others if you normally go alone )
  • Book and organise your own vacation, don't leave it to a travel agent
  • It's never too early to start planning your next holiday, so start now!
Break out of your comfort zone and try something different
Too often we like to stick to the tried and tested; whether choice of literature, genre of movies, favourite foods, make of car, or travel destinations. The problem with this is that we can miss out on so many exciting, new, and different experiences. 

Breaking out of your comfort zone does not mean you should push yourself to indulge in dangerous activities of either the athletic type, or feel the need to partake in exotic meals of the culinary variety. For instance, you will never see me bungee jumping head first into a river, or white-water rafting down raging rapids. Neither will you find me eating fried Tarantula’s, drinking warm Yak blood, swallowing the raw testes of newly slaughtered rams, or trying other such exotic fare!

There are plenty of other, more pleasant ways to break out of your comfort zone. If you have a tendency to drive everywhere, get out of the car and walk more. If you catch planes—take a train instead. Looking for something to eat or drink? Check out what and where the locals eat and drink. I remember wandering through New York City’s Chinatown district one day, and walking into a small restaurant filled with Chinese diners. Pointing to a selection of dishes on display, I sat down to a full plate of rice, chicken, and vegetables that cost me a mere $3.00. One of the cheapest meals I have ever enjoyed.

Travel Solo
Some people can’t stand their own company! Still others can’t abide silence or solitude. Then there are those who never shut up! A pause in a conversation is a pause too long. It is a hole that needs to be filled, and filled as quickly as possible. Hopefully, you will never encounter these three character traits in the one person, but if you do, make a mental note right now to never travel with them. Better that you should travel alone, or not travel at all, than burden yourself with such a travel companion. 

Personally, I love to travel alone. I delight in the freedom it gives me to follow my own interests, to travel at my own pace, and to stay out late and to sleep in even later. As for silence and solitude, on long road trips I leave the radio off and the CDs at home. This allows my thoughts to float through my head in whatever random order they choose. I also like how solo travel encourages me to meet the locals and other travellers, to pay more attention to my surroundings, and to develop new skills I didn’t think I was capable of (a great boost to my self-confidence).

Book and Organise Your Own Vacation
Be the master of your own destiny! The advent of the Internet puts the ability to research, book and organise a vacation in your own hands. Your planning and organisational skills improve, as does your confidence and ability to deal with actual or potential problems on your own.

When I headed off on my first round the world trip in more than 30 years, in 2008, I made use of a travel agent, and have no regrets that I did. Again in 2010, I used a travel agent to book my main flights, but booked internal flights and accommodations myself. In 2010 and again in 2014 I went completely solo. That is, I researched, booked and organised all my own flights, accommodations, travel insurance, and all other aspects of my trips myself.

This may not seem like a big deal, but as a senior (I’m now 66), and solo traveller, the temptation to leave all the organisation to others is very — um, tempting! As already noted, doing everything myself has been great for my organisational and problem solving skills, self-confidence, and self-esteem. I hope to be travelling for many years to come, and as much as possible I will plan and organise these trips myself.

Start Planning Your Next Trip Now
It’s never too late, or too early to start thinking about and planning your next vacation. In fact, doing so can help you focus on budgeting, saving, and keeping on top of your spending habits and future purchases. Planning ahead—even one to three years ahead—forces you to reconsider every major purchase you might be contemplating. 

Do you really need a bigger television, laptop, tablet device, the latest iPhone/iPad, fancy-schmancy meal, seasonal outfit, or…? Well, you get the idea. For myself, planning and saving towards my next trip starts from the moment I touch down in Adelaide, my home town. In deed, I have taken to telling family and friends that I am back home for a holiday from my holiday.

I find that it helps to quantify your expenses before you spend your hard earned money on the latest iPad, or whatever it is you think you absolutely must have. In my case, my income consists of a fortnightly pension which is supplemented by money from my retirement fund. I try and bear in mind that every one-hundred dollars I spend on non-essential items could instead give me another night in a budget hotel in Paris or London, or several nights in any number of other cities around the world.

As much as I would love to swap my 64Gb iPad 2 for the latest (and lighter) iPad Air, I have decided to forgo the upgrade for as long as possible. Mind you, this decision is made easier knowing that there will always be a newer model in the offing within months of the latest release. So why rush? Besides, the cost of a high capacity iPad Air in Australia—say, a 64Gb model—is around half the price of an Adelaide to New York City return ticket (or Adelaide to almost anywhere in Europe, for that matter). Knowing I have a perfectly good iPad 2 as well as half a return ticket to the rest of the world sitting in my bank account, is a great incentive to keep saving, and to make sure any purchases I do make are absolutely essential.

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