Travel Like a Local! Explore, Connect -- and Bring a Hammock!
Ed. Note: Our awesome Yellow Leaf Interns will be posting here on the blog this summer, sharing their perspective on everything from travel to social enterprise to the perfect summer hammocking playlist.
Johnathon Purcell is going into his senior year at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. Having traveled to over 20 countries, Johnathon is interested in the ways business can connect people and eliminate poverty.
VACATIONS are supposed to be relaxing, but sometimes traveling to an unknown place and rushing to see everything is more stressful than just staying at home. In the spirit of Yellow Leaf’s motto (“Do Good. Relax."), I’ve compiled a list of my favorite travel tips to make your next trip a little more relaxing and let you do good while you travel.
Ditch the tour
I’m sure people have very different opinions on this, but the way I see it you can’t relax if you’re rushing around to follow a bloated itinerary. It’s been my experience that most tours don’t give you enough time at each place and only take you to the most touristy of places.
Instead, pick up a guidebook, chat with friends, and surf the web to plan your own trip itinerary! It can be terrifying at first, but there are great resources for the self-planner. If you’re looking to travel Europe on a budget, Rick Steves has fantastic guidebooks to help you hit all the best sites and trek like a local. If you want something a little more upscale, Karen Brown has guidebooks for almost every continent and specializes in classy B&Bs.
If I may be so bold, if the receptionist in the hotel lobby greets you in flawless English (or whatever your native language is) you may not be getting the full cultural experience. Try staying in small hotels, quaint B&Bs, or with a local family! You’ll save money by avoiding the large hotel chains and support small local businesses. Not to mention that many also provide incredible regionally-authentic, home-cooked meals and give you more personal interactions with your fellow travelers and hosts around the dinner table.
Let me begin by saying I took three years of Spanish in high school and can do little more than politely greet someone. With that said, it doesn’t take an advanced vocabulary to communicate with people. Listening to language CDs in your car or on your iPhone will give you a great foundation. In my travels, a sincere attempt to speak a person’s language left most people grinning from ear to ear. Maybe they were just laughing at me, but at least they were smiling…
Connect with people
Travel is not just about the monuments and landmarks you see; it’s also about the people you meet. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama once simply said, “Travel and make friends.” With this in mind, my family brings a simple toy such as a Frisbee or soccer ball on every adventure. Simple toys like these are a great way to engage strangers in a fun activity. Just start playing in a public location and see you joins! Whether under the Eiffel Tower or on the peaks of Machu Picchu, you’ll find yourself playing and talking with total strangers before you know it.
One of the most exciting parts of traveling is trying new foods, but restaurants are often expensive and you’ll want to try everything- leaving your wallet empty and your stomach painfully full. To keep your wallet fat and your figure slim, try going to a local market and assembling a picnic lunch with regional favorites. Nothing says "relax" like a leisurely lunch on the grass.
Hopefully this post has armed you with a few tips to make traveling a more relaxing and enriching experiencing. Just one last thought: if you really want to relax, take a Yellow Leaf Hammock and kick back as you hammock around the world. So get out there, relax, and make the world a better place with your presence.