Those who leave their homes for temporary jaunts to other places can be sorted into three basic categories:
Tourists, travelers, and good travelers.
(Notice that last one wasn’t capitalized — this isn’t about me.)
I owe many of my most memorable trips to the serendipitous kindness of strangers, and am firm in the belief that you get what you give when you travel. Here are a handful of easy tips to help you bring the good to your own journeys:
1. Stop acting like you know. Taxi drivers and bartenders are your consiglieres, your guides. Don’t tell them where you want to go; ask them to point you where you should be. This also applies at restaurants. I gave up menus and entrees years ago. Make snacks your friends and simply ask the experts (i.e. people who work there) what you should be eating. If you already know what you want, then you really didn’t need to leave home in the first place.
2. Tap your friends (and friends of friends) for advice. Ask people what you should go see. I found all the highlights of this road trip by following suggestions from locals (some of them strangers, but now friends).
3. Take care of the people who help you. Everyone at the hotel gets a tip except for the people who make sure your sheets are clean and your bed is made? C’mon. Leave a few bucks with a note attached to thank the maids, the most under-appreciated (and most important) people there.
4. Be British. I never thought I’d say that, but one thing the Brits do well is self-deprecation. Be fully prepared to make fun of yourself, or your hometown. There’s nothing worse than a traveler who’s deadset on convincing everyone that they’re not a stereotype.
5. If you’re a sports fan, watch (and cheer) from your hotel room. Nice as most people might be, there is a line. And it usually involves the score.
6. Stay away from Interstates if you can. A city’s charms lie miles from the fast roads.
7. Take chances with conversations. Oh sure, we can be reserved back home, but sitting down and talking to people on either side of you makes for a more authentic experience… or that might be the Okie in me talking.
8. Write postcards, not emails. Let’s bring back the images that got us wanderlusting in the first place. And speaking of bringing things back, how about classing it up again on airlines? I’m the biggest offender of this rule, refusing to travel in anything but my worn-out yoga pants, but still. Let’s bring style back to travel.
9. Take people up on their offers.When someone invites you over to their house, or out to dinner, or on a tour — take them up on it (but be safe). Heartfelt generosity is the reason I’ve been able to travel so long on so little money. People love
being ambassadors of their town/state/country and will enjoy it as much — if not more — than you.
10. Follow the Golden Rules of Guesting: leave a room/house in better shape than when you got there and never ever show up at a host’s place empty handed. I usually take 4-5 copies of my favorite book for these occasions (if you follow my 10 rules of packing, you should have plenty of room); ink on paper lasts a lot longer than the predictable bottle of wine will.
I’ll leave you with one last tip — the most important of all: Go to places for the experience, not just to see stuff. You can see stuff at home.
Go for the people.
And go for the good.
Follow the Good Traveler’s adventures on Twitter @GoodTraveler and on Instagram @GoodTraveler.