The best piece of travel advice I ever got was simple:
THIS IS YOUR TRIP. DO WHAT YOU WANT.
I can’t tell you much about the person who told it to me; his name was Dan, he was a 34 year old American guy with long black hair and a gorgeous profile. We were living in a dirty hostel in Wellington, NZ, drinking cheap beer in the common room, and I was telling him that I wasn’t happy. Everyone told me I should go to Wellington. “You’ll love it!” they squealed, and told me I’d have no problems finding a job or friends or a life there. But, for whatever reason, I was miserable. I was broke, living in a hostel room with 5 boys who would get up early and go be elves for the latest Hobbit movie, and it rained all the time and was freezing and I was so poor and homesick and nowhere was hiring…I was just unhappy.
So I was telling American Dan this and he asked why I stayed. “Well…everyone told me Wellington was where it’s at!” I shrugged.
He looked me in the eye and said “Fuck it. You don’t have to do anything anyone else says. It’s not their money. It’s not their trip or their memories…this is your trip. Do what you want.” And it clicked.
I remembered back to my first solo trip where I spent a few weeks in Europe. When I got to London, it was gorgeous and sunny and hot out and, coming from a Canadian winter, it felt marvellous. All I wanted to do was sit outside in a park and read a book or people watch, but everyone was telling me I HAD to go check out the museums in London. They’re free! They’re amazing! I took one step inside and immediately turned around and headed to a park bench. I felt so foolish and guilty that I wasn’t seeing all this fantastic city had to offer…but I really didn’t want to. It just wasn’t my vibe.
There’s something to be said for researching and seeing monuments and doing a touristy thing or two (I adore walking tours more than most people, I think!) but I never want to feel like I HAVE to do something, or that I’m missing out if I don’t spend X number of hours somewhere. For some people, they could spend 3 days straight at Machu Picchu…for me, I was ready to go after a few hours. And that’s okay. It’s my trip. I want to do what makes me happy.
The last interaction I had with American Dan was the hungover flight we took together from Wellington to Queenstown. Our hostel friends threw us a pretty epic goodbye and I learned a new travel lesson: never -ever- be hungover for a flight.
(I have since broken this rule twice)
This article was inspired by this beautiful piece in The Guardian.