Thursday, June 2, 2011

Guest Post: Kelly's travel wisdom

Today's guest post is from Kelly of A Startup Wife. Kelly is a poignant writer (and aspiring novelist!) and she has become a dear friend. She's also done her fair share of traveling, and it's a treat to have her here on Latte Love today sharing some travel tips. Enjoy!


Confession: I'm a terrible traveler. I get incredibly anxious about everything, from the flight to the being away from home to the worrying about what will happen when I arrive. I get homesick and angsty and terrified of even the smallest things. I spend half my time wanting to just stay in the hotel and see whatever I can of my destination from out the hotel window. (That's enough, right?)

But I'm always happy I've been places after the fact, and, too, my mother's side of the family believes in traveling almost as a virtue, or even almost as a responsibility. It's a way of expanding your worldview, a way of discovery, a way of learning more about the people with whom you share the world. So I try not to avoid it, even though it's my natural inclination.

J's a better traveler than I am: he's good at navigating subways and maps and directions. He doesn't instantly get homesick the way I do. He doesn't make his decisions based on how likely he thinks it is that some freak accident will happen, and he'll die. But, on the other hand, he likes downtime, too--so we make a good match.

In the three years we've been married, J and I have traveled together to Alaska, British Columbia, Kauai, Boston, Connecticut, Dallas, New York, Washington DC, Arizona, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, and Beijing. (Plus a million trips within California!) There's a good chance we'll be going to Barcelona/surrounding countries next spring, and if my brother goes to teach English overseas (most likely somewhere in Asia, prooooobably Seoul) next year, we'll go visit wherever he ends up.

Along the way, we've been figuring out things that work for us. These are our biggest five.

1) Balance. This is the biggest, biggest thing for us. Neither of us does particularly well when we're on the go 24/7, so we've learned to schedule in time just to relax. Even if we're just sitting in a hotel and it feels like we're missing out on whatever place we came to see, that down time is crucial for recharging. On the other hand, I hate feeling like I've wasted time, so we also try to push ourselves to go do the type of thing that might sound tiring in the moment but that later, we'll be glad to have done.

2) Connectivity. Which is basically ... a fancy way of saying internet access, haha. We've had so many experiences where we thought we planned ahead, only to discover that something came up last minute and in some places (particularly this one time in Shenzhen, China) and we needed to recalculate but had no way of doing research. It's lame, I guess, but anywhere we go, we plan ahead to make sure we'll be able to connect to the web. That way, we know we can handle pretty much whatever comes up.

3) Priorities. Our families have different travel DNAs, if you will--growing up, J's vacations were mostly lovely beachy type places where his family went to unwind, recharge, and enjoy serenity and beauty. My family was more likely to go educational places where you would spend your time touring museums or learning about the local culture. So we find that J is more apt to want to vacation places like the ones he did growing up, and the same for me. It helps to talk through, beforehand, the kind of things we want to do and figure out what's most important for us to see and do, or people we want to see. (And eat. My priorities are basically always food.)

4) Bargains. We're not exactly making tons of money--it's what happens when you're grad students, which is what we've been for most of our marriage--and so most of our traveling has been made possible because we were able to do it really cheaply. We each flew to Hong Kong for less than six hundred dollars round-trip, for instance. We find bargains by always keeping in the back of our minds what kind of trips we've got on the back burner, and then, if a great deal comes up, we figure out if we can make it happen. Usually, this is in the off season. Or we try to tack on a few days at the end of a work-related trip or something, or we stay with friends and family when possible. (Though we only do this if we're specifically in town to visit said friends and family--I think I'd feel weird just using someone's place as a crash pad.)

5) Just doing it. There are always a million reasons not to travel, but we don't have kids, we don't have a mortgage, we have flexible schedules--this is probably the only time in our lives when we'll have this kind of freedom.

What are your biggest traveling tips?


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