When I first began traveling abroad, my trips were very itinerary-driven. Determined to “make the most” of my stay in another country, I packed every day full of sightseeing and/or cultural experiences. The more I traveled, the more I discovered that my steadfast commitment to my schedule was, at times, hindering my enjoyment. When I had my daughter, I had no choice but to embrace the unexpected events that come with traveling with an infant (now toddler). This opened my eyes to the beauty of spontaneity while traveling, and how adopting a more “go with the flow” attitude actually helps me make the most of my trips. Here are some words of advice for embracing spontaneity while traveling (with or without kids).
Go off the beaten path. Many tourist attractions are definitely worth seeing, but there is just as much (or more) culture to be found when you depart from the typical tourist track. I never would have discovered my favorite little Parisian gallery if I had kept on walking toward the Louvre.
Engage with the locals. Some of the most interesting things I’ve experienced abroad were thanks to tips I got from locals. Moreover, I’ve truly enjoyed interacting with other people when I travel. I’ve learned many things from the people with whom I’ve had the opportunity to converse, not simply about the country they come from, but about life as well. I’ve gladly sacrificed souvenir shopping for an impromptu conversation about Turkish politics.
Take your time. Instead of worrying about getting to the next tourist attraction before it closes, be present and enjoy your time where you are. One of my favorite travel memories was the time my husband and I wandered around Seville, itinerary-less, for an entire day. I noticed details about the city that I never would have if I had been rushing off to the next event on my schedule.
Look for possibility. Instead of getting frustrated when you get lost or your train is delayed for hours, look for possibility. If I hadn’t been stranded in Granada for an afternoon, I never would have tasted the best gelato of my life.
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