Travel promises adventure, exploration and experience. I’ve learned so much about myself and others just by driving or flying hours away. Whether it be practicing my several years of French at the Louvre or letting the icy waves creep between my toes in Los Angeles, travel has taught and captivated me all at the same time. While I’m forever enamored by travel, I still have some regrets from previous trips, ones that prevented me from fully absorbing and enjoying the experience.
1. I didn’t journal at all.
Mark my words: this is the cardinal sin of travel. Don’t. Do. It. Ever. My sister bought me a Paris Moleskine journal, and I brought it with me on my tour of Europe. Good start, but not all the way there. I journaled in England and France, but once we reached Italy, I fell off the map. And it makes me so sad. I was too tired and told myself I’d do it later on the plane. And somehow in the 10-hour flight, I didn’t find it in myself to write even a bullet point list of what I saw or did for most of my time in Italy. Yes, I took a bajillion pictures, but if I can’t remember what it was and what I thought or what I ate and if I liked it, what’s the point of spending thousands of dollars to travel?
2. I didn’t journal meaningfully.
Now that we’re on the same page about journaling being essential, let’s talk content. Although I journaled in England and France, it was absolutely lame. Do not write a grocery list of everything you saw because your itinerary already gave that to you before you even left. Plus, your experience is different than the millions of other people who visited the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum. What was the weather like? Was the monument overrated? Did you have an interesting conversation with the local? What was the food like? Tell stories, not facts.
3. I let fatigue win.
One of my biggest regrets from my trip to Europe was that by the time I reached Italy, my cheery, energetic attitude took the backseat. I was tired, hot and ready to be home. Some of the other girls on my trip and I would say we just wanted to be home—and felt bad at the same time because we were in freakin’ ITALY. We were in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and all we could think was, Ugh, our feet hurt so badly. Yes, there is time to rest and to go to bed early. Do not go 24/7 for your week or two of vacation.
But I vividly remember the stifling heat and intense fatigue I felt in Florence. My friends felt it too, so we opted out of the Baboli Gardens. And looking back, I really wished I would’ve sat down for a bit, drank some coffee, put on my big girl pants and gone to the gardens. How many times do you get to go to Italy with your friends? Instead we just sat down at the entrance. It’s important to forego some activities so you can make the most of the ones you do embark upon. But reality check: how many days of the year are you on vacation, in another country, on the beach, in the mountains? Go big or go home.
4. I reverted to the basics.
Let me begin by saying I’m not anti-chain restaurants. There’s something comforting about a familiar logo and expected standards. When I visited the Louvre, we went to the McDonald’s inside. Yikes, you went to Paris and ate at McDonald’s? In retrospect this wasn’t the worst decision I made because we were trying to make the most of our time at one of the most renowned art museums in the world and McDonald’s is fast food. But also that’s one meal that I didn’t have an omelet or some escargots. On the bright side, it was fun ordering in French and getting a Happy Meal box with French words (and a toy!!). I also went to Starbucks in London and Paris. Again, ordering in French was very neat, but also, I wish I would’ve tried something new, different, authentic and local. When I live in Europe this summer, I want to make a vow to myself not go to Starbucks more times than I can count on one hand. Capish? Caposh.
Travel can offer us so much if we allow it to. To reach the maximum potential, we must choose to engage the unknown so we can truly indulge in the adventures awaiting us.