Wanderlust is a great and indecisive thing, infecting you with the longing to be everywhere and experience everything. This can be a bit overwhelming when it comes to actually turning daydreams into concrete plans. Prioritizing your goals as a traveler is a great first step in your journeys, whether that be the destinations you wish to visit, the cultures and activities you want to explore, or the type of traveler you would like to see yourself as.
1. Be honest with yourself and forget “image”
We all want to be that adventure junkie with the sense of mystery and vagabonding life, and it’s certainly OK to emulate certain qualities that you find attractive. Though, there comes a time when you’ve got to look at what you really like to do and value, as opposed to what you wish you did. You don’t have to spend all night partying if you would rather get up early and go on a museum tour. And you don’t have to tag along on the museum tour if you’d rather go white-water rafting. Let yourself enjoy things organically and without pressure, and allow others to do the same without judgement. I’m not saying to stop yourself from trying new things, but don’t stop yourself from doing something you enjoy, even if it doesn’t necessarily suit your “image.” Travel should be a time of throwing ideas of your limitations out the window.
2. Define yourself as a traveler, and then forget it
Travelers tend to fall under labels: solo, couple, group, culture-seeker, foodie, luxury, budget, adventure junkie, spiritual explorer, partier, nature lover, festival-goer–the list is endless. Use labels to give you ideas, not to plan your whole journey. People fall under many categories, so one label can’t completely define anyone. However, knowing that “foodie” is one label that does fit you–among many–can help you get a bit more specific when navigating the wealth of information out there. If anything, defining your labels can help you get started in the search, while allowing the flexibility to branch out.
3. Do what you want to do
I’ll take this opportunity to tell you about a time in my life when I was obsessed with visiting Australia. I read about the country constantly, tried to figure out a way to get there. Living on the northeast coast of North America, Australia seemed so far away. Eventually, I decided that I would make it there someday, and that in the meantime I would enjoy travels to more convenient locales. Not that I didn’t enjoy my other travels, but I saw Australia in everything: in dry dusty trail paths near my home in South Korea, in dense tropical forest in Thailand. When I finally made it to Australia, my mind was blown. I was overwhelmed with excitement: I am not just reminded of it, I am here, in this place at this time, and it’s exactly where I’ve wanted to be for so long. I decided then that this feeling of being at the top destination on your list was too good to pass up. I know that sometimes it’s difficult to get to the place that you want to be, and maybe it’s a ways off, but go there. Work towards going there. Because it will be worth it.
4. Be knowledgeable and share knowledge
This probably goes without saying, but you don’t have to go to a zoo because you love animals. You can visit a nature reserve, volunteer with a rehabilitation centre, or keep a keen eye when hiking in wild areas. Research your activities, don’t support unethical practices, and be respectful of every land (and body of water) and its inhabitants. This is one area where I would define limitations. If you are unsure about the ethics of a project, company, or activity, just don’t do it. Because we want to be smart travelers, right?
5. Tie it all together
At this point, all you’ve read above may constitute a jumble in your head that doesn’t really tell you anything. The trick is to take a step back and define it. You now probably have a destination in your head that you’ve daydreamed about many a time before. This place should be at, or near, the top of your list. You can start with defining your labels as a traveler, but not getting tied down to them during your search for information. Use them as links to help you when you are lost in all that information. Don’t be afraid to plan “boring” activities if they aren’t boring to you, don’t be afraid to plan a night out partying if that’s what you want. And always double-check your plans to make sure you are supporting only worthwhile businesses and institutions.
When it comes down to it, your style of travel is unique to you. Don’t be afraid to change your mind, everyone does it. Sometimes planning is great, sometimes plans get tossed aside in an instant. It all depends on what suits you. These are just a few ideas that might get you started.
Let me know how you prioritize your travel goals and plans!
Thanks for reading!