Guest Post By Nick Hilden
Over the course of the past six years, I have lived in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Paris, Barcelona, Granada, and a great many small towns in between. I’ve roamed up and down the United States, have driven all over Spain, and have buzzed to a number of tropical locations. I have slept in houses, apartments, hotels, hostels, on couches, under bridges, in parks, and more than once have spent periods of months on end living in a tent in the middle of nowhere. I have become almost too accustomed to sitting in airports, bus stations, and on train platforms, and have been in two near plane crashes.
I’m young and I come from a poor family, but I have always found ways of keeping on the move. It has become almost addictive. Meeting new people, seeing new places, trying new foods—Experience! There is no end to it in a world this weird.
With experience come a number of lessons. Some are rather large, but most are small, seemingly trivial realizations and understandings. But all of these little things add up, and they can make or break the success of any traveler. We’ll begin a couple of the more minute lessons.
If you’re like me, then you work via the internet. Whether you’re a writer, a graphics designer, and editor, or whatever else, a computer is necessary to your work, and funding is necessary to your travels. Never leave your computer anywhere. Invest in a sturdy, comfortable backpack that you can walk around in all day if necessary. Your computer is the source of your lifeblood, and unless you have no issue with acquiring another on short notice, you should protect it as if it were your child.
While this first lesson is rather paranoid, the second is the opposite—learn to trust people. This is something that many travelers (especially Americans) find difficult. Language barriers and a somewhat natural sense of defensiveness can restrict one’s ability to go with the flow, but I cannot begin to describe how many times I have ended up at ultra-authentic restaurants that I would not have ever been able to find on my own, or in fantastic living situations, or in undeniably amazing and bizarre scenarios had I not been willing to follow the lead of some random local.
When lost, ask the doorman at any high-class hotel for directions. They know everything and usually speak English.
There are a million other tiny tips I could give you, but it is difficult to distill all of the lessons learned over several years and thousands of miles of traveling into one 500 word article, so let us move onto a final, larger consideration.
In the end, travel is all about allowing one’s self to be amazed, to—like a child—find wonder in every new experience. Let yourself be swept up in the moment. Appreciate the things that to the locals are everyday, but to you are extraordinary.
You’ve come a long way, right? You might as well enjoy yourself.