Unless you’ve already discovered the freedom and truth behind long-term travel, escaping the 9-5 for most of us is restricted by time and money. The travel industry leads you to believe that holidays are just about glossy travel brochures, all-inclusive resorts and over-priced tours. You’re clinically chauffeured around the world without even getting your feet dirty. Your contact with locals is a controlled environment and you leave with a one-dimensional view of where you’ve just left. The travel industry pushes the notion that you’ve worked hard for your money so they try to solve the problem by offering package tours as value-for-money options for time-poor people. It’s just not true. You can travel how you want, where you want and it’s usually cheaper than what you’re lead to believe.
So what do people do with their holidays? According to various surveys that monitor consumer behaviour, it seems the British are creatures of habit. Apparently millions of us go back to the same place, the same resort and even the same pub year after year. Some people even sit in the same spot! Talk about a groundhog holiday! But the travel industry pushes this as an easy, stress-free option, so that’s what we do. We go for the easy option.
It’s time to get out and do something different! It’s time to start thinking independently. Without the tour operator.
I’m not saying you should avoid all tours, in some countries such as China, you have to join a tour just to enter and travel around Tibet. There are many independent tour companies that offer amazing activities and we’ve used many. They serve a purpose and after all this is your holiday. Your time. Try and see if you can do things by yourself, get around by yourself and possibly save a whole heap of money in the process. Don’t waste the time that you’ve worked so hard for, to just go back to the same place and do the same things time and again just because someone is telling you that’s all there is. You’re missing out on so many new experiences that could change and inspire your whole outlook on life.
A few years ago Asad and I took a two-week trip to Vietnam. This time we booked every part of this trip independently. No tour operators, no brochures, just a desire to do something different from the usual hotel and beach combination. What we experienced in those two weeks changed us forever. It was a turning point in the way we would travel going forward and a realisation that there are so many options to travel.
So how can you make a holiday more adventurous, exciting and inspiring? Well, here are 10 ways to turn your holiday into a travel adventure!
1) Go Somewhere You’ve Never Been Before
Budget, time, exchange rate, the weather and the type of trip you want, will all affect what destination you choose to visit. It may sound obvious but the first step in making your holiday more adventurous is going somewhere you’ve never been before. Don’t keep visiting the same place just because it’s easy to get to and easy to be in. Go somewhere that offers a diversity of culture, food and people. Be open to new experiences. We never would have thought we’d end up in China, but it one of our highlights and an amazing country with warm, friendly people. We learned so much by visiting China.
The world is an amazing place, see as much of it as you can!
2) Avoid Tours – Go Explore Yourself
Some tours are better than others, but generally a lot of them involve being herded around like sheep. The whole experience can feel rushed and depending on the guide, you can either come back none the wiser or be overwhelmed with too much information. Imagine having a lifelong dream of visiting Angkor Wat. Would you really want the experience to be anything less than amazing? Why risk it? This is your time. Get on the internet, find out how to get to where you need to and explore by yourself. You’ll have all the time in the world to take in the sights at your leisure.
You’ll save money and the whole experience will be on your terms
3) Take Public Transport
Many of the fond memories we have about travelling around South East Asia is the sheer amount of options available to get to your destination. Trains, planes, taxi’s, tuk-tuks, songthaews, scooters, bicycles and yes, horses, donkeys and elephants! When possible, instead of flying to your destination, why not take a train. Though quick and convenient, you miss out so much when flying. On a train, you’ll see some amazing sights on the way, take in the scenery and get a glimpse of life as you cross urban cities and rural landscapes. You get a feel of the country and gain valuable insight and a real understanding of what that country is about – plus you’ll get a chance to mingle with people from all walks of life. Why not see how the locals travel and either get on a bus, bike or catch a lift in a songthaew.
The journey is part of the experience
4) Get Out of the Hotel
It’s easy to stay in the comfort of a resort. Everything is within reach. But isn’t it fair to give to the local economy of a country and not just put money in the pockets of the big chain hotels? Why not explore local restaurants, soak up the atmosphere and try the amazing street food. It’s usually the best and far cheaper than the hotel. For those of you who can (and want to), break away from the “all-inclusive” mentality. It’s just a monetary prison that keeps you in a hotel bubble restricting your movements and mindset. As you’re constantly thinking about meals and drinks, inevitably you don’t spend enough time outside of the hotel.
Get out and discover a whole new world out there!
5) Explore on Foot
To actually experience a place, there’s no better way than to hit the streets and walk! Why be confined to a cab when you can see, feel and experience everything on the street. We’ve walked for miles through the chaotic streets of Asian cities, trekked up mountains, through forests and hiked remote villages. We’ve got lost only to discover serendipity, shared stories with random people we’ve met along the way and had hilarious conversations that we’ll never forget. We’ve been shocked, saddened, inspired and touched by things we’ve seen whilst walking through some of the most amazing places in the world.
You’ve taken the time to visit a different country – be part of it. Become part of its story
6)Get on a Motorbike.
There’s nothing better than getting on a motorbike and exploring. With the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, there’s something about the freedom of getting around on a bike that’s unparalleled. There’s a sense of unrestrained freedom involved and you can go wherever you want, when you want and how you want. You become totally immersed in the scene irrespective of whether you’re in the mountains or the city. We’ve hired bikes in many places except countries such as Nepal, where even getting on a bike would be a death-wish! It’s also enabled us to take some great photos of places we wouldn’t normally be able to reach by car.
There’s some moments you’ll never be able to create ever again – take a camera!
7) Challenge Yourself – Do Something You’ve Never Done Before!
I mentioned earlier that a trip to Vietnam changed us. Back then we classed it as a holiday, but looking back it was actually a travel adventure. We literally travelled from the North of Vietnam to the South and managed to shoe horn three days in Cambodia! In those two weeks we saw Hanoi, Halong Bay, took a three-day motorbike tour starting in Hue, (never done that before) through the mountains of Vietnam, across the Ho Chi Minh Trail ending up in Hoi An. We visited the beautiful beaches of Muine, hired a motorbike and explored the Cham temples, spent a few days exploring Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), took a flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia spending three days exploring Angkor Wat (independently) and then flew back to Hanoi. All that in two weeks! Was it tiring? Yes it was. But was it totally amazing? Hell – Yes! Did we save money by arranging it all by ourselves – yes of course!
I’m not saying you should run around like a crazy person trying to see as much as you can in a couple of weeks. It’s about filling your time with different experiences, seeing and doing amazing things that inspire you and take you outside of your comfort zone!
8)Make Each Trip Count – Get That Bucket List in There!
Everyone has a bucket list – a list of things to do, see and visit before the end is nigh! Everyone’s bucket list is different. It may include bungee jumping, sky-diving, seeing orangutans in Borneo, watching the Northern Lights or just camping under the stars with a few friends. Whatever you’ve always wanted to do, make sure you do it. When I look at my bucket list and the number of things I’ve ticked off, I wish I’d done them earlier and made the most of my two-week holidays.
The more you travel, the more you realise bucket lists get longer!
9) Mix Up Your Accommodation
Unless you’re looking for luxury and want privacy, don’t stay in a hotel. There’s something about hotels – I’m not sure what it is, but we never made friends in a hotel. There’s a certain awkwardness that transcends cultures and stops people talking to one another without feeling weird! Try hostels, you’ll be surprised at how many great hostels there are out there that offer clean, spacious private rooms with their own bathrooms. Hostels have gone beyond dorms now. With great communal eating and lounge areas, the atmosphere is more conducive to striking up a conversation easily and getting to know people. It’s a great way of sharing experiences, getting some great advice about the destination you’re in and exchanging stories. A lot of hostels also arrange nights out, activities and events where everyone can get to know each other in an easy setting.
Couch Surfing is also a great way to not only save money but really discover how locals live. You stay in someone’s home and hangout with them gaining local knowledge and experiencing a country through the eyes of a local. If Couch Surfing is not for you and you prefer to do your own thing, try airbnb. We had a great one bedroom villa in Bali in the middle of a rice paddy field. It was ridiculously cheap and had everything we needed. Whilst travelling, we’ve stayed in many places, from hotels, camp sites and wood cabins to villa’s, hostels, hutongs and guesthouses. Not only did it all add to the experience but we got to know a great bunch of people this way.
10) Make Use of the Internet
The internet is a great source of information. Use it well! There are millions of people travelling the world at any given time doing amazing things, sharing information and exchanging ideas about how to get around the world the quickest, cheapest and safest way. From online guides and travel forums to travel blogs, it’s mind-boggling what you can learn just by searching the internet.
So as Spring is just around the corner and thoughts of warm Summer days on beautiful beaches once again comes to mind, think about how you can make this summer holiday, more inspiring. You never know, it may be the start of something unexpected.
This is a list of just some of the resources we used to book flights, hotels and trips.
Skyscanner – skyscanner.com
Expedia – expedia.com
Agoda – agoda.com
Hostelbookers – hostelbookers.com
Hostelworld – hostel world.com
Tripadvisor – tripadvisor.com
Airbnb – airbnb.com
Couchsurfing – couchsurfing.org