Even with over 12 years of full-time travel under my belt (and prior to that a veritably plush repertoire of travel experiences), I still feel a surge of excitement at what seem like trivial accomplishments on the road. These are the little victories of travel.
(See also: The Number 1 Reason Why I Love Slow Travel)
This post was originally published in 2015. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
I don’t think I’m the only one who gets a rush of excitement in traveling solo – especially in the beginning. A girlfriend who visited me abroad remarked on what a rush it was to fly by herself (she’s used to herding other people when traveling, but doing it solo felt different).
Solo travel is home to some of the most confidence-boosting travel victories. “I did it!” you exclaim while doing an inner happy dance at having traveled from A to B on your own.
Janice Waugh is a colleague and fellow traveler who specializes in solo travel; you can check out her Solo Traveler’s Handbook for tips and tricks to travel solo.
Flying, Riding, and Otherwise Transporting
Okay, airports aren’t rocket science, and if you speak English you can technically navigate any airport in the world. So it shouldn’t feel like such a victory when you manage to negotiate the airport, from checking in to clearing security and finding your flight – and yet, it is victory. There’s nothing like sinking into your seat after the airport crush without a worry in the world – except whether the meal will be edible.
I get a similar rush of excitement/victory when I settle in for a long train ride or other major change of location. And finding a local chicken bus in a foreign town where you don’t speak the language is a veritable notch for the travel belt.
Speaking the Language
When I visited Thailand in 2008, one of the “games” on the flight’s interactive video screen was for language learning. After futzing around with random words for a while, I focused on numbers, and disembarked with the ability to count to 1 million in Thai. As I traveled the country, I phonetically learned phrases from locals, and took this knowledge to the markets to practice. By the time I left Thailand a month later I could go into a market with some small talk, perform basic negotiations, and exchange parting pleasantries…all in Thai. What a victory that was!
It feels good to get to a point where you can converse with people in their native language. Often their demeanour even changes, allowing you make new friends and have deeper cultural experiences, not to mention get a better deal when negotiating for goods and services.
(See Also – Becoming Fluent in Spanish (and Other Languages)
Finding Your Accommodation/Hotel
What do you do when you finally settle in to your room? C’mon, admit it. You jump on the bed and squish the pillows to feel how soft they are, before romping around the room and exploring all its nooks and crannies. (I know it’s not just me; come on, guys).
Finding your accommodation for the night usually signifies the end of a longer journey from A to B, along with tales of adventure, mis-adventure, long hours on buses, planes, trains, and on it goes. You’re relieved to finally reach your resting place, which unto itself might have involved walking in circles, lost taxi drivers, and any number of travel stressors.
You made it to the hotel! Victory.
Part of immersing in a culture is doing as the locals do, which in many countries, means haggling.
When I first traveled to China (at the age of 16), I knew that negotiating was expected, and felt a rush of excitement at haggling the vendor down 10% on my first purchase. Oh, how that excitement faded once I realized that the same item was on offer down the street at half the asking price! Thus began my hardcore immersive education in haggling; for example in some cultures, the first sale of the day is considered an omen for the rest of the day’s sales, and you can sometimes afford to negotiate harder.
And how good does it feel when you strike a deal? Yep, pretty good.
(Remember haggling is also good for the economy – See also: How Tourism Cripples Local Economies)
How utterly amazing does it feel to make a foreign friend on their turf? Together you’ve transcended cultural and linguistic barriers, and seen that you’re kindred spirits under the surface. Now, you’re also tapped into the local scene, getting the inside scoop of what life is like, and not only enjoying a new friend, but also understanding their culture better.
This is one of the greatest little victories of travel you can enjoy.
What are some of your little victories of travel?