7 Travel Principles That Can Change How You Travel

In traveling the world for nearly twenty years I have developed a system of “Travel Principles” upon which I rely. These Travel Principles not only keep me safe, but also help me enjoy my journeys more. They are a framework from which to build a more pleasurable travel experience.

I discovered some through study and observation over time. However most of these Travel Principles are the result of trial and error. Some seemed to work better than others in different circumstances. But through various trips these 7 Travel Principles have stood the test of time.

Each traveler has his or her own list of travel principles, or whatever they might call them. So feel free to borrow from my list or add to your own.

Why You Need Travel Principles

However you develop your list, I do recommend that you have some framework to help govern the decisions you will have to make on the road. If you’re gearing up for your first trip, don’t let these Travel Principles cause you to overthink you adventure. Chances are, unless you’re headed into a war-torn country with a weapon of your own you’ll be all right.

But these Travel Principles now come as second nature to me. This means that I don’t spend much time thinking about things that take away from the experience of the journey itself. I spend more time in the moment of travel.

Travel Principles Help You Govern Yourself

For example, I don’t spend much time comparing myself to other travelers anymore. There was a time when I wished that I could have this or that gear or experience. I wanted to be able to do something more, or go someplace farther than my budget or time would permit.

But really, after figuring out Travel Principle #1 it became so much easier to enjoy the trip I was on simply because it was my trip.

That’s the unwritten travel principle. Your trip is your adventure. Wherever you go, for however long you are gone, doing whatever you may do – the journey is yours to take. Enjoy it!

7 Travel Principles that Changed How I Travel

Travel Principle #1: Your backpack is YOUR backpack.

The backpack symbolizes both the literal and metaphorical tool you use to carry your gear on your adventure. They come in all shapes and sizes and can hold more or less of anything that one might want to take with them. Inside the backpack are all sorts of things you need and want. Sometimes you get to choose the things you put in it – such as gear for adventure travel. Other times those things are predetermined for you. You might have an illness or family situation that limits your travel.

However, regardless of the backpack you choose for your trip and what you carry with you, once you realize that your trip is YOUR trip you will enjoy it more.

Travel Principle #2: Your expectations are almost always incorrect.

Very few places in the world are uncharted today. In fact most places have their own websites and can be found to have hundreds if not thousands of hits by search engines. This leaves us with a wealth of information from which to plan our next adventure. But it also leaves us with the task of setting and managing our expectations for what a destination or experience might be upon our arrival.

If you can accept that your trip will be unique because it is YOUR trip then whatever expectations you had for it will be achieved once you simple go.

Travel Principle #3: Always Look Around.

It can be overwhelming to arrive in a new and beautiful place, especially if you are part of a throng of other travelers. Our natural tendency is to follow our wonder. We might take our first steps in a place with our head tilted upward at a huge building or monument. Or we might take those first steps with our head turned sideways to street entertainers or vendors.

But becoming aware of your surroundings first – observing the who, what, where and when – will allow you a safer and more thorough travel experience. You’ll have a better understanding of the how and why once you orient yourself within the context of your surroundings. The sooner you orient yourself, the sooner you can begin to explore your next travel destination.

Travel Principle #4: Don’t Panic.

Bad things happen to travelers. Don’t panic. Chances are it won’t be you. There are all sorts of things that can go wrong when you’re traveling. This is especially true the further you go from familiarity. The more immersed you are in places and cultures that speak different languages, practice different religions and eat different foods than you the more you might find yourself in situations where you might want to panic.

Remember, don’t panic. Not only does it prevent you from making other accidents or miscalculations in the moment of panic. It also puts you in the best place to experience a unique travel story.

Once you realize you can’t control everything in a situation except for the way you look at it and how you react you can begin to see the uniqueness of this moment of your journey.

Travel Principle #5: Always use the free restroom/water fountain.

Using the restroom and consuming water are simple, but necessary and fundamental, processes for human beings. But a want for either can turn your attention from your journey to the discomfort of wanting.

In some places in the world you actually have to pay to use a public restroom. Other places you have to become a paying customer in order to use private restrooms. In either situation, using the restroom when it is accessible and free will not only save you money. It will also keep you from wishing part of your travel away in hope of finding a restroom.

Likewise, try to fill up on water at any moment when it is accessible and free. Sure you can’t always drink the free water, especially in developing countries. But buying that bottle at the corner store because you can might keep you from drinking the local water because you have to.

Prepare as best you can for the necessities in life and you will spend more time enjoying the trip and less time wishing your time away.

Travel Principle #6: Take the photo.

Sometimes you will find yourself in a beautiful place, but you will be among a crowd of tourists. Other times you will sit and wait for the perfect light or for some rare occasion to take place. Still other times you may be too tired, in a hurry, or otherwise convincing yourself you can always come back and take the photo later.

You never know when you will return, or if the same conditions will exist upon your return. Take the photo. It may not turn out the way you want it to even in perfect conditions. But if you want the photo, take it.

Travel Principle #7: Don’t backtrack. Push on.

Today there are maps for pretty much every place in the world. It is virtually impossible to get lost. Focus less on finding the simplest way to arrive at a destination and more on the depth of experience of the journey.

If you happen to miss a turn, carry on to the next opportunity to find your way back. If you have a chance to go back by the same route upon which you came or to forge a new path, seek adventure.

Always look to the horizon ahead, not behind. The journey is always ahead. The best adventures are always found in new experience not in past memory. Push on. Explore. Accept that whatever time you lost in missing a turn will be gained in new adventure.

The list could go on from here. Certain travel tendencies have become habits. These habits have become a part of daily life on the road. Let these Travel Principles define the perspective, purpose and particulars of any trip that you make. Whether by backpack and bus or by truck camper and the open road, life is about the journey and these Travel Principles will help you make the most of your time on earth.

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