More travel experiences are coming next week (on my way back from the latest adventure right now!) In the meantime, I want to share my greatest tip for getting more out of your travel.
The term “sightseeing” is synonymous with travel. Unfortunately, “sightseeing” is only one fifth, and possibly even one sixth, of the optimal travel experience. We need to remember to really immerse ourselves in our travel experiences by tapping into and noticing all of our senses.
Sure, seeing is the first (and sometimes the only) sense we think of when we think of travel. The sights to behold on this spectacular planet have a way of distracting us from our other senses. But these sights will be enhanced if appreciated in cooperation with our other senses. An obvious example would be watching native dancers. Of course, the dance makes a lot more sense when you are listening to the music. But even when the connection is less obvious, it is still an important part of the total experience, whether it is the blaring of taxi horns in Times Square, the bells of the slot machine ringing at a casino, the crashing of waves against the shore at a remote beach, or the cracking sound as the bat hits a home run ball at the baseball stadium. We often only notice these things as an afterthought. But what if they became part of the forethought? Enjoy the sound of the birds. How many different birds do you hear? And that foreign language people may be speaking – do you hear the rhythms of it? The world is full of interesting sounds, and these sounds can often even tell us a lot about the place they are originating from rather than just being irrelevant background noise.
Smell and taste are often linked, because when we think of aromas we often think of foods. But what if we took a deep breath on the beach and smelled the salty air? Or took the time to smell the flowers in the park? Does one neighborhood smell different from another in this new city?
When we taste in our travels, are we tasting local offerings? Travel is a great excuse to try that local microbrewery beer (or better yet, flight of beers!), that locally crafted cigar, or the local specialty on the dinner menu. That McDonald’s hamburger is diluting your travel experience! Remember how important food is in the culture of a place. The term “comfort food” refers to familiar food in your culture – and emphasizes the importance of the culture your food hails from. What foods comfort the locals in the place you are visiting?
Touch is often not considered while traveling, but there can be many opportunities to do so. Is the country you are visiting famous for their textiles? How do they feel? Are there animals to pet? Is there water, sand, rocks, sculpture, snow, rain to touch? Why not see what it feels like? From the warmth of the sun to the cool breeze brushing across your face, the world feels good!
And what about the sixth sense? Have you ever pondered what your intuition is telling you about the people you encounter? Wonder what that person is thinking, or what they are like, and then ask them! Nine times out of ten I have found locals are happy to talk to visitors. When you can “see” a place through the “eyes” of a local, you are having the ultimate travel experience.
The object or place we are viewing becomes an experience, not a “sight”, when we use all of our senses in our travels. We are completely immersed in a place. That is really the only way to truly “see” the world. If you are not already using all of your senses to travel, give it a try next time and see how it enhances your experience!