Staring at my third passport from across the room, I realize I’ve been quite a few places with plenty of folks and so many of those foreign lands, daring adventures, and people were absolutely incredible. But every so often, I’d end up in beautifully sweet places with horrifically sour folks who’d attempt to use their mood as a tool to bring everything to its knees — often unintentionally. Thankfully, it only took two times for me to realize rules — as much as I hate them — are necessary if it means being present for the experiences and returning home with my full sanity.
“How you gon’ be mad on vacation?
Dutty wining ‘round all these Jamaicans”
- Kanye West, Bound 2
Of course solo travel would eliminate all the BS and I more often than not prefer it, but I’ve fallen in love with showing flexing my language skills at restaurants while my friends watch in awe and seeing the look on my son’s face when he accidentally stumbles into a gaggle of bikers in the bike lane in a random country and has to figure out how to communicate to get out of it. So now, before we hit the road toward the airport, I send them my trusted list of rules:
1. Must Love Walking. On Average, I’ll walk 10 miles per day. I want to see the city, enjoy the air, stumble upon the small shops, the tea houses, and the bookstores. Who needs public transportation all the time when in a strange place.
2. Must Love Meeting New People. There are few things worse than a traveler who hates to connect with others. When I travel, even domestically, I love engaging in cultural exchange. Spark conversation with strangers, restaurant owners, other travelers! Go to meet ups, hang outs, and random living room concerts in the middle of Cologne.
3. Must Love Hostels. Hostels are my preferred choice of accommodation. They’re where I get to meet new folks, show off my cooking skills to other foodies, learn new languages, taste new snacks, and sleep for cheap! It’s also the perfect place to get the lowdown on far away lands I’ve never seen.
4. Must Put Phone Down Sometimes. While folks look down at their phone, the beauty of a new place will pass them by. Photos are necessary, but constantly checking things that can wait is a no-go. Also: NO PHONES AT DINNER!
5. Must Love Positive Vibes. Attitudes and negative behaviors are not allowed at all. No exceptions. Bad energy passes through groups quickly. No one is here to be miserable with you. You are free to excuse yourself for as long as you need.
6. Must Not Need A Babysitter. Don’t feel bad for not wanting to do everything together. We don’t have to be together all the time. We don’t have to wake up or go to bed at the same time. If there are things you want to do on your own, by all means, do them! Live! Enjoy! If I say I’m going for KFC in Bogota, don’t feel obligated to follow me. Eat what makes you happy. I might even change my flight and stay a week longer.
7. Must Know Your Budget. Be sure to count your money and budget yourself. We are here to enjoy the trip and have just enough money for self. If your card stops working or is stolen, I will absolutely help you figure out a plan and make sure you don’t starve, but let’s work on preventing that.
8. Must Be Kind. I will only share my space in the world, intentionally of course, with kind people. Customs change from people to people. What works for some in your corner doesn’t work for others. Respect that and if you must dismiss someone, do it politely. If there’s a problem, address it with compassion if possible. Be kind. It’s easy!
9. Must Have No Judgement. Once you‘re out there in the world with me, you enter a no judgment zone. If someone wants to visit a brothel (an ethical one, of course), or purchase sex improvement medication from the pharmacy or from a stranger in a park, smile, but do not judge.
10. Must Remember These Moments Forever!