PHOTO: SUPPLIED/BROOKE SCHOENMAN
Are you feeling confident at this point in your amateur travel career, but you'd still like a little direction?
Spring.St picked the adventure-filled brains of a few industry all-stars. We captured their stories, lessons, and advice to help you get the most out of your globetrotting experiences—or turn your wanderlust into a business venture.
Our panel of experts:
Kelly Lewis spoke to us from Sri Lanka. She is the founder of Damesly and the Women’s Travel Fest, and the author of Go! Girl Guides. Kelly has traveled to over 60 countries and every continent but Antarctica.
Deidre Mathis fell in love with traveling while studying abroad. She wrote Wanderlust: For The Young, Broke Professional and founded the Wanderlust Houston Hostel, opening in August 2017.
Brooke Schoenman is the founder of Her Packing List. Before a working holiday in Australia that led to a permanent move Down Under, Brooke lived in Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. She has also explored the Baltic countries, Russia, South America, and more.
Here are 10 top travel tips from these self-starters:
1. Start small
No one needs elaborate travel plans to embark on an adventure. Deidre recommends starting with your built-in adventure days: the weekend.
"Make the most of your days off work," she says. "Travel over long weekends."
You may not have to stop at Saturday and Sunday, either: "See if your company allows teleworking."
2. Deal with your baggage
Brooke came to realize that, as much as she loves travel, it can be overwhelming. She now makes it a priority to take care of herself.
"Sensory stimuli in my environment wear me out. I always need down time when I travel, and if I don't schedule that in, I lose all interest in my travels, get cranky, and even sad. I realize this is a problem, and it has since led me to pursuing my travels a bit differently."
3. Stay confident
Traveling women face unique challenges.
"I've yet to meet a woman who feels 100 percent confident all of the time, no matter where they are in the world," Kelly says, "I am not even that woman, and I am on the road most of the year."
"Just the other day in Sri Lanka, for example, I just couldn't believe how many men were staring at me like I was a snack. I looked around and all I saw were men looking back at me. No women anywhere. The ick factor was pretty huge, and for a moment I thought about heading back up to my hotel, but I kept walking instead. Because you know what? I was hungry. And I wanted to grab dinner and that wasn't going to stop me."
4. Learn what you like
"When I travel, I like to feel like a tourist for a day or so and then everything else needs to be local: eating, shopping, etc." Deidre says.
Kelly has figured out that little things make a difference.
"In Sri Lanka, the difference between spending $15 per night on a hotel and spending $60 is massive,” she says.
"The older I get the less I want to rough it. And the more I travel solo, the more I know that I am much more comfortable in a cab than I am alone on a bus full of men."
5. Remember why you're doing it in the first place
Whether it’s a work trip or a quest to "find yourself," there's a reason why you're heading to a new place.
"Because I traveled, I found a new home in Australia," Brooke says, "I gained the experience and the passion to pursue a career in travel, and I realized that the world is a small and connected place."
6. Keep your goals in sight
Kelly knows what the sacrifice of being a self-starter means to her. “Growing a business means knowing how to fund it, even when that means you don’t get paid. For me, it's totally worth it. I know when I set my mind to something, I'm unstoppable. Why waste that energy working for someone else? I love having total freedom over what my days, weeks, and months look like.”
7. Preparation is key…
…regardless of whether you’re turning your passion into a new business or you’re packing for a weekend getaway.
If it's the former, "Save money, get an advisor, write a business plan, and be prepared for the ride of your life," Deidre says.
8. 'Enjoy the ride' of long-term travel
Backpackers and others embarking on longer trips know this is easier said than done.
Brooke recalls, "When you're bouncing from place to place, it can sometimes make you feel like you have no idea what you're doing with your life. At times, that's the draw of long-term travel, but at others, it can make you question your path. I wish I knew then that there was a bigger purpose to my travels so I could bypass those questioning-my-life-choices thoughts and simply enjoy the ride."
This is something Deidre wishes she knew when she first started traveling: "Solo travel is quite amazing. Waiting for people to go on trips with me when I was younger stopped me from traveling to a few amazing places."
10. Book your ticket. Figure the rest out later
When asked about how they got started, each expert offered variations on the same theme: they just went for it.
"Don’t overthink it. Start soon. If you don't jump in now, you might not ever," advises Brooke.
Deidre reminds us: "You are allowed to take time off and relax."
"Too often we hold ourselves back from what we really want because these dreams seem impossible," Kelly says, "Once you take the leap and start doing them, you find people everywhere doing the same thing."
In the interest of full disclosure, the author met Brooke when contributing to the Her Packing List website.