We met a couple yesterday in Hannibal Missouri. They were on a two-week vacation. They were traveling from Seattle, WA and planning to be back home “in a couple of days”. Total round trip was 4000 miles or 285 miles a day. The wife looked exhausted but was enduring it well. The husband was pretty proud of himself. “I’m a school bus driver. I love to drive!” I wonder if he got a gold star?
We travel full-time, so we never take a “vacation” as such. But I do know that sometimes traveling loses its joy! We forget why we are moving our bodies from one place to the next.
Sometimes we need to stop and think about why we travel. I called this blog “Intentional Traveler” to remind myself to make choices with intention about how I live, and how I travel.
So here are 7 things we keep in mind as we map out our travel. I hope one or two of them will jump into your planning process too!
1. It’s not about the miles
Having been the “set a goal and accomplish it” kind of gal, I know well the craving to eat up the miles. I often hear people exclaim “we covered 500 miles today!” Well, congratulations! Two gold stars for you! Did you take a picture of the mountains flying by? How about that great rest-stop? Photos of the bathrooms perhaps?
Ok, sarcasm aside, we sometimes set aside a day or two to just cover miles. I am the driver, and my limit is 300 miles just because I hit a mental wall at that point. I do stupid things when I am exhausted.
But we only cover those miles if we have a destination where we plan to stop for a while, as in several days or more. We have explored our target area virtually (websites, apps, maps) before we get there, and have a list of things to do. We schedule downtime just to read a book or have a glass of wine. And we leave time to explore things that pop up as surprises. It is usually the glass of wine with our new “neighbors” at the campground that brings the most JOY!
2. Try something out of the box
This one is new in our checklist of traveling joy. What kinds of things have we never done before? Bill and I are especially good at finding great scenery and history museums. If you know us, or even if you read the blog much, you would know that is true!
So we are trying to get out of that box! The other day we talked to someone at a museum (what else?) who mentioned an archaeological dig where they had found a 13000-year-old mammoth, and an ancient hearth and butchering area right near it. Did we want to go? Well yes!
We are trying some other things too. NASCAR anyone? Horse races? Wineries and breweries are on our “of course” list. How about a rodeo? Are you going to the state fair? The local renaissance fair? It takes a bit of research to find these things. But they are either really worth it, or they are not and we’ll never do that again! Oh! Did I forget to mention the granite quarry in Vermont and the copper mines in Montana? Very fun!
3. Keep costs down so you can splurge on something amazing
I love the art of frugal travel. I am learning a lot from the various blogs and Facebook groups out there to share ideas. We really don’t need to eat out more than a couple of times a week. (Remember, we live on the road). We try to park the rig in one place for a while and use the car to explore. This is much cheaper on fuel. We almost never buy “stuff”. It won’t fit in the rig anyway.
So if we are a little bit wise about the stuff we don’t buy, sometimes, with a little planning, we can do a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi. Heck, go hog-wild and do the dinner cruise!
4. Plan enough, but not too much
This was the one we had to learn over time. Planning enough means we aren’t surprised to learn there is no parking available for Labor Day weekend. Maybe we should decide where we want to be and make reservations? Planning too much is having such a tight schedule that you don’t have time for detours. Many of the coolest places we have been to were recommendations from our new “neighbors” in the rig next door. If we are scheduled tight, we can’t adjust.
What this means to you is very specific to you and your travel mates. Some people are not comfortable without making reservations months in advance. Personally, I don’t usually know what State I will be in three months from now, although I probably have a good guess. However that works, give yourself a little wiggle room!
5. Keep notes
At a minimum, write down what down you were in each day. Use your phone to get at least one picture every day. Obviously more is better!
The simplest way to share your trip is to post photos on Facebook. If you do that either keep your page private so only your family can see, or wait until you get home to post. There is no need to tell the world you are away from your house right? Of course, fulltime travelers don’t have that issue.
If you are traveling a lot, and are feeling more verbal, you might want to try a blog. No need to worry about making money with it. You can just write for your own memory and so your friends can travel “virtually” with you. There are several free blogging tools available. Start with Blogspot or WordPress.org.
6. Have a little (credit /cash) buffer available for mechanical issues
Depending on your financial state, this might be easy or hard. Even so, it must be addressed. The most likely mechanical problem is a blown tire. Next in line come things like fuel pumps, and electrical issues like starters, batteries or the wiring the mouse destroyed. Expensive things like blown transmissions are also possible. Your financial goal in travel is much like your financial goal in life: having a buffer reduces blood pressure! When something does occur, you have the ability to get it fixed, even if you grumble while you do it.
7. Keep vehicles well maintained to avoid mechanical issues!
Of course, mechanical issues are much less common with a well-maintained vehicle. Tires that are not ancient are less likely to blow. Annual services and periodic oil changes keep things running much more smoothly.
So are you needing a little more joy in your travel? It all comes down to giving yourself the space to explore! Schedule some downtime and some flexibility. Think outside of the box.
Of course, a little bit of practical attention to details like budgets and maintenance is always a help!
Back to you
So add your tips for joyful travel! What do you keep in mind as you set out on your next journey?