Before I was a tour guide, I would’ve considered myself a good traveler. I went off the beaten path, I traveled during off-season, I wasn’t too impressed by the hype of touristy areas. While I was in Europe, I experienced so much more than I imagined; but now, I realize that there could’ve been some improvements in how I traveled.
Discovering My Type
I’m not talking about type of man or woman here—although that wouldn’t hurt, of course. I’m talking about your type of travel. Do you like it slow? Do you like it fast? (Still not talking about your significant others) Do you want a more fast-paced, adventurous holiday? Or one where most of your time is spent in a resort.
So many people out there argue over this all the time. Slow traveling is better than country hopping, etc. But they presume a lot about your individuality when spewing out advice like that. Time and time again, I’ve seen too many tourists sign up for one of our tours and have it not fit their style at all. The pace of our tours are extremely fast and exhausting, geared towards more of an adventurous, gritty crowd. And you can tell immediately when a tour is not someone’s style. Usually, it’s a bit of a shock for the first few days and people get accustomed to the pace and make it their own time.
Your type can change from year to year, depending on how your year was. For example, after tour guiding this summer, there was nothing I wanted more than to just chill and be a resort junkie and be spoon-fed, pampered, and taken around. And that’s exactly what I did. 2 years ago, I would’ve recoiled at that kind of traveling. Blasphemy! Going to another country and just spending it in the resort?! You can bet your ass I did that. Knowing yourself, what you want out of the experience, and being absolutely realistic is the most important thing you can do for yourself.
Spending that $$ Wisely
Unfortunately, yes, traveling takes a lot of money; you can budget as much as you want and it’s still going to cost money. How you spend your money makes the difference between an unforgettable experience and just another travel experience.
Spend money on experiences, only eating out when it’s a cultural experience—now that’s smart spending. Spending money on gas station snacks and eating out casually for dinner? That’s money that can be better used elsewhere.
So often, I see people buy a drink and snack every time I stop at a gas station and then complain about not having enough money to splurge for that helicopter ride in the Grand Canyon. Which one is more important an experience? Daily McDonalds or the chance to fly into the Grand Canyon for 45 minutes?
When my friend and I arrived in Puerto Vallarta, we set down some guidelines. Two excursions—Marietas Islands and Ziplining—and 50% eating out. Drinks unlimited. The first day, we did a huge grocery shop and was therefore able to stick to our plan.
Not only should you budget, but you should have an idea at the start of your trip what experiences you want and how much they’ll cost you. Set aside that money as a guaranteed expense—like hotels and transportation—and then go from there to calculate your daily expense.
Yes, you have to be wise about it… but you should still do it. Countless times, I opted out of certain excursions and experiences because I didn’t want to come home with so little money. But really, you’re already there. Why not spend a little more money experiencing what the place has to offer? In a way, it’s more interaction with the place that you’re traveling to.
This comes in the form of specialties. For example, go ziplining in Costa Rica, take that helicopter through the Grand Canyon as opposed to Las Vegas, go skiing in the Alps. Spend a little extra to get the experience that a place is known for.
Recently, I went to Puerto Vallarta with a friend and we had no reservations in what we wanted to spend our money on. We took two excursions: the Marietas Islands and ziplining in the canopies. We also decided at the beginning that we wanted to eat out 50% of the time and cook the other 50%. Unlimited drinks, of course.
I’m really happy that we did the excursions, even though that wouldn’t have been my style before becoming a tour guide because those would’ve been written off as “touristy” things to do. But as I walk away from this vacation, those experiences stand out as some of the best ones I’ve had during this past week.
Curiosity About the Destination
This has been the most recent development—one that I didn’t even notice until my ears perked up when the tour operator announced they would be doing “eco tours” around the Marietas Islands, talking about flora and fauna, etc.
When I first started training and noticed that “flora and fauna” was a bullet point under each specific briefing and presentation I would give, I groaned. Those were the last things I wanted to know about a place when I visited. No, I was more into stories!
However, after training trip, because of the different biodomes that we passed through, I found myself becoming more and more interested how certain rocks formed, and what kind of wildlife we’d find in a certain area.
My curiosity and those of my passenger’s have made me question what it was that I’m traveling through. This, in turn, has made my hyperaware of every little detail that would have escaped me before.
Knowing about a destination’s culture, history, and yes, flora/fauna can greatly heighten your experience. Not only are you interacting with the place physically, but intellectually as well—learning it, making it mean something to you.
I’m not saying that there’s a magical formula for how to travel—too many people say that out there now. I’m saying that in order to really enjoy traveling, you have to find out what works for you. Like many things in life, you have to customize your experience so you enjoy it to the fullest.
And now we’re going to end with one of those cheesy quote-photos.
What are some things you do while traveling that makes the experience unique to you?