The first time I really caught the travel bug was during my time abroad in Santiago, Chile when I was 20 years old. I found that learning about different cultures firsthand through their food, art, music, and most importantly, the people, was essentially how I wanted to spend every possible free moment I had. Most recently, my husband and I went to Thailand and Cambodia, which was the furthest from home (both literally and figuratively) we’ve ever been. Here are a few things I learned while being completely outside of my comfort zone and how I plan to apply these truths both at home and during future travels!
Be open to trying new things
Okay, sometimes this one can bite you in the butt (pun intended). But, I find that to really experience a different country fully, you have to set aside some of your western comforts and rather than always getting the Pad Thai, try that weird curry dish with floating pieces of fish. In fact, my favorite meals in Thailand ended up being the ones that were in small, hole-in-the-wall, family owned shops where nothing was in English on the menu and you had to just make a guess or trust the chef’s recommendation. Now back at home, if I go to a restaurant I’ve been to many times before, I try to order something different and make it my own small food adventure in Miami.
Do your research and support local, sustainable, & ethical companies
My husband and I knew we wanted to see the majestic Asian elephant, but upon looking into it a bit, we were very disheartened to find how much this animal was exploited throughout Thailand and Cambodia. I won’t go into too much detail (tons of information out there in documentary form and on the internet), but we were able to find a non-profit company called The Elephant Nature Project, which rescued elephants from dangerous situations and allowed us to observe and experience them in their natural habitat; it provided jobs to local Thai people and emphasized the importance of respecting the wild animal rather than forcing it to be domestic. Here in Miami, I have tried to make a point of supporting small business owners that have a purpose of improving the community around them rather than cutting corners to make the biggest dollar.
Allow yourself to get lost
My favorite day during our trip was when we rented a motorbike and just roamed around in the hills. You’ll find the most beautiful sights and sounds when you aren’t planning on it, and the fact that it is so organic and unplanned makes it that much more exhilarating. I’ve implemented that practice back home by going on walks with friends around my neighborhood which I recently moved to and have yet to explore very well.
Something will go wrong, and when it does.. don’t freak out
I like to consider myself a fairly laid back person, but CONFESSION: I panic when things don’t go as planned on my vacation. I love making our itineraries ahead of time and confirming everything so that when the time comes to do the actual traveling, we can do it with ease. Well, on our last few days in Thailand, we had planned to do ‘luxury camping’ in a national park and spend our days snorkeling and climbing. Even though we were out of the rainy season, it began to monsoon the day we were set to take our boat to the island, and all of the tents flooded, leaving us stranded on mainland trying to last minute find a place to stay. As expected, my reaction to “freak out” helped nothing, but thankfully my husband is extremely calm and level-headed and was able to find a beautiful hotel to stay in with kayaks to use at our leisure. Had that first part of the story never happened, we wouldn’t have had that fun, stormy kayak ride out to an untouched island with no other living beings in sight. What this experience taught me is that I will never be in control of everything and by accepting that and letting go, some beautiful memories will be made.
My mom gave me an anonymous quote one time which I try to share with others when I get the chance: “Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.”
God speed on your next adventure!
-Kelsey Garcia PT, DPT, PMA-CPT