5 Activities to Consider Trying on Your Travels
I’ve said that there’s a time and a place for different kinds of trips before. While others may fill theirs with shopping and sun-tanning, I prefer to fill mine with enriching and exciting things (like driving Mario karts on public roads). Sometimes it involves getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new, so here are five ideas for activities to consider trying when you travel.
Join a tour group
You might feel like this is a little too touristy but I’m not talking only about package tours. Search online or at the tourist office and you’ll likely find all kinds of tours at your destination, such as photography, art and architecture, horseback riding, scuba diving, breweries and vineyards. There’s bound to be one that suits your interests. Even a simple free walking tour can be a great way to meet people whom you have something in common with. That’s often a nice bonus, especially if you are travelling solo. I find this a fantastic way to get my bearings in a new place too.
Talk to strangers
You were probably taught as a child not to talk to strangers. Now that you’re an adult, put that advice aside. Besides tours, you can also sign up for events on Meetup or Couchsurfing. Even if there aren’t events that you want to join, the hostel receptionist is a good person to start with. Most people are willing to talk to others (with varying degrees of guardedness) as long as they are respectful.
When it comes to random strangers, it may be a little trickier. Iranians would be a lot more open to starting a conversation with visitors than, say, Japanese. Read up a little and use your judgment. Even then, there are ways to endear yourself to the locals. Try to learn a few key words of the country (or region)’s main language, even if it’s just ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, to show that you are making an effort. Don’t rule someone out just because they don’t speak English — after all, non-verbal communication is also effective and important. Try it when you ask someone if you may take a photo of them.
Sometimes, a ‘hi’ to a stranger starts a conversation where you learn about their background and their culture. You’ll be fine as long as you avoid politics at the start. A few polite questions may be all it takes to gain new friends and perspectives.
When done thoughtfully, giving back is commendable and rewarding. There are many different ways to volunteer when you are abroad, so pick something that suits your strengths. If you’re handy, you can help build animal shelters for a conservation project. If you’re good at coding, there may be classes where you can teach. Legitimate places will be grateful for extra expertise, or just an extra pair of hands, and it’s a great way to try something new.
However, be sure that what you are offering actually helps the community in a lasting way. An entire “voluntouring” industry has grown to feed egos. In less serious cases, you might be paying to get in the way and feed yours In others, children are taken from villages to pose as “orphans”. Do your research and ask the local NGOs before you sign up for anything.
Learn to dive
Our planet is mostly covered by water and there is an incredible world under the sea. While you can explore it by snorkelling (like I did in Kaikoura and Bohol), a PADI, SSI or NAUI open water certificate opens more opportunities. You will be able to explore abandoned shipwrecks and caves and get up close with breathtaking coral reefs, not to mention all the fish, crustaceans, molluscs and macrofauna that call them home.
It’s not just about the scuba diving techniques you learn, however. According to 1Cover, just as valuable as the ability to dive itself are the skills you learn, such as non-verbal communication, trust in your equipment and your dive master, and generally staying calm under pressure. Not only will you learn an amazing new hobby, but you will also pick up some transferable life skills.
Some marine aquariums also let visitors who don’t have certificates dive in their tanks, so that is one way you can see if you like it. If you do, it’s easy to find open-water courses in some of the best places on Earth to dive, from Koh Tao in Thailand to the Poor Knights Islands in New Zealand. That’s only going to make your experience even more memorable.
Related: 60 Memories Made in New Zealand
Indulge your hobby
It can be a lot of fun try something you love doing back home in a new setting and with new people. Whether that’s yoga, karting or collecting specific objects, hunt around for a group or a place that does the same thing. If you feel a little lonely or homesick, it can help you feel at ease in an unfamiliar place. Enjoy sharing with your counterparts how things are done back home and what available or unavailable to you. You might even learn a different approach to your hobby that you can try when you return home.
These are just five ways you can make your travel experience even better — if you have other ideas, be sure to put them in the comments!