Social & Cultural

THE ONE WORD that will guarantee you enrichment on your travels

Words by Matt Leedham
Travel Better

While most people will usually “ooh” and “ahh” when you tell them you’re going on a trip to pretty much anywhere, let’s face it – the actual travelling bit is not always as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be.

Even if you are privileged enough to be turning left on the plane, your journey may still have and will endure some severe low points along the way.

The usual travel woes could include delayed or worse, cancelled flights, lost bags, being held up at customs, missing connections, finding out your hotel isn’t booked, finding out your hotel isn’t built, waiting endlessly in long queues, or having an unsavoury seat friend next to you on a long-haul flight.

Maybe the passenger in front of you repeatedly reclines their seat in your lap for hours, the in-flight entertainment system breaks, or your phone battery dies, and you don’t have a charger.

Welcome aboard…

Let’s get real here – these are #firstworldproblems, but yes they are relative and right now they are happening to you. And they are probably going to test you.

The point is, while we all love the idea of travel, the actual travelling ‘to’ and ‘from’ the destination can be gruelling and often a battle of wits for all involved – if you choose to experience it that way that is.

So how do you not just cope, but shine like a sparkly diamond throughout this mental marathon of the travelling kind?

With one word. ‘Kindness.’

Being kind might seem a tough ask when you’re ten minutes into a 23-hour flight to London, and already your seat buddies squeezed either side of you are snoring like smouldering dragons, but it can be attained.

Don’t believe me? Here are my five tested tips for you to try for yourself.

1. You are Buddha – REPEAT – You are Buddha

The simple key to maintaining your sanity is to always remain calm.

So try and stay in the moment and take plenty of deep breaths along the way, especially in testing situations.

Keeping a positive and curious mindset means you’ll be open to new experiences that will only enhance and bring more enjoyment of your trip.

As the author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ Elizabeth Gilbert says;

“Changing the world starts by simply connecting with the next person in front of you.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

Check in with yourself often to see how you’re feeling physically and mentally and if you can – close your eyes and take some deep breaths here and there along the way.

Investing in a good meditation app for your smartphone such as Headspace or Calm is another excellent idea to help you stay centred on the go.

If you catch eye contact with someone, smile because usually, they’ll smile back, smiling is the start of all great connections regardless of race or language.

What happens next is up to you.

2. Be open and considerate

Everyone has his or her own life story to tell.

So while you may think that you can work out ‘anyone’s story’ from their appearance, mood or vibe, chances are – you’ve probably got no idea, so don’t even try.

Someone seemingly ‘having a bad day’ or being rude to you could amount to any number of explanations such as a death in the family, a recent break-up, job loss or illness, for example.

It’s almost certain that their mood won’t be about you.

So tread carefully and again be kind. If you are in close proximity to someone (IE sitting next to them on the plane), start with a smile, and a simple “hello, how are you?” to make a connection.

You are always travelling to expand your horizons remember so put your phone down and instead put yourself out there and engage people with the same empathy you would appreciate.

3. Always be nice to travel industry staff

If you think your travel is demanding, spare a thought for these hard-working folk who’ve made a career out of it.

While sure it’s their job, these folk are putting in very long hours, often for a pittance of pay, are frequently away from loved ones and have to deal with some of the most taxing people on the planet on an hourly basis.

So always be nice to cabin crew, hotel staff, tour guides and anyone you come into contact with who are working along the way – especially when it’s chaos, and you’re at your limit.

Instead, imagine for a second how they might be feeling right now?

It’s in your interest to be kind, so don’t be that person adding to their troubles – instead, be the shining star that they’ll remember in their day.

Recently I asked a couple of check-in staff “How their day was?” I ended up receiving an upgrade on a hire car and a better seat on a flight.

Why? They both told me that “No-one had bothered to ask them all day.”

It sounds ridiculous, but this is where society is in today’s world.

4. Just chat

Chat is the currency of travel.

Call it passing the time, call it expanding your mind or just small talk, but chat is what makes travel thought-provoking and you more exciting and dare I say it, more attractive as a human being?

Your chat may be in Pigeon English in an aircraft galley with someone from Russia who loves Kangaroos, in an elevator laughing with a group of Chinese tourists in London who can’t speak a word of English or by having a debate with a taxi driver in New York and swapping life stories. These are all experiences that have happened to me.

The rules of the chat game are simple. Smile, listen, then talk – and not about yourself ideally unless asked.

Ask light questions, laugh and be curious and engaged.

5. What’s the outcome to all of this niceness?

All of this goodness could add up to a world of possibilities.

It could mean a new friend, a better seat, a room upgrade, an insider tip, romance, a business opportunity, a job, a place to stay, a nugget of wisdom, a hug or a simple “thank you for listening.”

But actually, it’s not about seeking anything at all in return.

Call it karma, or call it being smart. But one thing is for sure – you certainly don’t want to make your trip any harder.

Instead be kind, be understanding and you’ll maintain your sanity along the way, and your travels (and life) will be so much more enjoyable.

I challenge you to try it as an experiment and see what happens.

Let me know how you go and Happy travels.

How can you travel to change the world?

Congratulations! By reading this post and taking some of these insights on board, you’ve already made a difference.

Now you can easily create your impact by sharing your new-found knowledge with other friends who you think would also be interested.

Ultimately, responsible travel comes down to common sense – stay curious, keep yourself up-to-date with the challenges at hand and make yourself accountable for your actions on your travels.

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