Guest-contributed post by Razlan Manjaji.
What makes a great holiday? If you are anything like me, you would have taken holiday paths both well-trodden and unknown, and to places near and afar. You would have accumulated quite a few well-shared travel tips and funny anecdotes. All these come together as somewhat like a compass in your heart, to be whipped out with a flourish when you plan for your next holiday.
Well, here’s mine.
Reading this article on The Simple Dollar reminds me of simple things which make holidays great but often overlooked.
It’s all about the people.
During my trips I always opt to stay at backpackers inns. Part of the reason is that it is more economical and you get real value for your buck (try going during winter, the going rate can be as low as half of summer prices). But a major motivation for me is the variety of people I get to meet. Sure, sometimes when my luck is down I might have unfriendly bunkmates, but more often than not I will meet really interesting people from all over the world.
If I happen to visit a place where I have friends living at, such as London, I’ll make sure I make time to catch up with them. Not only is it very beneficial for the spirit to reconnect with friends you have not met for years, the time you spend with them is usually much more enjoyable than if you had ventured out on your own.
Don’t overload your days.
It is easy to think that, in order to maximise your time in a foreign city, you need to take in as many sights as possible. So you consult your friendly guidebook and make a long list of places to go and things to do.
Well, don’t. You will always be rushing off from one place to another. Often you will not be present enough to enjoy the moment. Chances are, you will never get to complete your to-do list.
One of my best travelling days was in London. One morning, I decided to make a day trip to Oxford on a whim to discover the shooting location of Harry Potter. It was totally unplanned for (it was only one small item within my Lonely Planet guide), but I enjoyed the day tremendously. The smooth train ride, the bustling academic town, the quaint castle and, of course, the magical Harry Potter experience. Words fail me on how I felt on that day.
Keep the “peak-end rule” in mind.
What do I mean? Instead of packing your days with all the must-dos, plan for doing one best thing you’ll enjoy the best, and end the day with something really relaxing and meaningful. When you think back about your experience one day, that would be your most vivid memory of the entire trip.
When I was in Budapest last year, famous for its thermal baths, I made the journey to visit one of its most famous and ornate bath complexes, the Széchenyi Gyógyfürdő (Széchenyi Medicinal Bath). The feeling of immersing into its hot water in the midst of winter swirl, and then to conclude my visit with a relaxing Swiss massage… it was the best experience ever. And no, I didn’t rush off to take in the sights all around the bath, no matter what the guidebook urged.
Most of your best memories will come from unplanned things.
Sure, you have the map. There is a suggested itinerary. But do you really have to follow that? Sometimes, getting lost in a strange city is the best way to create your own travel memory, not one already experienced by thousands of tourists before you.
Two years ago, I was driving a rented car around Santorini, one of the most scenic islands in Greece. My friend and I were intent to find one particular “beautiful beach”, but as luck would have it we got lost and found ourselves at Red Beach instead (pictured above). This was the place where I reenacted the scene from Mamma Mia!, where Meryl Streep sang The Winner Takes It All. The dramatic red cliff, the strong sea breeze, the cold weather, and the absolute stillness of the entire place were pure charm.
It was a magical moment for me, one that I will remember for a long time.
Make one meal a day special.
In a foreign country, chances are you wouldn’t really know the local dining scene enough to make your trip a food-centric one. So instead of putting on pounds at the end of your holiday, make for one good meal a day. Save the other meals for simple stuff. You don’t need to eat out at a restaurant for every breakfast, lunch and dinner.
One fine day in Turkey, my friend and I went to Anadolu Kavagi where we had the best seafood meal in Istanbul, although the touting scene here was not for the fainthearted. The seafood was fresh, the beer tingled, and the service was impeccable. That same night the two of us sat down by the river and ate fish sandwiches off a boat.
So what are your best tips in making your holiday memorable? Share with us in the comments!
Razlan Manjaji is a self-confessed travel addict and food lover. When he is not expanding his waistline consuming copious amount of beer and seafood, he can be seen toiling away as a digital product manager for a living. Oh, and he loves to backpack his way through lands both familiar and foreign. Share his love for life at www.razlan.net.