I learned so much on one of my recent trips. It is wonderful to come back from a travel experience with a new perspective. Things I once considered to be so important, just aren’t that important now. My 16 travel and other life lessons from Estonia will hopefully stick with me for awhile.
Have you ever been so spontaneous that you literally just left?
No planning, no packing. Just leaving. Have you ever done that? I have. I was very unlike me to do something so spontaneous.
We were in Russia and wanted to take a weekend trip to Estonia. Upon arriving at the bus station, we learned that there was only one bus leaving in 10 minutes.
We had to take it, or we couldn’t go at all. Guess what? I went for it, and we hopped on the bus and spent 3 days in Estonia. Here’s what I learned:
My 16 Travel and Other Life Lessons from Estonia
You don’t need a lot of stuff. Seriously, all that stuff we think we need, we don’t need it. However, an extra pair of underwear is nice. And so is a toothbrush. But I found you can buy both of these things at a gas station. Even at midnight. Even in Estonia.
Keep your passport safely in your home, in an accessible spot. Who knows when you’ll have a chance to hop on a bus or a plane and travel somewhere amazing. When you are traveling out of the country, keep it safely with you at all times.
If it’s winter, bring a hat and gloves with you. My dad always told me this growing up; he was worried that the car would break down in mid-winter Minnesota, and I would freeze. Turns out this is good advice for traveling too.
But if you didn’t bring your hat and gloves with you, you can get these extremely cheap at a thrift store. Even in Estonia.
A guidebook is nice, but not necessary. Things may be more interesting without one. If you really want one, try to be environmentally conscious first, and check one out from your library. Search online which may enable you to check nearby libraries in the system as well.
Or buy one at a local bookstore when you reach your destination, and support a local business. You might get a nice feel for the neighborhood as well.
Try to be green everywhere you go. There are always even small ways to be environmentally aware. I didn’t have my water bottle with me, but I walked whenever I could. I used fewer resources than I would have on an elaborate, well-planned trip.
Buy or borrow a language dictionary. If you know in advance where you are going, it is helpful and also polite to try to learn some generic, key phrases: Hello. Thank you. Where is the bathroom (or whatever they call it)? How much does this cost? What do you recommend?
Regarding food…. Grocery stores are your best friend with more reasonably priced food and local drinks. Restaurants or cafeterias near universities also typically have inexpensive, typical-of-the-culture type food.
Wherever you go, there you are. Yes, it seems obvious, but it is true. Where you are is what matters, and you should make the very best of it.
Always carry a camera.Who knows what moments will be waiting for you to capture?
Do whatever you can to get a sense of the neighborhood you are in. Take a walk around town; go to the park; shop the local grocery and bookstores (above).
McDonald’s bathrooms are the most reliable thing on planet earth and should not be taken for granted. I’m not a big fan of fast food in general, but because so many places exist, you might be able to find one if you need to.
If you find someone adventurous enough to go on a spontaneous journey with you, and you have an amazing time, this is someone you should hold close for life.
Unless you are traveling with children, you really don’t need a plan for everyday. Some of life’s greatest moments actually occur when you just pick up and go. Sure, you may want to reserve certain days for museum visits, historical sites and other big points of interest. But it is fun to not have to adhere to a schedule, with every moment planned out.
Ask the locals for recommendations. Talk to the staff at the place you are staying, and ask what they recommend for a “local” experience. Ask the employees at the grocery store or at a museum. Finding unique, non-tourist locations can turn into some of your favorite memories.
Use less resources. Walk instead of taking a taxi. Explore even further out by renting a bicycle. Take public transportation to get around town instead of renting a car.
Manners matter. Really they do. When traveling out of your country, many people you encounter will not understand your language. It is okay. Smile. Be friendly.
My 16 Travel and Other Life Lessons from Estonia Help Me for Future Trips
I did great in Estonia not having brought my toothbrush, underwear, a guidebook, and my hat and gloves. All I really needed were my passport, some money, my manners, and my sense of adventure.
I will remember my 16 travel and other life lessons from Estonia as I try (not) to plan out my next excursion.