Eight Travel Tips for Traveling Anywhere
The globetrotting cofounders of Bucketfeet tell us what to pack and what to plan when you travel. (The gist: very little.)
One of the side effects of building a global network of indie shoe designers is that you learn a thing or two about traveling. At least that's the case with Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein, the Bucketfeet founders whose business has sent them around the world in search of new artists (read about some of their previous travels here). That’s why we called upon them to give us their eight universal travel tips for making any vacation a memorable one, no matter the destination.
1. Pack 90% less than what you think you need. Raaja says you can buy nearly anything (clothes, toiletries, you name it) when you get to your destination, and it’s a good idea to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs. There are two all-important things you should always pack, however: your passport, and common sense. (Bonus tip: fold your common sense lengthwise and roll it up in a T-shirt to save space.)
2. Don’t obsess over an itinerary. “Do a little bit of research,” Aaron suggests, but other than that, leave it open-ended. Unexpected adventures become the best stories anyway—no one wants to hear about the time you scuba-dived with sea turtles right on schedule.
3. Put down the camera. “Once you’ve seen one cathedral, you’ve sort of seen them all,” says Aaron, adding that traveling should be about “experiencing the actual people.”
4. If you’re in a developing country, eat cooked food. “A lot of times street food is actually safer than restaurant food because you can see them cooking it with a flame,” Raaja points out. Raw food, on the other hand, might be washed with contaminated water. Aaron concurs: “The sickest I’ve ever been was from a salad in a four-star hotel [in India].”
5. Travel alone, with a significant other, or with one to two friends—max. “Otherwise, you’ll be less inclined to meet new people and get out of your comfort zone,” Raaja says. You should also choose travel companions you know won’t get on your nerves after long periods of time.
6. Talk to your cab drivers. If there’s no insurmountable language barrier, ask them about the city. Chances are they’ll have some insider tips.
7. Can’t get away? Travel at home. Exploration doesn’t have to mean leaving the country, or even your town. “Really make an effort to go to new neighborhoods and take advantage of wherever you might be,” Aaron says. Check out that one restaurant you’ve always wanted to try, visit a nearby nature preserve, or finally see what’s inside that water tower the military is always guarding.
8. Have faith in humanity. “There’s no real difference between people anywhere,” Raaja says. Even in places with intimidating reputations, “it’s important not to mix up a government’s position on something with what people are like. … Nobody hates Americans; people don’t really care. They want to have an OK life and be comfortable. That’s all people want.”
Mel writes about food and beauty trends. She would rather give up chocolate than onions.