Oftentimes when we go to visit a beautiful place, we think two or three short days are not enough; especially if it has so much to offer. Scenic views, amazing beaches, lots of cafés and restaurants to try, old churches, historic castles and monuments, these are just some of the usual spots that we want to see and do.
The truth is, no matter how long a time we are given to stay in a place it will never be enough. A new restaurant is about to open next week or an ancient church that has just been fully restored will finally be opened to the public next month. Everyday there is always something new; even the locals can’t keep up sometimes.
I’ve discovered in all my travels that the secret to truly enjoying a travel destination is to use all our five senses.
When you see something worthwhile, look at it with interest. Take a break from taking too many pictures. Instead, observe every detail with passion. Never miss a thing.
When you walk past a cobbled street, breathe the aroma of the fresh coffee emanating from a tiny café. And perhaps have a taste of their local brew.
Listen to the strange and unfamiliar words that people say on the street or in restaurants. You might just learn something new. Smile if they catch you eagerly listening. Most locals are friendly and would want to engage you in a conversation. Before you know it, you’ve just gained five new friends to be added on your Facebook list.
And why not take off your shoes when you walk in the park to feel the softness of the freshly-cut grass? Or why not let the light afternoon drizzle tickle your palm? This is a habit I am guilty of because I just love touching the walls of ancient churches, castles and temples. Oh how I love castles! I feel like it takes me back to the time when kings and emperors and hundreds of people came to the same spot as I did thousands of years before. It never ceases to give me goose bumps.
Lastly, be friendly. Chat with other tourists or locals. Don’t be afraid to ask directions when you are lost. Don’t be shy to ask something that you’re not sure of. Sometimes, we learn the special things from ordinary people we meet. How would you find out where the best Bacalhau is if you hadn’t chatted with a taxi driver in Lisbon? Or how would you know that a Samovar is actually a boiler that the Russians use for their tea and coffee if not for the Italian lady you met at a small café in Barcelona?
To travel is not a race to see hundreds of tourist attractions in a day just to say you’ve been there, done that. But to travel really, is to feel the soul of your destination making sure it stays with you even when you go.
Indeed, the best travel souvenir is the one that cannot be bought. Memories.