Remember why you’re out there

Back from a recent trip, there will be time later to annoy my Facebook tribe with poetic musings and dozens of scenic snapshots.

Fortunately, you’ll be spared that torture. Now, it’s time to get the lessons (and there are some from every trip) down:

Weather the “huhs?”: This most recent trip was primarily to Belgium. We did get a lot of “Huh. What’s there?” But it was a very good trip, filled with beautiful architecture, a fantastic beer culture (for husband), medieval walled cities (for me), warm folks and chocolate shops that look like jewelry stores. We made an educated guess and came home wondering why this fantastic place isn’t as popular a destination as France or Germany or Ireland. Travel sometimes seems like a herd activity, what with all the “100 Hottest Destination” lists. But go where you want to go, whether that’s Belgium or Brooten. It’s your time, your money, your dream. It’s not a competition with the Joneses.

Plan less: During a few days revisiting one city that we’d been to years ago, two main objectives were off-limits due to site renovations (hi there, Bad Planning!). That meant we were at loose ends, left to wander the city aimlessly for hours — happily, it turns out. We made some great photos, found some cozy local joints and explored areas we’d pushed through too quickly on our last trip. You travel to see a place. Leave time to do that.

When in Rome…: I have favorite things. Bet you do, too — maybe ketchup on fries. But if your destination has different favorite things (say, beer instead of wine is THE thing to drink with dinner), roll with it. It’s great to discover new things about yourself. For instance, I learned that mayo is awesome on fries, waffles are reasonable street food and raspberry lambic beer is actually a great idea.

When in Rome (2)…: If you can swing it (based on cost, group size and timing), travel like a local — on trains, subways, buses, trams or on foot. Taxis and rental cars separate you from the everyday experience of an urban zone and block one of the main pleasures of going somewhere: people-watching. Plus, rentals can cost a ton of money and parking in an unfamiliar city or town can be a huge hassle.

Don’t sweat the small stuff: Say, a shower you can’t stand up in, or a minor pickpocketing incident (both of these happened). Or someone snagged your favorite campsite. If you’re a recreational cynic like me, put that on vacation, too.

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Lisa Schwarz

About Lisa Schwarz

By day, I'm a St. Cloud Times editor guiding coverage of politics, government, public safety and business beats. By night, I'm leading the cubicle jailbreak as the Times Traveler. Follow me on Twitter at and on Facebook at
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