How to Travel Anywhere (and Have a Good Time)

Author and travel junkie Lee Crutchley on how to have a good time while traveling (literally) anywhere.

How to Travel: Go to the end of the road
Go to the end of the road. Getty Images

The simple aim of almost any trip you take will be to have a good time. It should be easy. You'll be getting away from the stresses of work and the grind of daily life, to an amazing place where you can just relax and enjoy yourself. But you can spend so long planning that enjoyment beforehand that you feel burned out the time you get there. Thankfully, there are 10 incredibly simple rules you can follow to have a good time - no matter what you love to do, what kind of person you are, or where you are in the world.

1. Remember where you are

How to Travel: Remember where you are
Remember where you are. Getty Images

The first, and often worst, mistake you can make when traveling is to seek out equivalents to your favorite parts of home. Sitting in a coffee shop that reminds you of your favorite pre-work treat every morning will also remind you of work, every morning. Home comforts can be incredibly comforting. But the best thing about travel is experiencing a new place, and all the wonderful differences that exist there.

There is, of course, a caveat. For people who struggle with anxiety, agoraphobia, or anything that can make travelling difficult, just being somewhere new is a huge achievement. So if you need the safety net of those home comforts, you should absolutely find them. But if you're clinging to them purely because you lack any better ideas, do literally anything else. A good place to start is trying to do the exact opposite of what you would be doing back home.

2. Learn three phrases

How to Travel: Learn three phrases
Learn three phrases. Getty Images

It's impossible to learn enough of a language to get by in a country while on vacation. But learning a few words or phrases will show that you respect that country and have made an effort. Learn how to say "hello", "thank you", and "sorry, I don't speak " in the local language. You can add a few more if you wish, "goodbye" and "please" are always good options. But simply learning those three phrases, particularly the last one, will buy so much more goodwill than just talking a little louder in English.

3. Stay hydrated

How to Travel: Stay hydrated
Stay hydrated. Getty Images

It's common (and great) advice to keep yourself hydrated on airplanes, but this should extend to your whole trip. Carry a water bottle with you if possible, and always ask for water to accompany your meals. It may sound ridiculous, but it's surprising how many frustrations, problems, and complete meltdowns can be solved or avoided with a simple glass of water. Just remember to check if the tap water is safe to drink before you actually drink it.

4. Ask a local

How to Travel: Ask a local
Ask a local. Getty Images

Nobody knows the city like the people who live there, so don't be afraid to ask them for ideas and tips. As long as you're polite, most people will be happy to offer recommendations — and those recommendations will vary depending on which neighborhood you're in and who you ask. You will have a much more authentic experience of a place when you follow recommendations from locals, rather than the multitude of tourists who happen to have left reviews.

It can be intimidating if you're an introvert. So if you're too shy to ask a stranger, a good way to get local recommendations is to ask people who you naturally end up talking to during the day. You will almost certainly end up chatting to all kinds of servers, baristas, and store workers who will all have their own favorite versions of almost anything you'd like to do.

5. Be flexible

How to Travel: Be flexible
Be flexible. Getty Images

Flexibility is without question the most important element to an enjoyable trip. If your days are planned to the minute there is no room for improvisation, spontaneity, or the times you will (and should) get lost. Some of the best experiences you can ever have will be things you didn't even know existed beforehand. An off the beaten track recommendation from a local, missing your stop on the bus, or taking a wrong turn and deciding to keep walking will all lead you to places you never expected to be — which are often the best places you can be.

These experiences, however small, will feed your sense of curiosity and adventure in a way that no "must do" list ever can. You will feel like you're discovering things, rather than having them spoon-fed to you, and you will be creating a path of your own, rather than following everyone else's.

6. Go to the end of the road

There are only three certainties in life — death, taxes, and roads that lead somewhere. This is especially true away from city centers, up in the mountains or along the coast for example. If you see a road that looks like it may not lead anywhere, it almost certainly does. If you have allowed some flexibility in your schedule, and are feeling curious, take a walk or drive up some of those roads.

There may be nothing more than a spot for you to turn around at the end. But there could be a secluded spot for a swim, a food truck the locals keep secret, or a breath-taking view that few people ever see.

7. Walk until you get lost

How to Travel: Walk until you get lost
Walk until you get lost. Getty Images

The best way to discover a new place is always on foot. So, if you're able, walk as often as you can. You will see, hear, smell, and even feel things you would otherwise miss — with the bonus of saving a little money and getting a little exercise thrown in.

The best thing about walking is that you can deviate as and when you please. You can take the long route, or scrap the route altogether, and you can (and should) set aside time to just walk with no real plan or destination in mind. Walking until you are technically "lost" is one of the best things you can do, anywhere. And as long as you know the address you're staying at, you can never get too lost.

8. Turn off notifications (and don't connect to the wifi)

How to Travel: Turn off notifications (and don’t connect to the wifi)
Turn off notifications (and don’t connect to the wifi). Getty Images

If you haven't already turned off your phone's notifications in real life, you should definitely turn them off for the period you're away. There's nothing worse than an email from work buzzing at you while you're relaxing on the beach, or the beep of Instagram notification when you reach the top of a mountain — revealing a picture of a casual acquaintance at the top of an even bigger mountain.

So turn off your notifications, and limit the time you spend looking at your phone screen. It may sound stupid, but a good rule is to look at the sky more often than your phone. You will be surprised at how many people experience the most wonderful things in the world through their phone more than their eyes.

9. Be more selfish

How to Travel: Be more selfish
Be more selfish. Getty Images

Location-tagged photos, millions of travel blogs, and the co-worker who has seemingly been to every place on Earth and knows all the spots you absolutely must see, have all made it easier than ever to know what a good time should look like anywhere in the world. The problem is, because of all that it's now even easier to end up doing everything you should do, while completely forgetting to do what you actually want to do.

Travel is pretty much the only time in your life that you can live whole days on your own schedule and following your own desires. The best thing you can do with that information is to completely forget other people. You don't have to eat at that one place everyone says you must, you don't have to do yoga at the top of a mountain, and you don't have to drink a coconut on the beach at sunset — unless you want to, of course.

10. Trust your instincts

How to Travel: Trust your instincts
Trust your instincts. Getty Images

The most common phrase spoken outside restaurants in the 21st Century is "Nah, this one only has 4.1 and there's one around the corner with 4.6." The internet has completely destroyed our ability to trust ourselves when it comes to travel. It's easy to forget just how good our instincts, which have been honed over hundreds of thousands of years, are.

If you smell good food, it will probably taste good. If you see a line waiting for something, it's probably worth waiting too. If there is a guy walking down the street screaming in the ear of everyone he passes, you should probably cross the road. It sounds almost laughably simple to follow your own instincts, but the truth is that it is laughably simple. Because your instincts will always know you better than any travel blogger or homogenized opinion can.

No matter how many reviews and tips, travel hacks, or articles titled "How to Travel Anywhere (and Have a Good Time)" you read, you will still be the only person who knows what a good time looks like to you. Traveling should be about doing, seeing, eating, and discovering whatever you want. The best way to do that will always be to trust yourself.

Lee Crutchley is an artist, author, and travel junkie whose latest book, "Get Lost: A Travel Guide for Anywhere" goes on sale next week. His previous books include "The Nocturnal Journal" and "How to Be Happy (or at Least Less Sad)".

GET LOST cover art
Penguin Randomhouse