How to Get a More Meaningful Travel Experience

10 Ways to Make Your Travel More Meaningful

How to Get a More Meaningful Travel Experience Beijing


Social media has transformed the travel industry and ushered FOMO (fear of missing out) into the public corridor of anxiety. Who hasn’t questioned their life choices after seeing an acquaintance’s snaps from a glamorous location?

When we travel, it’s difficult to not feel like you’re missing out or not making the most of the experience, and that anxiety is enough to cast a pall over your precious little vacation days. To help, here are some tips to have the most fulfilling, meaningful travel experience without breaking the bank or suffering a nervous breakdown.

10. Eat away From Monuments

Most of the time, establishments that enjoy the view of a major landmark just don’t try as hard. If you can see a famous monument from your table, your meal will be overpriced. Even if cost isn’t an issue, most of these locations are built on single visit customers unfamiliar with local standards of quality, so there is no incentive to use good ingredients or even make food to order. While this may vary based on region (it’s more of an issue in touristy spots than lowkey places), walking a bit further will usually be worth it.

9. Limit Your Creature Comforts

This is especially true for vacationers. Don’t use your two weeks of holiday trying to be comfortable all the time. The happiness you think that neck pillow or hamburger will provide provide is minimal. People tend to crave creature comforts when they are bored or restless, so grab some local snacks from the market and wander the town. You may think that not bringing those shoes or that top will ruin the trip, but it’s actually the anxiety of making those decision that ruins things.

How to Get a More Meaningful Travel Experience


8. Stop Trying to Find Yourself

Despite most pop culture narratives, people don’t change over the course of a week-long relaxer. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you’re doing something different, everything after that is going to be different. Seeking out tokened spirituality is a sure-fire way not to find it. Remember, your hangover or tan or quirky encounter with a monk probably aren’t going to be the makings of the next Eat, Pray, Love, no matter how much you force it.

7.  Authenticity Can Be a Red Herring

Authenticity has become a dominant aesthetic in the travel/culture industry. People want their experiences to be genuine and sincere, but it’s easy to lose perspective. There are authentic experiences and places in your country that you’re probably not so keen on, and their foreign equivalents won’t be much more rewarding. The truth is, unless you have a lot of money and time to get off the beaten track, you’re going to get some artifice. Rather than seeking out authenticity, think about what you really want to get out of your vacation/travel and pursue it.

6. Accept That There Will Be Discomfort

Suffering is part of life, and no matter what you do for your vacation, there will be discomfort. Maybe your bags get lost, you don’t take to the food, or the weather makes you gross. Deal with it. There’s nothing you can pack or do preemptively that will make your experience totally perfect, so stop trying to control everything and make the most of your time.

5. Learn a Bit of Local Stuff (and Don’t Make a Big Deal of It)

No one expects you to become fluent in another language for a week of fun, but learning a bit of local culture can be enriching and endearing. Speaking a bit of a local language can make you seem humble and endear you to the local community. The positive effects of this are lost once you make a big show of it. Similarly, knowing a bit about local culture, especially taboos, can avoid unpleasant situations. Brushing up on your local history will also make the experience more rewarding, since it’s easier to forge connections with your surroundings.

Meaningful Travel Experience


4. Make Realistic Goals

You probably aren’t going to change your life or the world on your holiday, but you can come away from it feeling enriched and more relaxed. Be realistic about your expectations for your vacation. If you want to explore and see things that others miss, then plan beforehand. If you want to relax, then get it done. Just be honest with yourself. Half-measures are often unfulfilling.

3. Learn to Observe

Experienced budget travelers know that people-watching is a brilliant vacation pastime, but this is a tip for everybody. Learn to relax, watch, and enjoy what’s going on around you. It seems simple, but people forget to take everything in, especially on holiday. However, avoid drawing firm conclusions about what you see. Just because you saw one person tie his or her shoes a certain way doesn’t mean everybody on the island does that.

2. Polities Don’t Always Translate, But Body Language Usually Does

You’re a polite person, you appreciate how you’ve been treated, and you really want to express that. That’s great, but remember that different cultures have different expectations of politeness, and verbal polities often don’t translate. People don’t always understand, and dousing others in your customs can seem weird and overbearing. Body language, however, is easy to suss out, especially when it’s negative. Your anger, discomfort, or disdain will be easy to spot.

1. Don’t Exoticize or Fetishize

People tend to attach importance to things that are different or uncommon to them. Don’t let travel become a means of fetishizing things just because they’re different. An open-mind and a sense of humility are key, but overcompensating by holding things to a higher standard because they are different or quirky to you is just another form of ignorance and disrespect.

These tips may not ensure a perfect vacation, but they can help make the most out of a travel experience. Remember, this is something you’re doing for you, not for Instagram.

How to Get a More Meaningful Travel Experience China


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How to Deal With the Stress of Solo Travel

Top Tips for Stress-Free Solo Travel

How to Deal With the Stress of Solo Travel


Traveling alone can be an incredible experience. Without anyone else to dictate your movements, you can be free to set your own agenda. You can see however many Buddhist temples you like, check out the Great Wall of China or gaze at every work of art in the Louvre.

However, there’s no denying that solo travel can have a dark side. Being alone and abroad is stressful. You might start to feel homesick or anxious, and minor mishaps can start to feel like disasters. Instead of relaxing and enjoying your trip, the whole experience can quickly start to resemble a chore.

Things don’t have to work out that way, and there are plenty of things you can do to make solo travel a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Here are some pro-tips from people who have beaten their travel anxiety and discovered how to see the world on their own terms.

Don’t be a Slave to Your Schedule

If you’re traveling solo, it’s tempting to fill your schedule up with activities. Subconsciously, your brain might be telling you to work extra-hard to cram your days with sightseeing and tours, instead of wandering aimlessly around strange cities.

However, there’s really nothing wrong with aimless wandering. It’s a great way to get to know a city, and it can also be relaxing. Try to avoid packing your itinerary with structured activities. Instead, leave some empty time to relax and lose yourself in the life of wherever you travel. You never know what you might find and you wont risk burning out in the first few days of your trip.

Young male photographer looking at mountain scenery during golden hour sunset in Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand. Travel and photography concept


Record Your Emotions to Understand Them Better

Part of the stress of traveling alone is not having anyone to talk to when you feel confused, lost or homesick. You’ll probably feel all of those things at some point in your trip. They are just natural reactions to being in unfamiliar surroundings, but they can ruin your experience.

One way to get to grips with negative emotions when you travel alone is by keeping a daily journal. You could pack a small diary with you or log your thoughts on a smartphone or tablet. Either way, putting your emotions into language helps to put them in perspective.

Take Extra Care Over Transport Connections

One of the most stressful things about solo travel is making connections between trains or flights (or even boats). With no-one to jog your memory or keep you disciplined, it can be easy to forget routes, make a mess of departure times or lose tickets.

If this sounds familiar, planning your connections is well worth the effort. Before you go, write down some phone numbers for bus companies and train lines. Know how to hail cabs in your destination and have the name of airports and stations handy to tell the driver.

Be extra-cautious about giving yourself enough time to make your departures as well. It’s always fine to be half an hour early. Stations and airports can be great places to people watch, after all. What’s not fine is seeing your departure gate closing or your train ease out of the station without you on board.

Give Yourself Time to Adjust

Whenever people enter a different culture, it takes time to get used to the sights and sounds and the way people act. Being a long way from home can also be extremely stressful. However, these sensations are not permanent. They might feel powerful, or even overwhelming, but you will adjust.

The first few days of any trip will always be an adjustment phase, so be prepared for a rocky time. After that, everything becomes much easier. You’ll become more confident when dealing with strangers. You will find it easier to navigate foreign cities, and you’ll get much more value from your everyday activities.

Stress of Solo Travel Great Wall


Stay in Touch With Friends Back Home

Social media can be a great way to ease the stress of adapting to your surroundings. You might be thousands of miles from home, but nothing is stopping you from sharing photographs and thoughts on Twitter or Facebook. Aside from being a source of encouragement, social media can spur you on to experience more exciting things and see more exotic sights.

However, try to stay away from social media for long periods. Hostels around the world are full of people on smartphones talking to friends in their home country, when they should be making new connections and diving into the culture of their destination.

Try to strike a balance. For the first couple of days, use social media to help you get by, but gradually decrease your exposure as you start to become more relaxed.

Always Know Where to Pick Up A Second-Hand Book

This is a great tip for novice travelers. Before you set out on your trip, log onto Google and make a list of second-hand bookshops in every city you plan to visit. Most major cities have bookshops with English language sections, and they can be a great place to meet other travelers.

Books are a great way to forget about your travel stress. If you feel lonely, head to park or beach, settle down for a couple of hours and engage your imagination. Reading really does help to set your mind at rest.

Relax, Persevere and You’ll be Fine

Travel stress is totally natural. Remember that. Your fellow hostel guests or tour customers might seem self-assured and confident, but if they are on their own, they have almost certainly gone through their own periods of anxiety.

By planning your travel, finding ways to zone out, using social media, keeping a flexible schedule and recording your thoughts, you can find a route to stress-free travel. So if you are having second thoughts about a backpacking vacation, put your worries to one side and prepare for a life-changing experience.

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9 Excellent Tips for Hiking the Great Wall of China in Hot Weather

Essential Rules For Hot Weather Great Wall Hiking

young woman hiker hiking on great wall


Summer is probably the best time for hiking the Great Wall of China, yet you can often feel like it’s the worst possible time to be outdoors. Clear, sunny skies, and longer daylight hours can translate into an amazingly full day on the Wall. But these skies and long days can bake you in the heat. When the temperature rises, it can become difficult to keep yourself motivated and calm.

You can still enjoy the stunning Great Wall in the same hot weather. You just have to adjust the way you think, and take a few extra precautions beyond the basics. You don’t have to let high temperatures keep you from experiencing this amazing landmark.

1.Start Your Hike Early or Finish Late

Not everyone likes to wake up early, and your trip doesn’t have to feel like you are going to work; just find a balance between the amount of sleep you need and lowering your exposure to afternoon heat.

It typically involves a 2.5-hour drive from Beijing into Jinshanling or Jiankou. Waking up before 6.30am in the Summer months is highly recommended. Skip the midday heat, don’t hike between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hike during the coolest time of day.

2. Check the Weather Forecast

Don’t just assume that you’d be fine on the Wall. Hot weather comes with a number of risks. It is crucial to check on the forecast before you plan the trip.

In the mountainous area, keep in mind that weather in the mountains is generally colder and more severe than in the valleys, and the weather can change quickly. The rays from the sun are also stronger from a mountain top, and you’ll get burned faster – even more so if you are sweating consistently.

Humidity could be a signal for rainfall. Be prepared in advance.

Thunderstorms are more common when it’s hot. Keep yourself safe in all situations. Before you set out, make sure you have checked over the most up-to-date forecast for the area you’ll be hiking.

3. Protect Your Skin

When it comes to hot, dry and humid weather, your skin needs the adequate protection. Sunburns can damage your skin. They also affect body’s ability to cool down, which increases risks of dehydration.

Loose fitting pants and sleeves with wide-brimmed will do wonders on a summer hike. The more you are able to protect your skin from the rays of the sun, the happier you will feel.

Apply sunscreen that offers at least a SPF 30, 30 minutes before heading out. Put it underneath your clothes as well. Wear a hat or head covering to ensure that your head and neck does not get too hot.

Also, do not wear cotton as it is one of the worst fabrics while hiking.

young woman hiker hiking on great wall


4. Keep Yourself Hydrated

Staying hydrated is the key to every successful outdoor adventure. This is particularly essential when you’re hiking the Great Wall in extremely hot weather.

If you decide to hike in the summer months, dry and hot conditions along with physical exertion can cause you to become dehydrated very quickly.

Your body loses about one liter of water per hour on a regular hike. A challenging outing in hot weather usually doubles this amount. Ensure that you replenish constantly, otherwise you will dehydrate during your hike.

5. Eat Salty Snacks

Sweating is obvious when it comes to hiking in hot weather. As water is essential to restore your body fluid levels, it is just as important for restocking the electrolytes that you lose through sweat. The more important types are sodium and potassium. These play a vital role when it comes to managing energy levels.

Bring along snacks that feature complex carbs. Avoid the simple carbs such as candy or sugary drinks. Good snacks include fruit or energy bars which offer a better source for complex carbs.

6. Take Regular Breaks

Continuous hiking in hot weather is near to impossible. Your tired body needs few minutes to relax. Regular breaks on a hot day allow your body to cool down and sweat to evaporate.

Hiking continuously in hot weather is close to impossible. Your body becomes tired, and you will need some time in between to relax. Regular breaks allows your body to cool down and sweat on your skin to evaporate.

Put your backpack down, lay down, and give your body some much-needed rest. Drink water and have some snacks to restock your energy that will keep you going for the next few hours.

Take your backpack off, sit or lie down to let your body get the rest it needs. In this time either eat snacks or drink water to restock the fuel and energy that you are going to need over the next leg of the journey.

It is also a good idea to remove your socks and hiking boots to air your sweaty socks and feet.

Keep in mind that your hike is not a race. If you start to feel fatigued, let other people in the group know that you want to stop to take a break.

young woman hiker hiking on great wall


7. Be Aware of Heat Stroke

Know what symptoms are linked to heat stroke. Listen to your body, which will tell you when you can push forward, and when it’s time to take a break. Rest when you are tired and eat as soon as you feel hungry.

Common signs of heat stroke

Muscle cramps
Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
Heavy sweating
Weak, rapid pulse

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, stop immediately and find a shady place, to cool your body down.

8. Light Apparel

When you hike in hot weather, try to wear lighter colors that will reflect the rays of the sun opposed to dark colors that absorb them. Look for pants, shorts or shirts in a khaki, tan or white color.

It is best to wear hiking pants, a long sleeve shirt and good quality boots. The more you able to shield your skin the more comfortable you will feel.

Choose boots that feature a breathable fabric, so that sweaty and wet feet will not become an issue during the hike. Choose clothes that fit loosely which allows for improved airflow while keeping you cooler.

9. Don’t Expect It To Be Sunny All Day

It is natural to assume mainly sunlight during the months of summer. Yet keep in mind that when you hike in the terrains with a higher altitude, the path will usually have its own weather system. While it might be humid and hot down town, in the mountains you may experience a monsoon. It is vital that you check with the weather bulletins before you head out onto a trail.

If it is too hot, then simply change your plans and don’t go.

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10 Chinese Phrases You Should Know If You Are Traveling to China

Mandarin Words and Phrases You Should Know When Traveling to China

10 Chinese Phrases You Should Know


When traveling to any foreign country where English is not the first language, it is important to learn a few basic phrases to help you get by. If you are traveling to China the following words are probably the most important ones to learn:

1. Thank You

‘Xiexie’ means Thank You and is probably the most important words in any language. If you want to be polite in China, learn to say thank you in Chinese.

2. Hello

‘Nihao’ (pronounced like Meeow with an N) means ‘hello’. Everywhere you go in China you will want to say ‘nihao’ as a friendly reply to the many people who will greet you in this way.

3. You Are Welcome

‘Bukeqi’ means ‘you are welcome’ in Chinese and is another term of courtesy that you will hear often in reply to ‘xiexie’ or ‘thank you’.

4. I Do Not Want

‘Wobuyao’ means ‘I do not want’. In China, you will be approached by many hawkers trying to sell anything from Buddha statue to Maozedong t-shirts. As they can sometimes be quite persistent you want to say ‘no thank you’ in a firm manner by using the phrase ‘wobuyao’.

10 Chinese Phrases You Should Know If You Are Traveling to China


5. I Do Not Understand

‘Wotingbudong’ means ‘I do not understand’. When in China where most Chinese are unable to speak a word of English it is important to let them know that you don’t understand what they are trying to say to you.

6. My Name Is

‘Wojiao’ means ‘my name is’ and is great to use when you are introducing yourself to someone.

7. How Much

‘Duo shao qian’ means ‘how much?’ Be prepared to bargain prices as most Mandarine speakers are adept businessmen and will price their goods higher expecting their customers to bargain with them.

8. You Are Correct

‘Dui’ means ‘you are correct’ or ‘yes’ and is a term used as an affirmation.

9. Toilet

‘Cesuo’ means ‘toilet’ and you will need to know how to ask where the nearest restroom is.

10. Cheers

‘Ganbei’ means ‘cheers’ in Chinese and is good to know when making a toast in China.

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Is Tipping Mandatory In China?

Essential Tips on Tipping in China

Tipping Mandatory In China


Chinese culture views on tipping are completely flipflopped of what people think here in the US. Generally, tipping is uncommon and can even be embarrassing in some circumstances.

China doesn’t have a history or culture of tipping. There are no hard and fast rules to follow.  Some restaurants refuse tips. However, tipping is becoming more common, but mainly in high-end restaurants. Still tipping is not required or expected in hotels in mainland China.

Tip-Savvy Cities

Here in China, the city of Hong Kong is the main city where tipping has become a part of the tourist culture. Other Chinese tourist areas of Macau and Taiwan are also increasingly tip-friendly. In these places, you are welcomed and even encouraged to tip with some businesses and restaurants adding a tip percentage to your bill.

Closeup of businessman hands giving money.


Tipping Tour Guides

The other exception is for activities that tend to attract a lot of tourists, such as tours for visiting the Great Wall of China in Beijing. Here, when you receive a public tour the tour guide may actually point out that tips are welcome. This is because they typically only receive tips as their wages. In this case, please tip.

A rule of thumb is to ask the tour guide operator or person handling the reservations when booking the tour if tipping is included and permissible.

Private Tour Guide Tipping

What about private tours of the Great Wall? These tours involve negotiating the price between you and the person providing the tour. If you are planning on leaving a tip, then mentally you should prepare to include that in the negotiated price.

Be discreet and avoid stating the obvious that, “This is a tip” as this is just as rude as leaving it laying on the table. Instead, just round up a percentage to account for what you would normally tip, or avoid worrying about the tip altogether.

Tipping Mandatory In China Beijing


How to Tip With Discretion

For those instances when tipping is going to happen, i.e., you have received extraordinary service, then tuck the tip into an envelope. Do not address the envelope, or the very tip itself. Instead, secretly leave the envelope so that only the person will see it. If the tip is pointed out, mention vaguely that it is simply a gift.

Taxis and Tips

Also, when you are paying for a taxi you do not need to tip. However, passengers in China always round up when paying a taxi fare. Never ask for change; this would be cumbersome for the cabbie and rude in Chinese culture. Plan on carrying small bills to be able to be economical.

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