Travel is the best education. It’s also the ideal form of rebellion.
It’s the no-bullshit way to find out who you really are. What you’re made of. Hell, some of the best travel advice quite possibly ever comes via Bill Fucking Murray: “Take that person [you love] and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world… And if when you come back to JFK and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.” Genius, that Bill Murray. Traveling will change your life. It will. Getting lost in a foreign country in which you only know how to say “hi” is the best way to develop character. I’ve been lost on five continents. (Drinking may or may not have been a factor on occasion). Every time, though, I discover something new. Here are my three quick and dirty rules for travelling. Follow them. It’ll change your life.
I can’t stress this enough. Nobody likes a tourist. Tourists are needy and annoying with their point-and-shoot cameras, typically ignorant (which, truthfully, is fair as you know jackshit about the local culture at this point), and just plain confused. Avoid that—ask the locals. Where’s the best place to eat? When there, what local dish should you try? Where do you go for a pint after a long day of hiking some godforsaken waterfall in rural Togo that the guide book told you to? The locals know best. The guide books are going to lead you to the overpriced and trite tourist traps. Hell, if you think that the CN fucking Tower is Toronto, then you’re batshit. And a tourist. Get off the beaten path.
Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2 go hand in hand. Kinda like you and your soon-to-be spouse that you’re traveling the world to see if you’re a fit with. (Godspeed by the way). What I mean by a sweetener is a cigarette, a mickey of whiskey—essentially, a conversation starter. My experience shows that smokes and booze are two of the greatest. Trust me here. So take your sweetener and turn that stranger at the bar into a “fixer,” which is just fancy-talk for someone that can help you out, especially when the only thing that looks familiar to you at this point is a Starbucks you saw at the airport four days ago.
You’re almost broke. You’re definitely sleep deprived because that beach party the night before got away from itself (as it should have). And now you’re at the train station with a duffel bag clutched in your right hand. People are running all over the place. It’s fucking chaos. The train is coming into the station. The heat is searing off the blonde hairs on your neck. You have a rumbling in your belly and your breath smells like day-old vomit. You’re trying to make up your mind if you should get on the train. It’s stuffed with humanity. You don’t even know its final destination, just the general direction. Well, my friend, this is where Rule No. 3 comes into play: Fuck it, go for it. The best part of travel is the adventure. The nights that take sharp turns are the best nights. Take risks. You’re not making business investments here; you’re traveling. In a couple week’s time you’ll be back to your regular 9-to-5, but right now, in this moment, you’re lost.
And it’s the best damn feeling in the world.
A version of this article originally appeared on Plaid Zebra. They’re new and awesome.