Traveling is one of my very favourite things to do in the entire world. From big cities to small little towns or villages, even if it’s just a new stop on the tube or train – exploring the world always leaves me feeling invigorated and inspired, and equally makes me appreciative to come back home and view my own little space of familiarity with new eyes.
My eyes however, have always been bigger than my capacity to handle whatever it was they desired; whether it be food, professional milestones or experiences. I am constantly having to remind myself to scale back and slow down – repeating the quote from author and productivity expert David Allen: “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything”.
When it comes to travel, prioritisation has always been hard for me, especially when I only have a few short days to get everything in or am in constant conflict with feeling the need to maximise what might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And though I’ve fantasised about becoming a professional traveler (think National Geographic photographer style) the truth is, not only is my life one which necessitates more anchors than a travel photographer per say, I am also someone who needs routine and order to feel grounded- so I’ve come to accept that even though I love and crave it, travel for me will always take place in short bursts.
Having spent almost half my life living at least 1000 miles away from my parents, we’ve developed a way to navigate our visits together that has also become applicable to traveling we do for leisure, especially now when our young children are in tow. We’ve come to call this methodology our ‘Albuquerque Rules’, based on a visit my mother took to see me in Albuquerque nearly 20 years ago. Going by these rules has resulted in significantly less tension and stress during our visits or trips. Stress will always play a roll in travel no matter where in the world you visit. The ability to manage it and minimise it has made it that much easier to return from one adventure and begin to plan the next.
Having recently revisited these rules during a visit from Mom to us here in London, plus a mother/daughter side trip to Paris for a few days. I am happy to report that Albuquerque rules still holds true both for our side trip and our visit here at home.
Here are a few of our ‘Albuquerque Rules’ to get you started.
- See big but shop and eat small. It’s ok to pick a few big landmarks you want to see or activities you want to do. But balance out their touristy, overwhelming nature by finding little local places to do your shopping for souvenirs and eating. They will not only reflect and support the local culture much more so than the large-scale must-see’s, but they will also add such a memorable personal experience that you’ll create the sought after feeling of genuine satisfaction, probably even more so than being able to say you scratched all of the big to-do’s from your list.
While in Paris we hit several of the big sites: Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees etc., but we also took recommendations from where to eat from owners of tiny little independent shops and galleries we happened to stroll past and then into. We also used Open Table for dinners, booking our table last minute (within an hour or two of when we wanted to eat when we were already out and about exploring) rather than book somewhere renowned months in advance and then plan our day around it (though if we had done so that would have been considered a ‘see big’ event and we would have compensated by balancing accordingly). Consequently we ate truly amazing food from interesting little places – each experience felt spontaneous and unique whilst still being somewhat of a safe bet.
- Don’t leave fun for fun. The grass might not always be greener. Rather than drag yourself (or your previously-engaged-now-grumpy) children away from activity you’re truly enjoying for the promise of something else, linger in the moment until you (or your now genuinely grumpy) children are really ready to move on.
Example: Mom and I ate breakfast in a little catacomb in the hotel each morning during our trip. The first morning we were there, we truly lingered over our breakfast- enjoying each other’s company and the delicious food. Paris was banging at the door begging to be seen, but rather than race through breakfast we took the time to actually enjoy it and the rare opportunity to spend the time just us two. We still did plenty that day, but not until we had each gone back for seconds and had a good chat in broken French and English with the lovely gentleman serving us.
- Unless it’s already on your list, try to ignore at least 90% of the should see’s (unless expressed by someone local to the area). This is a tricky one for me. I love seeking out recommendations from others. Whether it’s a review online or a friend who’s been to my travel destination, more is more when it comes to information- until that is, it dictates your whole trip.
Should we have done an open top bus tour of Paris? Yes according to many. But in the end we decided not to and it really helped me to change that must-see-everything mentality that always whispers to me as I take off for somewhere new. By taking ourselves out of the environment to be overwhelmed and feel obligated to see everything, we slowed down and really soaked up all site seeing and everything else that we did do.
What other ‘rules’ would you add to this list? I’m already planning my next adventure and would love to know.