If we know that it takes 21 days to make a habit stick, so it’s not just something you’re doing daily but something you are compelled to continue, we’ve probably been paying too much attention to travel “buzz” sites. The people directly involved in habit formation, scientists and scholars suggest that forming a habit can actually take between 96 days to a year. If our minds were wired similarly to a dog’s for instance, it would take less conditioning for a habit to stick due to the overall complexity (or lack thereof) in comparison with the human mind. Traveling can be very anxiety ridden and stressful for people, and it’s not something many focus on before the trip. During the planning stages, it’s all smiles and looking forward to an amazing adventure, but when you get there, what happens when you miss a bus, or car? How about getting to a park only to discover it’s closed early for the season for some reason? When something alters the course of your trip that you’ve meticulously planned, you need to be able to adapt on the fly and change with it, or face the realization that the rest of your holiday will have a black cloud hanging over it.
Making new habits takes a lot of time, and unless you’re planning on spending a year at your destination (which most cannot do without a visa in any case, then there’s jobs to consider) then it’s not likely that in a week you’re going to experience a zen worthy moment of clarity where everything is soul-deep magical because you have made new habits. It just doesn’t work that way. What we can tell you, is what those new habits to make are, so that you know the direction to head toward, so that every subsequent trip makes it easier and easier to implement the strategies (covered in a later post) but even better, the bad habits you may already have that you can start getting rid of right now. That’s a tip you can use before you even get there.
Habits you can toss:
- “I’m thrifty!” – Yes, it’s a good idea to be budget-friendly on any trip away, but there’s a big difference between finding the best airfare, and deciding to survive off sandwiches, and staying in backpacker hostels or cheap motels whose sheets are questionably clean and smell funny. If you’re constantly stressing out about how much you have the entire time you’re there, you’ll never get those real moments of enjoyment, which only happen when you’re unburdened and feeling free.
How to find a nice balance? Proper planning in advance means you research costs involved with the top ten things on your list you want to do, as well as the going rates for food, tours, souvenirs and cab-fare, or public transportation where available. By doing this, you’ll have a better idea how much it’ll take to get the most important highlights of your trip in, so you won’t feel like you’re having to check your balance constantly while you’re there. Also, book a trip that is affordable, not out of your means, if you’re spending nearly all you have budgeted just to get there, you may want to re-think your destination. Places like South Africa may cost a bit to get there, but they are offset by the incredibly cheap lifestyle you can have while there. Research how much the money where you’re from converts to in South African rands for instance, and see how much you can save there alone. Another tip here, is to not overbook on hotel or lodging expenses. It’s easy to find an overpriced place to stay anywhere you go, but there’s also places like Cinnamon House in gorgeous Wilderness, that give you every single aspect of that 5 star experience, but are much more kind on your pocketbook. By making sure you do your research, and know what to expect for expenses, you will worry less while there, which means more time to just enjoy the moments as they come.
- “We’re going to have so much fun! I scheduled 50 places to go during our week there!” – No. Just no. This is not good for anyone, and while you might be excited that you’re going somewhere you may never have been before, trying to pack your schedule so tight that there’s no room to move means huge problems. For one thing, what will you do when one of those things needs to change? Sure you have a huge list, you can move to the next thing on your time slot there, but you should keep in mind that if you could afford to get there once, chances are you’ll be able to go again. If you enjoy it enough it’s far more likely and nothing saps enjoyment out of a trip like being booked so tight that you forget to enjoy just being there in the first place. Wilderness, South Africa is so incredibly beautiful a place that you cannot help but feel present in the environment, so small amid a huge world, fresh air, rolling hills, it’s paradise but only if you take the time to see it.
How to change this? Recall that top ten list of things you want to do for your finances? Try that here too, and keep in mind that if you have your lodging booked in advance, the people who work and live there will always have great recommendations on what to do, and their website will also likely shed light on the kinds of activities to be found there. If you live anywhere but there, your ideas on what to do while there may differ greatly from what a resident there might say, so compare notes! Don’t plan out every hour either, there’s no reason to need a rigid schedule on holiday or it’s not a holiday at all. Stick to ten things to do, because while you’re doing them, and during the time you’re enjoying while there, you’ll find a ton of other things you’ll end up doing on the move you never planned for because you didn’t know they were there in the first place. By over-planning, you risk losing those spur-of-the-moment times to do something really special.
- “Hey, can you take a picture of us here?” – We live in a massively technologically advanced society today, and cameras, camera phones and multiple other ways to capture moments are everywhere. This desire to capture moments can get out of control very easily, and falls into the same category of over-scheduling, except it happens without planning. It ruins moments just as effectively as planning out your time by the hour, because it prevents you from actually seeing what you want that picture of. People have even bought things like ‘selfie-sticks’ to get a picture of the whole family in front of the view they should be shooting a photo of instead. They’re your pictures certainly and you can do as you like, but you knew you were there, and unless you want to see your own smiling face in your own photos, we can guarantee if you’re planning to ever show them to anyone else, you’ll get a much better and interested reaction if you’re not in them. When a person is the subject of a photo, the rest becomes a background and isn’t what makes the impact.
What can you do instead? Let your landscapes and the people of the country be your subjects of interest. Set your phone or your camera up to snap many photos in the span of a minute or so when you first get there, during that first awestruck moment. Then make sure you just stand there, not taking photos, just being present, looking at the entire scenery yourself and absorbing it all. Wait for up to ten minutes before you decide you need to take more photos, you’re not in any rush, and by waiting and actually noticing where you are, you’ll be able to take more meaningful photos of things you may not have seen at a first glance.
- “I found out they serve food there like we have here!” – What is the point of going somewhere exotic and new if you’re going to play it safe and do what you could have done if you stayed home to play tourist? Yes, even in places like South Africa you can find cuisine from your home area, regardless where you’re from because South African culinary delights range from all over the world. They’re not called the “Rainbow nation” for nothing. If you’re going out of your comfort zone, you’re also creating new experiences and finding out new things you might like, or dislike.
Here’s how you change: There are plenty of places to eat where you can let them know you’re visiting, and trying something new. If you don’t like it, you can send it back for something else once, usually without being charged. Plan to pay for the second thing anyway, but most are kind enough to let you indulge your taste-buds without risk. Food in South Africa is cheap anyway by comparison, no matter where you decide to eat, and if you augment your food selections with things from the Wilderness Farmer’s Market, you’ll save even more, and get chances to try new things from a new place! There’s 11 official languages in South Africa, YES ELEVEN! With that many different cultures in one place, you can be sure you’ll find places you can immerse yourself in completely, and you may hear them speaking almost entirely in a dialect you don’t know, but we guarantee that it will only enhance the experience of being somewhere far away from the stresses of your ordinary daily life back home. Try new things, you’ll be glad you did.