Back when I first began writing I dreamed of becoming a travel writer. In those days travel writers wrote mainly for newspapers, magazines or occasionally a book. Then 10 years ago when I started hearing about the potential of blogging, Thom and I toyed with the idea of a travel blog for middle-aged motorcycle riders. Yes, really! That idea crashed and burned when I dumped my motorcycle at 40 mph, broke my arm and shoulder, and Thom sold my bike. Instead I spent over three years writing about the environment and everything green and sustainable before eventually focusing on what I call SMART Living. But even though writing about things I consider SMART is deeply satisfying, I’ve never forgotten that pull to write about my second love—travel. So with a three-week adventure planned in the days ahead, I decided to give it a shot—with a dose of SMART on the side!
As I’ve confessed several times on this blog, I’m a big planner when it comes to travel. The entire process makes me so happy that I almost enjoy the planning as much as the trip. Of course, some people tell me that I take away the spontaneity of enjoyable travel by putting in so many hours of planning. But what those people don’t know is that science now shows that the anticipation of a trip dramatically increases people’s happiness and overall enjoyment of a vacation. So even if a spontaneous last-minute trip seems like a dream come true, we do ourselves a disservice by not taking some time to anticipate the fun of future events.
With that in mind I began planning our upcoming trip to Mexico back in January of this year. We had been talking about making Southern Mexico a destination for many years and with nothing else on the horizon it seemed like the right time. When I began researching airline costs, I was astonished at the great prices I found during our favorite time to get away. And with our last four or five trips to the land of the Euro, the Peso exchange rate makes it especially attractive.
Our basic plan is to fly from to and from Tijuana, Mexico. Why TJ? When I began searching airline times and connections to other U.S. cities closer to where I live, most had horrible departure times and connections. Our Tijuana flight flies direct to Mexico City and we leave at the decent hour of 11:30 a.m. Oh, and did I mention, it costs almost half the price? And lest you think such a move is daring, several good friends have flown from TJ and spoke highly of the airport. I’m certain that we too will be able to write a good review upon our return.
Our overall itinerary consists of four nights in Mexico City, four nights in Puebla and nine nights in Oaxaca. I intend to give more details of each leg of the trip as we go along. And how am I going to tie it into SMART? Basically one reason I love to travel is because it opens us up to new learning experiences and ways to think AND just like everything else in life it can relate to one of the five categories of SMART—Sustainable, Meaningful, Aware, Responsible and Thankful. And because so many of you like lists—I plan to come up with the Top Five Tips Learned on the Road for each and every post.
With that in mind, here are my Top Five for this week. (Okay I haven’t left yet but here’s what they are for SMART pre-travel!)
#1 If you have the time and like to plan—go for it! I realize many people work long hours and are simply too busy to enjoy the process. In that case a cruise or an escorted trip is a great option. But if you enjoy reading about travel AND like planning things out, don’t be afraid of this fun and satisfying experience.
#2 The Internet makes travel planning fun and easy. I’m sure most of us remember back when we needed guide books, newspapers or magazines to point out unique and special travel experiences. Not any more. The Internet is packed full of descriptions AND photos of just about any place you could want to go. Just Google and go for it!
#3 Read reviews. Probably the single best tip I could give anyone is to find and read reviews about locations, things to do, places to stay, and where to eat. I always throw out the very best and very worst reviews and pay attention to all the rest. In all the years we’ve traveled around the world I have never been disappointed by the reviews I’ve read and chosen to follow—best of all I’ve experienced some AMAZING places and things because I read other people’s advice.
#4 Focus on the Wows! I’ve already confessed my FOMO addiction (Linked HERE) so you know I don’t like to miss out on anything—especially when traveling. But early on Thom explained that running around exhausting ourselves by trying to cram everything into one trip JUST WASN’T FUN! That’s when he told me—let’s just see the WOWs. So that’s what I plan. I make sure that what I want to see is considered a WOW or at least 4 or 5 stars and put it on the list. Not only does this satisfy my FOMO, it also makes Thom happy because we spend more time seeing and experiencing the best that any location has to offer.
#5 Stay flexible. This tip might seem strange coming from an uber-planner. But what planning does is give me the very best options in advance. From there I have the ability to flow with whatever life hands me along the way. Having an awesome plan, but not being too attached is a key to happy travel.
I’m sure more tips will come to me as we travel, so stay tuned for insight into travel as well as photos as we go along. Because so much of what I do here on SMART Living is an experiment in creating a happy and content life, I’m not sure how this will go. But I’m convinced that attempting to do what we’ve always dreamed of doing is not only SMART, but also a big part of a happy life.