Lessons from Traveling

What does an ideal vacation look like for you?

While traveling for a few days in San Francisco, we asked a local for suggestions of things to do. He responded with the question, "Well, what do you like to do?" Sadly, we weren't sure how to answer.

Vacation means different things to different people. Some like to just kick back on a beach, others go adventuring, and still others like museums and culture. Because we travel frequently for work, we usually just try to squeeze some form of exploring into those trips. But for once we had several days of unplanned time in a new place. I forgot how travel changes up my daily routine enough to reset energy and rethink daily routines and habits - some of which I've intentionally created and some I just fell into doing.

Here are a few of my takeaways from this trip:

Stay local: The local person mentioned above ended up recommending 2 amazing restaurants which also led us to explore areas we might not have visited on our own. Yes, Pier 39 has a Bubba Gump's, but so does every just about every other touristy waterfront area in the US. Visiting locally owned and operated restaurants gave us a much better taste of the area. We also stayed in 2 different Airbnb's during our visit which created such a different experience. At the end of a long day of exploring or conferencing, we would "go home" to a little apartment of our own instead of getting in an elevator and walking down an anonymous hallway of doors to a hotel room.

Rethink "Necessary" Items: Because we flew, I traveled with just a small suitcase and a back pack. And we stayed in apartments consisting of maybe 600 square feet. What a powerful reminder that we don't need most of the stuff we use to cushion ourselves. I also had the pleasure of hearing Marie Kondo speak at the conference about her KonMari method of decluttering. Needless to say, I'm now on a mission to streamline my office and personal stuff.

Mix Planning and Playing: I'm a planner and Paul's a wing it person. It turns out you need both. We would pick general areas of the city to explore but then stay open to discovering what it had to offer. When walking at the waterfront area, we happened upon the Musée Mécanique having no idea that it contained over 300 coin operated games, animations, pianos, and other amusements that were the collection of Edward Galland Zelinsky. To say we stepped back in time is an understatement. Maybe it's listed in some guidebooks, but I hadn't seen it. If we tried to adhere to a strict itinerary, we would have missed it and many other memorable moments.

Keep Eyes Open: It's so easy to get lured by our phones and distracted by bright, shiny objects, but using my camera helped me to take a fresh look around me. Whether the patterns in the bark of trees that we don't have at home or the unique items for sale in the Chinatown storefronts or the people and dogs leisurely enjoying sunshine in a park on a Saturday afternoon, all of these scenes delighted and inspired me. One particularly magical moment happened when we were in the Musée Mécanique. So absorbed by the contents of the space, we hadn't even noticed that it rained. As we exited the building and continued walking along the water taking it all in, a rainbow appeared. So easy to miss, but so amazing to experience.

This trip also reminded me of my answer to the initial question. My ideal vacation involves exploring new areas (usually on foot) with my camera in hand in order to get a sense of the people, the landscape, and what it's like to live there while learning something new about myself that I can apply when I get home.