5 ways to reclaim your sense of wonder in travel

I wrote a piece for the Virgin entrepreneur blog last year called An Open letter to travellers – let’s reclaim our sense of adventure. It was something I’d been thinking about writing for a while, so when their Adventure series came up, it seemed like the perfect blog post to pitch to them.

In no way am I the first person to write about the topic of finding your sense of wonder in travel. Bloggers and writers have been expressing their feelings about our loss of adventure for years. Nomadic Matt wrote a really interesting piece about how the nomadic life can lead you to lose the wonder and awe of travel.

And I find this really sad.

The Travel Journo, Lucy, in Mombasa | finding your sense of wonder

Is it because we’ve become entitled? Is it because travel is so easy to do now that the world feels more ‘familiar’ than it used to?

Or it is because we are so bombarded with social media images that paint a ‘perfect picture’ of travel – so if our own experience doesn’t live up to what we see on Instagram, then it doesn’t fill us with wonder?

Either way, I’m a firm believer that you can reclaim your sense of wonder in travel. And by sense of wonder, I don’t mean you have to rush out and do a bungee jump or go white-water rafting, or be the ultimate adventurer. I’m talking about travelling without an agenda, and without imagining the rehearsed images you’re going to upload to Instagram, before you’ve even taken it in with your own eyes.

Historic building in Mombasa | finding your sense of wonder

You can apply this to your daily life too, however ordinary ‘daily life’ may sometimes seem. Just by taking a different perspective on things, it’s always possible to reclaim you sense of wonder in everything we do.

So if you’re travelling – or you’ve been travelling – and you feel that perhaps things have got a bit predictable and you’re not really letting yourself feel the ‘buzz’, read on.

Here are 5 ways to reclaim your sense of adventure.

5 ways to reclaim your sense of wonder when you travel

Exploring Mombasa | finding your sense of wonder

1. Leave the tech at home

Some of the best moments I’ve had travelling have been when I haven’t had my phone or camera in my hand and I’ve been – if you like – switched off from social media and the virtual world.

When we travel with our phone in our hand, the temptation is always there to photograph, video or Instagram the hell out of our surroundings. Have you ever tried switching off your phone and (dare I say it) having a day where you don’t capture it on camera?

You may find it slightly liberating and without a camera or phone to hide behind, you may actually explore a bit deeper, connect to your surroundings more meaningfully, and even engage with people, without the constant niggling thought ‘Should I share this with the world?’

Hyde Park through an iPhone | finding your sense of wonder

2. Be brave

You don’t have to do a bungee jump or swim with sharks to prove you can unearth your sense of wonder or adventurous side. But there’s something to be said for being a little bit brave and doing something that pushes you slightly out of your comfort zone. For me, that was when I did the trip to Devil’s Pool in Zambia, where I swam through the fast-flowing river to reach this natural pool that has a 100ft drop.

It was also when I jumped off a bridge into the sea on honeymoon at the Rockhouse hotel in Jamaica. Even though it was the last thing I wanted to do, I knew it was tradition for newlyweds to take the leap. (And I’m glad I did!)

Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when I’ve chickened out and haven’t been brave on my travels. And of course, you need to know your boundaries and still be safe when you’re travelling in a foreign country. But the times I have been brave, I’ve generally felt I’ve had a more fulfilling travel experience. And so will you.

Devil's pool, Zambia | finding your sense of wonder

3. Assimilate yourself

Sometimes when we land in the middle of an unfamiliar place or culture, it is only human for us to seek out something we can relate to – be that a hotel where ‘tourists go’, a trip that all the tourists take or a restaurant that looks like a chain we have at home.

But some of the best moments I have had in travel was when I didn’t do what a local expected me to do. In Tanzania, you would never see a ‘Mzungu’ (foreigner) in the local cafés. They’re all hidden away in the hotel restaurants. But we got over the stares and sat ourselves next to Maasai men and ordered our lunch by pointing to what our fellow diners were eating.

After a few minutes, the people relaxed around us and laughed and shortly after, we were eating the most delicious curries we’d ever tasted. Once you get over the fear and ‘do as the locals’ do, you’ll have a much more rewarding experience, understand a destination and find your sense of wonder in travel.

Meeting a Maasai tribe in Tanzania | finding your sense of wonder

4. Let yourself wander

Now this is a difficult one but have you ever wondered what would happen if you didn’t use Google Maps and didn’t plan an itinerary, but just let yourself wander?

This may be tricky in some destinations (especially if there’s a safety element) and the urge to cram as many sights into one day can be very tempting while you’re travelling. Especially if you’ve arrived with a meticulous pre-planned list, packed with tips from your favourite travellers and bloggers.

BUT…. (and this is a big but), I think every once in a while, we should all try and let ourselves wander, without your phone telling you you’ve gone the wrong way. And without a need to see what everyone else is seeing.

Perhaps if you wander down a different street, you’ll stumble across an interesting building, a lesser-visited restaurant, a fascinating street scene or even an interesting person you may get talking to.

If we don’t follow a map, we’re not looking down, we’re looking up. We’re using our senses more and just taking everything in. And with that, you’ll find a true sense of wonder that you might not know you had!

Historic building in Mombasa | finding your sense of wonder

5. Do something different

The curse wonderful thing about social media is it allows us all to get a ‘preview’ of what a place is going to look like before we get there. We already have a ‘script’ if you like, of how to get the most striking panorama shot in Santorini, the prettiest cupcake shop to capture in New York and the most dramatic, crowd-free view of Cinqueterre.

But how about this? How about you do something different, avoid the most visited places in the world, and try something different? There’s plenty of talk at the moment about trying to make travel more sustainable. Too many destinations have become saturated with visitors and the more sensitive and responsible way to travel would be to explore the less obvious destinations.

Now I know Instagram is an amazing source of inspiration – it’s often the really beautiful social media accounts and brilliant bloggers who tempt us to travel to places in the first place.

But perhaps we should dare to be different, ease the pressure off the world’s most visited places and reclaim our sense of adventure on the less beaten path? It’s bound to help you reclaim your sense of wonder, right?

Do you agree that it’s become far too common to lose your sense of wonder? And do you have any tips for when you’ve managed to travel more mindfully, and with a deeper sense of adventure? Let me know your thoughts…

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