What Do You Need When You Travel?

What do you need when you travel? 

I don’t mean: “What do you pack?” I mean: “What do you need in order to relax, enjoy yourself, and make the most of the trip?”

Every person’s list of travel needs will be different. Here’s mine:

I need Clyde. I enjoy life more and feel more centered when I’m with Clyde. During the day, sharing the travel experience makes life richer. After a long day in an unfamiliar place, chatting with Clyde about the experience helps me unwind.

(This is, by the way, the main reason I hate most business travel: when Clyde’s not with me, I don’t sleep well, I can’t relax, and I end up retreating from instead of embracing the world around me.)

I need a real destination. I like real places: real cities, real sites, local restaurants, places with presence, history, and originality. I don’t care for plastic places: the faux castles of Disney World, the sterile brand name stores found in every mall on the planet, or port cities with shops and cafes specifically designed for tourists. 

I need down time. Especially in exotic locations, there’s this twitchy little animal scrabbling around in my head, saying, “What?!?! Napping? Sitting still? Reading? Are you crazy? You’re in Bangkok / Istanbul / Amsterdam / Sydney! You need to be out there, making the most of every minute, going, going, going!”

But here’s the deal: I need down time to process my experience, to sift through memories and decide how I feel about a place, and to recover from the assault on the senses that goes hand in hand with being in a new and uncontrolled environment. I’ve learned it’s okay to take a couple of hours in the afternoon to do this — even if the practice doesn’t makes sense to people I’m traveling with. 

I need plenty of sleep. I need three things (well, four, counting Clyde) to rest well. First, I need privacy, so I’m unlikely to want to share a room (or bathroom) with folks other than my partner. Second, I need to feel safe, with no worries about someone coming in while I’m asleep. Third, I need comfort — a good bed in a room with temperature I can tweak to my own satisfaction.

The setting doesn’t have to be opulent or luxurious — I’ve slept very well, thanks, in a crumbling Soviet-era apartment complex in Transylvania. But without a good night’s sleep, I’m quickly cranky and withdrawn … so, for me, compromising on this makes no sense.

I need my technology. By tech, I mean my iPad or MacBook Air, my iPhone, and access to speedy WiFi. First world problems, right? But seriously: for me, a huge part of the joy of travel is sharing the experience with readers here at MadeByMark.com and friends and family back home. Writing posts about our trip creates a travel journal I refer back to again and again when offering advice to others. And uploading the photos I take means I’ll have copies, even if I lose my camera or (heaven forbid!) suffer a hard-drive crash.

I think it’s pretty cool that none of the things I need when I travel can actually be packed in a suitcase.

How about you? What’s on your list of essential travel needs?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

3 comments

  • Great questions! And yes, your technology can too be packed in a suitcase! Though it might not be wise ๐Ÿ™‚

    Here’s my list, some of which are the same:

    Something about the destination that really engages my interest. For me this is usually the natural world (eco-oriented travel), new cultures, and/or food ๐Ÿ™‚

    A certain amount of comfort, translating for me to a quiet room (if at all possible), my own bathroom, and a decent bed.

    The ability to walk/hike to places I need or want to go and/or excellent public transportation (in cities).

    My binoculars – never go anywhere without them! Even in cities, I’m birding.

    A way to read – either picking up and giving away books while I’m there or my trusty Kindle. Or both.

    Curiosity and a sense of adventure!

    Last but not totally least, my meds. Sadly, don’t do well without them. And, can’t say how many times my vacation has been saved by having the right thing when I needed it.

    • What a great comment! Thanks, Teresa. It’s good to hear from you!

      You hit the nail on the head about walkable cities (or cities with excellent public transportation). I’ll have to add that to my list! In fact, that’s why we love both Portland and Seattle so much.

      Amen, also, on the meds. In my case, it’s just blood pressure medication, but, as Clyde will attest, I am a better person when I’m regulated. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Great questions! And yes, your technology can too be packed in a suitcase! Though it might not be wise ๐Ÿ™‚

    Here’s my list, some of which are the same:

    Something about the destination that really engages my interest. For me this is usually the natural world (eco-oriented travel), new cultures, and/or food ๐Ÿ™‚

    A certain amount of comfort, translating for me to a quiet room (if at all possible), my own bathroom, and a decent bed.

    The ability to walk/hike to places I need or want to go and/or excellent public transportation (in cities).

    My binoculars – never go anywhere without them! Even in cities, I’m birding.

    A way to read – either picking up and giving away books while I’m there or my trusty Kindle. Or both.

    Curiosity and a sense of adventure!

    Last but not totally least, my meds. Sadly, don’t do well without them. And, can’t say how many times my vacation has been saved by having the right thing when I needed it.

  • Great questions! And yes, your technology can too be packed in a suitcase! Though it might not be wise ๐Ÿ™‚

    Here’s my list, some of which are the same:

    Something about the destination that really engages my interest. For me this is usually the natural world (eco-oriented travel), new cultures, and/or food ๐Ÿ™‚

    A certain amount of comfort, translating for me to a quiet room (if at all possible), my own bathroom, and a decent bed.

    The ability to walk/hike to places I need or want to go and/or excellent public transportation (in cities).

    My binoculars – never go anywhere without them! Even in cities, I’m birding.

    A way to read – either picking up and giving away books while I’m there or my trusty Kindle. Or both.

    Curiosity and a sense of adventure!

    Last but not totally least, my meds. Sadly, don’t do well without them. And, can’t say how many times my vacation has been saved by having the right thing when I needed it.

Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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