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 But without a good night's sleep, I'm quickly cranky and withdrawn ...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?