The 5 rules you should always break while traveling

The thing about travel is it’s meant to free you. Make you feel liberated, alive, inspired. It’s meant to be new, an experience that’s different from the ones you normally have. So…if you do the same things you always do when you travel, you may be cheating yourself out of everything that adventure could be.

When I travel, I think I’m a better version of me—more free, more fun, more open. And when I ask myself why I can’t be that cool at home, I realize it’s because I break rules, or habits really, when I travel that I wouldn’t normally break when I’m at home. And I almost always say yes to things. That’s what led me to doing weird things like eating termites off a tree in Belize, and talking to strangers, even getting them to take my Instagram pictures, and it’s what has had me doing very non-Tara things like camping in Utah.

The point is, some habits don’t belong on trips. Don’t pack them up and tote them.

Breaking these five rules when you travel could bring you closer to that very unique zen that only travel brings.

1. Sticking to a diet

Barring any dietary restrictions or religious guidelines, diets don’t belong on trips. And neither does the guilt that (sometimes) comes with breaking them. Travel is a time to experience and eating is a really, really good experience. Especially if it’s food you haven’t tried before and may never get to try again if you don’t travel back to that particular place. There’s no joy in not filling your face with buttery croissants in France or passing on that homemade, handmade pasta in Florence or saying no to that flan from El Salvador that you’ll have flashbacks about for years. Eat. What. You. Want. Five years from now won’t be worried about the five pounds you’ve since gained and lost 17 different times, you’ll only remember how damn good that food was in fill-in-the-blank place.

2. Not talking to strangers

As a New York resident, I pretty much never talk to strangers unless I’m asking them if this train stops at that stop or what just happened when there’s cops and a crowd. And sadly, there aren’t all that many “good mornings” being exchanged with passerbys you don’t know, it’s just not really a thing here. But that doesn’t mean when I go to a place where those pleasantries exist that I’m the same keep-to-myself self. When I travel, I greet as many people as I can, I chat with strangers visiting the same sight I’m seeing, I connect with people on nearby beach towels. When you travel, being open is to your benefit. It can bring new friends, new insight about a place, might even lead you to your future husband/wife. Just don’t take this one too far and talk to people that seem sketchy in places that seem suspect. And if you’re in China, don’t talk to any strangers asking you if you’d like to have some tea when they’re nowhere in or near a tea house.

3. Not doing something because you’ve never done it before

Unless you are five, you should probably never say you’re not going to do something for the simple fact that you haven’t done it before. It doesn’t even make any sense for a traveler, really, because if that was the thought process, you’d never travel anywhere. So that same logic should apply to all aspects of travel. If you’ve never tried zip lining and you’re at least reasonably convinced you won’t die, try it. If you’ve never tried camel’s milk but your gracious Egyptian host is offering, you might have to try it. Think: when was the last time you did something for the first time? If you can’t remember that means it’s been too long and you’re not getting far enough outside of your zone. Travel typically comes with so many firsts it’s part of the reason the experience leaves us feeling so alive.

4. Planning every minute before you arrive

For the itinerary-inclined, this one may be a hard pill to swallow, and this is one I still work on with each trip. I’ll admit, before I go somewhere I like to at least pick out some things I definitely want to see, do and eat, and for things that need tickets or bookings, I’ll obviously work those into the days they have to be done. Outside of that, though, I try (or I am trying) to let things happen. You can’t know all of the things you should do in a place before you get there, even if you think you do. Find out what the locals suggest, do things you stumble upon but hadn’t heard of, ask a taxi driver where’s his favorite place to eat the local food. Give the place a chance to happen to you. Let things find you. Because you won’t always know what you should be looking for.

5. Not doing something because it scares you a little bit

I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit of a wuss when it comes to more than a handful of things, but travel me is a beast. I had never zip lined, but then I did it over a Belizean jungle where I could have easily plummeted to my death (possibly a slight exaggeration) and people would have been hard pressed to find my body (not so much of an exaggeration). I had never really done much jet skiing, but then I did it in the Bermuda Triangle, topped out on the speed then panicked and let go of the gas and nearly flew off. But each of these things thrilled me, showed me new levels and depths of myself I didn’t know were there, which hadn’t been awakened yet. That’s what travel is all about.