Taylor Buonocore Guthrie, avid traveler and creator of Convers(ate), shares her top tips for bringing the spirit of traveling into your every day.
What is your favorite part of traveling? Really...if you pause to reflect for just a moment, what draws you in?
Is it the thrill of boarding your train, plane, or automobile for a new destination? Is it the chance encounters you have with interesting people? Is it the sights you see or the tastes you encounter? Is it the once-in-a-lifetime cultural objects you stumble upon on your journey?
For me, it’s all of those things; but above all, my favorite part of traveling is the way it makes me feel.
Traveling makes me curious. Open-minded. Friendly. It makes me eager to talk to people, to ask questions, and to understand the world around me. It makes me feel like a beginner, eager to fully explore the world around me while being authentically and completely myself.
Over the past ten years, I’ve lived in four countries on four continents for an extended amount of time. I’ve have visited countless others while traveling for business and pleasure. Basically, I’ve taken every opportunity I’ve ever had to travel somewhere new. It started with spending a semester abroad when I was in college, and continued when I set off on a year abroad after graduation. These were the days before organizations like Remote Year formed supportive communities of people experiencing different parts of the world together, so I designed my own itinerary and immersed myself in two countries over the course of the year. Those trips were perhaps the most formative of my life. Returning home after that year of travel was difficult. The contrast between being a full-time traveler and an 8am-7pm employee was stark.
Since then, I got married, and gave life to two daughters. I love being with my family. I still go out exploring, but my trips have intentionally become shorter and less frequent. Sure, at times there is part of me that desperately longs for the thrill of being called to board an airplane, of attempting to ask the waiter or waitress for his or her favorite dish in another language, of hunting out artisanal treasures on side streets, following breadcrumbs laid by the travelers before me.
This is life’s cue that it’s time to get extra curious, extra friendly, to open my mind to exploration, and to be completely myself, no matter where I am. So, over the years, I’ve grown increasingly intentional about incorporating the spirit of travel into the fabric of my daily life.
Here’s what it looks like in practice, for me:
Morning greetings with strangers seem to be a thing of the past, especially in urban environments. But there is joy, delight, and connection to be found in the morning greeting. It’s a simple way to connect with another person, especially someone you don’t know. In fact, when I lived in rural Tanzania, it was custom to greet every person you passed walking to work or school in the morning. The ritual of not just passing, but actually seeing each person you passed, was beautiful. It stuck with me even after I left Tanzania.
Years later, living in New York City I would mix up my morning by smiling at fellow commuters and saying “good morning.” Some didn’t know what to make of me, but many others reciprocated the greeting, which was often followed by a smile that seemed to say, “Wow, that was nice.” It always felt nice for me, too. So the next time you’re ordering at Starbucks, or you catch someone’s eye on the street while walking to work, look into their eyes and say “good morning”.
Sitting under the stars in the middle of the Serengeti and gazing out onto rolling fields in Tuscany - these are environments that have naturally inspired me to talk about life’s “big” topics. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often feel drawn to life’s big questions when I’m browsing Facebook on my iPhone. But, with a little effort, we can tap into the travel spirit even while sitting at our own dinner tables.
For starters, take note of the wondrous things that surround you. A few weeks ago, my husband and I were enjoying dinner on our patio when fireflies began to appear. Watching them, I felt a childlike wonder overtake me. It felt amazingly similar to the feelings I get when I travel. All I needed to do was notice the world around me, the magic that lives in my own backyard.
In addition to noticing my surroundings, I’ve also increasingly engaged in mindful conversation. At our dinner gatherings, I like to introduce a “big” topic to chat about and make an intentional effort to include everyone at the table in the conversation. Inspired so much by this practice, I teamed up with a friend to create Convers(ate), to make it easy for others to do the same.
When you’re traveling in another country, and meet someone new, it’s rare that you instantly know their socioeconomic background, tribe, or other group-defining characteristics. In a place like Kenya, where I worked for several years, I was completely blind to tribal affiliations, which to a Kenyan, can be identifiable in both physical appearance and last name. One of my Kenyan colleagues once remarked how liberating it must be to not know anything about anyone. It was true - I felt free to speak to anyone, and equally interested in learning about everyone.
As things become increasingly politicized in my home country, the United States, the idea of keeping an open mind about people is increasingly important. When I’m traveling and encounter a political position different from my own, I’m likely to inquire to learn more and avoid the temptation to immediately form a response or rebuttal in my mind. So, back at home, I try to consciously create an open mind, ask questions, and maintain a desire to learn about where the other person is coming from.
Consider how often you randomly bump into someone you know over the course of your week or month. I’m talking about the kind of serendipitous ‘collision’ that leads to a pleasant conversation or even an impromptu get-together. For me, once my days of college dorm-living were done and I moved to a big city, these chance encounters with friends were rare. That is, until I found myself living abroad in close proximity with fellow travelers. I remember it being so fun to bump into a familiar face in an unexpected place and turn the moment into a spontaneous coffee catch-up.
You can’t force chance encounters to happen, but you can create the opportunities to gather spontaneously, just like we do when we’re traveling. That’s why at my house we have an open door policy - anyone is welcome, anytime. I love when people just drop by to say hello. To me, it’s not an invasion of privacy but an invitation to community. It helps me feel connected and builds friendships in the process.
Like planning a great travel itinerary, you can plan ways to bring the spirit of travel into your every day. To tap into the curiosity, open mindedness, and eagerness that, for me, defines the travel experience. Some of your best practices will probably come from your personal travel experiences, just as mine have.
So if your next trip is far in the distance or you’re wishing you could shake up your life the way traveling reliably does, try this out. Consider these questions: what experiences or customs embody the spirit of travel for you? How might you incorporate them into your day to day?
Taylor Buonocore Guthrie is on a mission to help people to learn, grow and meaningfully connect. She is a frequent advisor on leadership and talent development initiatives across the private, non-profit and public sectors. She is also a co-creator of Convers(ate), a game to spark authentic and meaningful conversation, which is used around the world, by professionals, community organizers and casual dinner party hosts to create fresh and meaningful gathering experiences.