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The Best 10 Rules to Live by When You Are Young and Ready to Travel.

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Misc On the Road Rants

My friend Canice saw this photo of me from the early 1980s in Sestri Levante. It's a beach town in Liguria, Italy and I spent many summers there in my early 20s. She wrote: I wanna use this photo to persuade young people to live a little, while they have the chance.

Sestri Levante, early 1980s

I know exactly what she means. I wouldn't go back to my youth for anything but your twenties are a time to really let things rip. Yes, you can go to Europe at any age but you find as you get older you can't really "crash" on a ferry boat like you can when you're young. You suddenly need a private bath and a comfortable bed in a way you just don't when you're in your 20s.

Most importantly, you make friends more easily and you're open to new experiences in a way that a cautious old fart isn't. And you look so much better in photos than you will in your 50s.

In my 20s, I worked like crazy, lived on nothing and saved every penny for trips to Europe. Yes, it was somewhat easier then, but I had two roommates, lived like a pauper and you if you want this, you'll figure out how. And I think you should.

Inspired by Canice, these are my 10 things every young person should do when they travel.

  1. Talk to strangers.
  2. Eat weird food.
  3. Learn to sleep on buses and boats.
  4. Meet lots of mothers who know how to cook.
  5. Learn a song in a foreign language so you can sing along when your new friends get drunk.
  6. Live like a pauper for a few months so that you can travel. Come home and then do it again. (Hint: This traveling will make you more interesting, and you'll get better and better jobs the more you do it.)
  7. Don't assume anyone gives a sh*t how we do things in the states.
  8. Dance with an old person.
  9. Learn to say Hello, Goodbye, Please and Thank You in your host language. Use them all frequently.
  10. Sleep when you get home.

I was going to add to not make yoga poses in front of the Eiffel Tower or at Machu Picchu, but you know what? If you want to, do it. It's none of my business and if it makes you happy, be my guest. I think it's weird and indulgent, but I like Ethel Merman in a non-ironic way. There's room for all of us.

I'm not adding it to the list, but I would suggest you put down your smartphone. Traveling used to mean really cutting yourself off from your everyday life. You sent postcards and sometimes letters. Phone calls were insanely expensive, and you only called if something went wrong. You had no idea what anyone else was doing, and the news came from the International Herald Tribune. My gentle suggestion would be to take lots of photos and then share them when you get home. Your friends will be just as impressed. The burglars won't know your schedule quite so well. I promise you, you will not suffer from missing Aunt Myrtle's cat photos in real time.

I focused on Europe. Now my obsession seems to be Mexico and the Americas. Asia would be great. I want to encourage everyone to see as much of the world as they can, especially the young. Go for it.



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