By Sara Gerlich – Original Article
I am lucky enough to make my living traveling ten months out of the year and have visited many incredible destinations. As the founder of Escape to Shape, I have curated trips to 43 fantastic locations, from gorgeous Bhutan to breathtaking Botswana. Each Escape is designed to improve the health and wellness of mind and body, while appreciating the unique and fascinating culture of each place. We focus on balance and fitness, enjoying fitness classes, sightseeing and hikes, and healthy local fare. These excursions have taught me so much about making the most of unfamiliar places, and I have a few simple tips to share that will help you make the most of any far-flung location.
- All about attitude. This may seem obvious, but if you go into your trip expecting Bhutan to be like Los Angeles, you are sure to not only to be disappointed, but also to miss out on the best experiences. Exotic travel is not meant to be familiar. It is meant to take you out of your comfort zone, even if just for a few hours each day. So rather than fighting it, embrace it. I promise you will get so much more out of your holiday if you let go of expectation and embrace the adventure of discovery.
- Explore for your exercise. It doesn’t have to be hard to stay fit on vacation, especially if you take advantage of the local geography. If you wake up earlier than usual (as is often the case when traveling), take advantage of the early morning hours by going for a run or getting in your sun salutations in a beautiful setting. From sultry salsa dancing in Havana, to running up the famous temple stairs in Angkor Wat, to impromptu boot camp in the ramparts of Cartagena, incorporate your exercise with exploring the gorgeous locale.
- Eat like the locals do. Typically, this will mean eating seasonally and regionally – the way nature intended us to eat! If a local restaurant does not serve fish, there is a reason; let go of Western demands and eat what is locally available and in season for an authentic encounter. And give yourself time to enjoy the whole experience, whether it’s breakfast at a small café in Colombia or the amazing tamales in the villages of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
- Shop like the locals, too. Be sure to visit local markets where possible. Not only are they a memorable way to interact with the people and experience the culture up close, but also you may find the newest treasure to add to your home or wardrobe – and they are sure to carry a story with them long after you return. I find that the best souvenirs are the ones you find when you least expect it.
- Scout out extraordinary style. Speaking of shopping, an exotic location is the perfect place to try out new fashions. Depending upon where you go, you can find tunics, handbags, beads, and bracelets that are so unique, and can help connect you to the culture as you soak it all in. Many of my most prized jewelry and accessories have come from my farthest travels; for instance, my silver bejeweled headpiece from the markets of Pakistan is truly one of a kind, and the hand-dyed silk organza bags I found in Cambodia are coveted by everyone I meet.