My top 9 travel tips

I realised very early on that, for me, travelling was the best way of learning. I still have a pilgrim soul, and I thought that I would use this blog to pass on some of the lessons I have learned, in the hope that they might prove useful to other pilgrims like me.

1. Avoid museums. This might seem to be absurd advice, but let’s just think about it a little: if you are in a foreign city, isn’t it far more interesting to go in search of the present than of the past? It’s just that people feel obliged to go to museums because they learned as children that travelling was about seeking out that kind of culture. Obviously museums are important, but they require time and objectivity – you need to know what you want to see there, otherwise you will leave with a sense of having seen a few really fundamental things, except that you can’t remember what they were.

2. Hang out in bars. Bars are the places where life in the city reveals itself, not in museums. By bars I don’t mean nightclubs, but the places where ordinary people go, have a drink, ponder the weather, and are always ready for a chat. Buy a newspaper and enjoy the ebb and flow of people. If someone strikes up a conversation, however silly, join in: you cannot judge the beauty of a particular path just by looking at the gate.

3. Be open. The best tour guide is someone who lives in the place, knows everything about it, is proud of his or her city, but does not work for any agency. Go out into the street, choose the person you want to talk to, and ask them something (Where is the cathedral? Where is the post office?). If nothing comes of it, try someone else – I guarantee that at the end of the day you will have found yourself an excellent companion.

4. Try to travel alone or – if you are married – with your spouse. It will be harder work, no one will be there taking care of you, but only in this way can you truly leave your own country behind. Traveling with a group is a way of being in a foreign country while speaking your mother tongue, doing whatever the leader of the flock tells you to do, and taking more interest in group gossip than in the place you are visiting.

5. Don’t compare. Don’t compare anything – prices, standards of hygiene, quality of life, means of transport, nothing! You are not traveling in order to prove that you have a better life than other people – your aim is to find out how other people live, what they can teach you, how they deal with reality and with the extraordinary.

6. Understand that everyone understands you. Even if you don’t speak the language, don’t be afraid: I’ve been in lots of places where I could not communicate with words at all, and I always found support, guidance, useful advice, and even girlfriends. Some people think that if they travel alone, they will set off down the street and be lost for ever. Just make sure you have the hotel card in your pocket and – if the worst comes to the worst – flag down a taxi and show the card to the driver.

7. Don’t buy too much. Spend your money on things you won’t need to carry: tickets to a good play, restaurants, trips. Nowadays, with the global economy and the Internet, you can buy anything you want without having to pay excess baggage.

8. Don’t try to see the world in a month. It is far better to stay in a city for four or five days than to visit five cities in a week. A city is like a capricious woman: she takes time to be seduced and to reveal herself completely.

9. A journey is an adventure. Henry Miller used to say that it is far more important to discover a church that no one else has ever heard of than to go to Rome and feel obliged to visit the Sistine Chapel with two hundred thousand other tourists bellowing in your ear. By all means go to the Sistine Chapel, but wander the streets too, explore alleyways, experience the freedom of looking for something – quite what you don’t know – but which, if you find it, will – you can be sure – change your life.

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  1. Candy says:

    This is very true :)

  2. Siddharth says:

    That was a simple and superb thought.Thank you and take a trip!!!!!

  3. Marie-Christine says:

    It’s an apt description of traveling for me.
    ”Viajar e mudar a roupa da alma.’ M. Quintana
    Traveling is moving the soul’s garnment.
    Voyager, c’est donner un mouvement a l’enveloppe de l’ame.

  4. Diana says:

    you are so right! following these advice can totally make your trip absolutely enjoyable!

  5. sola says:

    Brilliant tips paulo.. Somehow someway I found myself in a situation where I had to travel to paris (the city of love) and rome all by myself.. And I was so skeptical @ first but now I’m back and have no regrets. I can totally relate to all those tips apart from the bit where everyone understands you. Sometimes you need to be extra careful and observant.

  6. Jack Lowe says:

    Really glad I’ve found your blog…best thing I’ve found on the web in ages.

    I’ve read a few of your books too “” The Alchemist will stay with me forever, a book from which I take great comfort…


  7. joelle says:

    Je n’ai pas les moyens de voyager alors j’ai décidé de me créer un monde imaginaire oí¹ tout le monde serait í  égalité mais il est dur de s’apercevoir que la réalité est tout autre . Il n’y a qu’une faí§on de prendre le train ,l’avion ou le bateau qu’en pensant ” demain ce sera différent “. Nous ne sommes pas sur le míªme pied d’égalité mais certaines personnes ne peuvent qu’aller marcher dans les sentiers pour découvrir autre chose . La vie n’est pas un ríªve mais un voyage ,celui-ci est í  faire par n’importe quel moyen . Míªme avec un bí¢ton ,on peut aller jusqu’í  Saint-Jacques de Compostelle mais il faut y croire . Les signes sont en nous mais pas chez les autres . La faí§on de découvrir une ville pour Paulo ,c’est LA SIENNE . Il ne donne aucune obligation í  personne . C’est comme cela qu’il voyage en rencontrant les autres . Mais chacun í  sa manière de vivre parfois il suffit de fermer et d’ouvrir les yeux pour voir un beau coucher de soleil . La solitude n’est pas une fatalité si nous l’avons choisie, quelquefois elle est nécessire pour mieux se redécouvrir . Il ne suffit pas de voyager lorsqu’on a eu une vie difficile. Le meilleur c’est de se trouver face í  soi-míªme pour s’aimer et reprendre le goí»t des autres . Il n’y a pas de mal í  dire que vous avez des difficultés í  vivre . La foi est í  redécouvrir pour nous donner l’envie de voyager avec les gens de notre société . La pauvreté est un voyage difficile í  faire , une jolie petite église avec de beaux vitraux est belle í  visiter pour le commun des mortels mais c’est un monument que vous traversez, il n’y a que des statues et une nef qui mene í  un choeur qui ne bat pas pour tout le monde . Le bar du coin n’est pas toujours bon í  fréquenter car il y a des personnes aux visages rougis par la vinasse qu’ils boivent . La banlieue est un endroit a ne pas faire oublier aux autres . C’est un foisonnement de gens créatifs qui parfois ont des vies plus admirables que les autres.

  8. I do agree with all 8 points of your post! But I personally do not like when people tell other people to skip museums! We are all different and we all like different things, I know people who loves history museums and actually visiting them in every country they travel in makes them more knowledgeable! I myself love modern art and I do go to museum in every country I visit, it allows me to build bigger picture of differences, influences and knowledge about modern art in general etc etc I meet all your other points though, I travel on my own, always gives a time to every city and country, I wander around, talk with people on the streets, do not buy tacky souvenirs and never compare :)