It always feel surreal when vacations come to an end. You look forward to them for weeks – blink and they are done, after being holed up in a flying bubble where time seemingly stands still.

I so needed to get away to distance myself from the sadness I was feeling about my lost romance, routine job and somewhat boring social life. Life goes in cycles and mine was cycling down however, I now feel reinvigorated to re-examine the goals I set in January and try to approach everyday as if I’m on vacation. I encourage you to pretend you have limited time in your special place in order to make the most of it! Some fun travel insights below.

Solo Travel is not as scary – check your mindset.

Things I did by myself: 2 night stay in a hotel, Two 7+ hour flights, the London subway many times, breakfast and lunch at restos, the Tower of London Tour (the place where Queen Anne was executed a la the novel The Other Boleyn Girl and/or the Tudors TV series). Before I left, I fell victim to worse case scenario thinking (the plane ride, getting robbed etc) and none of it happened.

I also realized I viewed my solo activities differently since I wasn’t truly alone for more than a few hours on this vacation. If you think people are judging you as friendless and sad because you are doing something on your own, then it will change your attitude towards your own experience (I have felt like this in the past). I knew I wasn’t friendless in Europe and that made me feel less like a social pariah while on my own. However, IF I want to go somewhere or do something in the future and no one can accompany me, I won’t let it change how I feel about spending some important time with myself. And neither should you! A mini solo trip is next on my list.

Small tasks add up: a story of unrealistic time expectations

If it weren’t for my friend Paola, I probably would have missed every bus, train and plane we booked. I wanted to do excursions, the beach and night time events all in the same day. Or even squeeze in smaller things like a mall visit. My companion made me realize that I underestimate how much time it takes to get ready in the morning, to eat a meal, to get from Point A to Point B and to identify smaller tasks. I don’t add slack time for unexpected delays. Now I understand why I feel so rushed every day of my life and will carry this reminder with me daily.

Operating without a plan can bring happy surprises.

I like to plan my life and have trouble going with the flow or jumping at super last minute plans – something I am working on. While my friend and I planned to catch a walking tour, we ended up in the wrong square (oh Europe) and missed it. I was so disappointed. But then magically we ran into an unconventional, pay-what-you-can tour that got us acquainted with Lisbon the very first day. We also stumbled on a nudist bike rally in London which honestly made me laugh – how freeing that must be. And the energy of the impromptu mini Lisbon Pride Parade was also great. Plus unexpected free admission to a castle and viewing lift! I would like to wake up once a month with a very vague plan or no plan and just go wherever the wind blows from now on. How about you?

Nudist bicycle ride in London, 2011

It was kind of chilly and old man wee wees are kind of scary but overall fun!

A Mini Gay Pride Parade in Lisbon, 2011

I kind of wanted to join in but got sidetracked by shopping.

Make decisions as if you don’t have the luxury of time to think about it.

I can sometimes agonize over purchase decisions from what to buy for lunch, to the colour of a new purse. Of course this can spill into other areas of life. I fear buyers remorse and regretting my choices in general. But in Europe I didn’t have time to go back tomorrow and there was no refund policy.

Happy to say I felt really satisfied with everything I bought for myself and others, including the painting below! Each time, I paused before buying: “if I buy this now, what if I find something similar but better later in the trip? I’ll kick myself for jumping too soon.” And that never happened since I ended up buying the best thing I could find in every category (no time like the present)! While consumerism is a somewhat shallow topic, the lesson here is to recognize or have faith in an option when it presents itself. There may not be something better coming and if it speaks to you, JUST DO IT.

Acrylic painting from Sintra Portugal

Love supporting real, local artists. This bad boy is going in my room!

Channel your inner European – acting freely.

Europeans take PDA to a whole nother level – they seem to love more strongly (although affection doesn’t necessarily mean that). The women walk with more confidence. The conversations are animated and they don’t seem to care how they “appear” to others – proof is the very raucous Austrian Dinner Party that earned many side-eyes from passer-bys (fast forward 15 seconds).

There were a few instances where my own anxiety, or a head ache, or nauseating bus ride turned me into a scared soul, which frustrated me. In the future, I will think of the vivacious Europeans during times when I feel some self pity or fragility.

I cannot wait for the next adventure abroad or in my own backyard. I’d also love to see what it feels like to live somewhere foreign for a short while, without being so much of a tourist. Have you ever wondered how different you would be if you were born and raised in another country – all other factors being equal? Check out www.reinventingsandyb.com who is living the Parisien life for 1 month and also www.ginamarierose.com who is teaching in South Korea for a year. Also Srini of Skool of Life quit his business career to pursue surfing and a new book in Costa Rica.

What have your travels taught you thus far and where are you headed to next?