Samantha Wennerstrom, author of the popular blog Could I Have That?, is POPSUGAR'S latest guest editor in partnership with Secret. She will be documenting her epic adventures while providing style, beauty, and lifestyle tips to inspire others to live out epic adventures of their own, right here on POPSUGAR.
Looking back at the past two years, I've traveled to seven different countries and have gone on a handful of trips here in the States. Aside from the endless memories, tons of photos, and travel diaries, I learned up a few important lessons along the way that I will keep in mind no matter where the next adventure one takes me.
Lesson #1: Travel Alone (Sometimes)
While I prefer to have a travel companion (my husband comes in first place, obviously), traveling alone gives you a completely different experience and perspective. On my first solo trip I felt intimidated and nervous, but looking back, I was able to see what a rewarding and empowering experience it was to forge my own way and rely on myself. Keeping this in mind, for a trip to Paris I took by myself, I made sure to carve out time to explore. I would take long walks through the different districts and was able to see so much of the city and really soak up the ambience and culture.
Lesson #2: Stay Organized
Before becoming a frequent flier, I would admire those who looked like they had it all together, so poised, organized, and calm. They would whiz past me in security before I could even get my shoes back on! Once, I thought I lost my passport, and it sent me into a complete tailspin. Upon finding it, just minutes later, I vowed never to be that person again. I invested in a travel organizer, where there is a proper place for everything. Also, if you travel frequently, stick with the same airline, and take advantage of the perks, a lot frequent flier programs let you cut the security line, check luggage for free, and earn miles with each trip!
Lesson #3: Pack the Essentials
Although going shopping before a big trip is fun, it's money you could save and spend on the experiences to come. Bring what you know you'll be comfortable in — sneakers, lightweight layers, and one to two dressier pieces for nights out. You should also only bring must have toiletries — face wash, makeup, toothbrush, and deodorant (my pick is Secret Destinations' Hawaii Citrus Breeze). Hotels will usually provide you with moisturizer and shampoo and conditioner, so no need to pack those.
Lesson #4: Take the City by Foot
Walking is hands down the best way to explore a new place. I've learned my way around many cities by just wandering the streets and even getting lost at times. Plus, there's a much higher potential for unplanned adventures. I visit New York City at least three times a year, and each time I go I learn something new about the city when I choose to walk over taking a cab.
Lesson #5: Embrace the Unknown
Flight delays, problematic weather, hotel snafus, flat tires . . . The list goes on. Unfortunate things happen, but throwing a fit doesn't get you anywhere. In fact, these mishaps add to your travel story. While on a trip to Morocco, we were rained in at our hotel. Our plans for a hike and picnic in the Atlas Mountains were foiled, so instead we ordered lunch by the fire in the resort's library. Coincidently, another couple had the same plan, and we ended up spending most of the day playing card games and hanging out with them. It was one of the highlights of our trip, and we still remain friends with them to this day.
Lesson #6: Just Go
It's easy to make excuses for why you can't time time off for a trip. But in the end, it's always worth whatever sacrifices you've had to make. You'll learn more, do more, and see more than any other weekend spent in your usual surroundings.