Wanderlust defines Leora Novick of An American Girl in Transit: This writer travels the world for her job. So who better for Surfing magazine to tap for travel tips for their annual swimsuit issue than someone who has toured more than 20 countries?
Despite her young age, Novick approaches travel and exploration with the expertise of an old soul: by seeking out and embracing a city's history, culture, and local living above all else. You are more apt to find this American girl directly opposite of where the tourists assemble, making friends with (and gleaning insider tips from) the locals. It’s this pursuit of authenticity that makes Novick an authority. Whether she’s avoiding self-induced itinerary overload (Novick opts to satisfy her curiosity in a single city versus cramming three into an allotted time period) or ditching her camera for a day of unencumbered discovery (endless selfies and photo-taking hinder complete immersion), this doyenne strives for a laid-back approach to exploring.
It’s this kind of commitment that requires the same openness she extended to us when we asked for her travel wisdom and know-how. Below are a few tips, in Novick's own words, that are sure to come in handy when traveling abroad.
MVP travel tip: When booking a cheap flight, take all the factors into consideration. If you have a check-through bag, you can get hit with fees that can cost more than the flight itself (particularly true on budget airlines such as Ryan Air, Air Lingus, and Wizz Air). Also take note of the airport’s location. If you have only a few days to spend somewhere, don’t waste half your day traveling from the airport. Sometimes cheaper is not always better.
My pre-flight checklist includes: Before a flight, I always double and triple check that I have my passport, and make sure it is up to date. I’ll never forget a panic-ridden three hours before my flight to Italy when I couldn’t remember where I had put it. I’ll also make sure to pack up everything the night before and lay out my flight outfit so I know that everything is all set and I can sleep soundly.
I get through a long plane ride by: A warm pashmina is essential to my flight survival; those planes are always so cold! As I’m always thinking about beauty and wellness and how to partner healthy living with travel, I try to buy a large bottle of water once I’m past security so I can stay hydrated throughout the flight. Also, all that downtime is the perfect time to apply a face mask.
Three essentials that are often overlooked when traveling abroad: A hot shower is one of the greatest things in the world. Backpacking or not, it is not worth giving this up. Meeting locals is my absolute diehard rule in experiencing the true sense of a place, and giving yourself ample time is key. I would rather spend one week in a country than try to fit three countries in that same timeframe. By traveling slowly, you give yourself time to not only enjoy the place you are in, but also to relax. You took a trip for a reason!
Best travel advice given and received: Be in the moment. It is so easy to get caught up in the frenzy of snapping Instagram shots, but I try to spend at least one day where I don’t pick up my camera and phone and just enjoy the moment. It really detracts from an experience to have phones waving all over, trying to immortalize the moment for everyone else to see. I’d rather take my time and memorize the place and experience for myself.
Can’t travel without: Spare room in my luggage. I always try to find something special to take back with me from my journeys. In India, I was given a hand-carved Buddha statue from my driver that I cherish, while in Thailand I found a bamboo fan that is great for beating the New York City heat.
My favorite way to meet and mix with the locals: I’ve only had one experience with couch surfing, but it connected me to a huge group of friendly, welcoming locals in Peru and it amplified my experience that much more. I definitely make it a point to talk to everyone I meet on the road, whether that is my taxi driver, the waitress at lunch, a local shopkeeper—they all have interesting stories to tell and usually can lead you to the true gems in the area.
Biggest lesson traveling has taught me: Simplify. Every time I return home from a trip I am instantly compelled to edit my closet, clean out my overflowing bins of toiletries, and simplify my life in every way. The ability to fit your entire life in one bag while on the road is a liberating feeling that I highly recommend everyone experience. While I could never part with my shoe collection back home, it is so refreshing not to be burdened down by objects during that short time.
Non-negotiable: Getting off the beaten path. I have no interest in taking a trip that thousands of other people have taken before. I try to push myself out of my comfort zone each time I travel, whether that means trying the local delicacy, wandering down a city’s side streets, introducing myself to strangers, and yes, even traveling alone. I do things when I travel that I would never do at home, and I have always had a great story to tell at the end.
Lesson I learned the hard way: Some things should not be eaten. It’s true, travel is not always so glamorous, which I learned the hard way as I suffered from food poisoning while hiking the Inca Trail at an altitude of over 13,000 feet. Unless you have a hardened stomach, stay away from the raw vegetables. I warned you!
Bucket-list adventure I’m dying to take: Bhutan has always been a country at the top of my list, not necessarily for its adventures and sites, but for its reputation as the world’s happiest country. I am always trying to find balance in my life and I’m so fascinated by their joyful reputation.
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