"Sweet dreams are made of this... Travel the world and the seven seas. Everybody's lookin' for something."*- Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics
Preparing for a Journey
The first thing you need to know about travel is the loneliness. If you're going to far-away places, know that you'll be a stranger in a strange land. And unless you are completely comfortable with reaching out to strangers, I would recommend a traveling companion. Your companion can be either friend or family as long as you have a good dose of trust in that person.
Your companion will be there for you in times when you've gone out to the vineyards in Italy and gotten lost somehow. They will be right beside you as you scrutinize English to Italian dictionary trying to communicate your desire to get back into the city. They will play charades with you as the locals laugh at your antics. And they will laugh with you after the event. "Hey remember that time when... "
The second thing you need to know is the difference between wants and needs. Airplane tickets are already fairly expensive. You do not want to spend extra cash on extra baggage or overweight luggage. Out of your worldly possessions, choose only things that you need to survive. If you're planning to tour around a country (state) or multiple, pack light. It makes hefting that bag to a new location much easier.
If you've got those two things down, get ready to do some research. Every place that you go will its own culture and customs. You don't need to be an expert, and it's pretty easy to spot a tourist. Just remember that you may see strange things and things that you thought taboo. You don't have to participate in these things. But having knowledge about them will aid in acceptance and perhaps a view the world through different eyes.
The last and final thing you need to know is also perhaps the most difficult. You need to know that the world is not completely in your control. Flights can be delayed, tour buses can take a wrong turn, plans can change, scheduled events can be missed, etc. And for many of these things there is nothing you can do. And the feeling of helplessness and chaos is not a pleasant one. The final skill of a traveler is adaptability.
You might not be able to see all the sights or go to all the places you want in the relatively short amount of time you have. But this doesn't mean that you can't make a great and beautiful memory going somewhere or doing something unplanned. And more likely than not, you will be pleasantly surprised without expectations.
Of Transition, Transit, and Spaces in-between
I dislike taking airplanes because how you get to the destination is part of the journey. Planes are usually uncomfortable and cramped unless you fly first class. The entertainment provided on long flights such as movies and music is mediocre at best. Any food or beverage has to be bought at the airport at high price or received from meal service during the flight. The quality is about par with the entertainment. There is also no scenic view if you look out the window except an endless sea of clouds. So more often than not I find myself drifting to sleep to escape this transit than finding enjoyment.
If you are not traveling overseas I would recommend trains for transportation. They are much slower than airplanes but the seats are large enough so you can stretch out. There are no stringent measures or checks so you are able to bring food or drink on the ride. I would recommend buying from a restaurant or making your own to bring on rather than purchasing aboard the train. I know in some places in Europe and Asia they offer bullet trains to nearby hotspots. These will shorten the transit time drastically.
I actually prefer trains over planes when possible, despite the increase in transit time. There is something very romantic and quaint about a train cart. The world outside the windows transitions from city to small town to seemingly pristine wilderness at times. There is always that gentle rhythm and slight rocking motion from the train tracks and it soothes my soul. It is much more reassuring than the clouds and thin air that airplanes seem to traverse so easily.
My favorite mode of transportation is cruise ship. Unfortunately, it's also the most expensive. A good cruise ship is like a floating city. Your mode of transportation is a destination. And when melded well together, a traveler can forget that they are slowly floating toward a secondary location. Because on a ship you can dance under a chandelier, go see a live show, listen to live music, shop 'till you drop, dine at a fine restaurant, play at an arcade or play a game of basketball.
There is also something beautiful, mysterious, and seductive about the ocean. It is, as they say, where life began. And so it feels timeless and ageless. I've read stories of a magical portal through a doorway or a wardrobe to a different world. The truth is that we have such a portal, and it's possibly the biggest one.
The ocean is indeed a portal to a strange new world. It's a place with its own colorful array of life, behavior, culture, language, and cities. We even need to don special equipment just to visit for extended periods of time. And despite our connection to where our ancestors began, the ocean can make us feel small and alone. This in turn opens our eyes to the grandiosity of the small blue marble floating in space.
There was a moment when I stood on the bow of the ship when the realization hit. I was on a city that must have floated past thousands of cities above the water, thousands below, and on my way to visit a couple more. And I realized just how much of the world I had not seen yet.