Lessons to Make You a Better Traveler

We have been fortunate to have had many great mentors throughout our lives who have imparted words of wisdom to us that have molded our thoughts and actions.  Most of the best advice that we’ve received apply to all parts of our lives, whether with family, work, or traveling.  Usually they are amazingly simple and yet very powerful when applied consistently.  Hopefully you’ll find them to be as useful over time as we have found them to be.

  1. Treat others as you want to be treated (the golden rule) – Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we treated EVERYONE that we met in the same manner that we hope and expect to be treated.  Sure, we learned this rule as children, but it is probably the most important piece of advice that hopefully all people can learn.  Whenever we travel someplace, anyplace, we want to learn about the customs and traditions of the locals.  We respect their religions, beliefs, and social expectations.  Having an understanding and respect does not mean that you have agree with or do things that conflict with your own personal beliefs, but you must have empathy and understand where they are coming from.  You would be surprised how much better your experience will be if you are friendly and honestly express your desire to understand the culture of the place that you are visiting.

    Talking to an Old Woman in Bolivia
    Talking to an Old Woman in Bolivia
  2. Make decisions quickly and act upon them – This doesn’t mean that you don’t do your due diligence and get as many facts as possible before making a decision, but too often people become paralyzed by fear of making a mistake or spend so much time thinking about the decision that the opportunity passes them by.  We have a lot of military in our family and the motto for an officer on the battlefield is that the only bad decision is no decision, this is surprisingly true of life in general.  Will this lead to some mistakes?  Sure, but you don’t grow and learn without making a few mistakes.  More often than not, just deciding to go someplace and making it happen has led to some of our best experiences.  If you wait for all of the stars to align and the moment to be perfect, you’re likely to miss out on some of the best experiences of your life.

    Our First Trip to Europe was Planned in a Few Weeks
    Our First Trip to Europe was Planned in a Few Weeks
  3. Never stop learning – Learning is growth and the moment that you stop learning new and interesting things is the moment that you stop truly living.  Obviously it is hard to go through life and not continue to learn new things, but don’t just learn through osmosis, actively seek out and find new things to learn that might interest you.  Pick a country that you’ve never heard about and learn as much as you can and then go visit there.  Understand the history of a place, what has influenced its culture, the leaders of the past and the regional forces that shape their current beliefs and society.  Learn as much of the language as possible and use it when you visit.

    We've Learned to be Better Travelers
    We’ve Learned to be Better Travelers
  4. Strive for continuous improvement – None of us are perfect and those people who think that they are should be avoided like the plague.  In all aspects of life, we periodically seriously reflect on our current state and consider how we can improve in our relationships, work positions, health (mental and physical), as well as our travel goals and expectations.  Even during our travels, we will ask ourselves if we’re seeing the most relevant and interesting sights that mean the most to us or are we just following a list from a guidebook?  Are we talking to the locals and getting the best advice on places to see and food to eat?  We’ll come home from a trip and talk about our experiences and what things we could have done better and use that information on our next trip.

    Lunch at a Moroccan Restaurant
    Lunch at a Moroccan Restaurant
  5. Step out of your comfort zone – It is easy to get complacent and accept the normal routine, whether at work or in your personal life, but some of the most rewarding opportunities come from pushing your limits.  That might mean doing an activity that makes you uncomfortable, like zip-lining, parachuting, or just spending the night in a forest.  We’re not suggesting that you pursue dangerous activities, but just that you try something that perhaps you’ve never previously considered.  It might be going to a country that makes you uncomfortable, but it could be as simple as trying food that you’ve never heard of.  Growth comes from new experiences that most likely reset your image of what you’re capable of doing or achieving.

    India Definitely Stretched Our Bounderies
    India Definitely Stretched Our Boundaries

There isn’t anything earth shattering here, just simple concepts that, when followed consistently, will improve your life and our case, our travels as well.

Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

We didn’t make it to the Arc de Triomphe during our first trip to Paris, but we made a point of visiting it during our second trip. It was cold and rainy, but that didn’t deter us from going to the top of the Arc and getting views of the city. In addition to the famous Champs-Elysees, there are another 11 avenues that all stretch to and from the Arc de Triomphe. The full name of the Arc is the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, which translates to Triumphant Arch of the Star. The star refers to the shape that is made by the twelve radiating avenues that look like rays of light emanating from the Arc.

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Arc de Triomphe
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Inscriptions Inside of the Arc
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View of the Eiffel Tower on a Cloudy Day
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Champs-Elysees from the Arc Terrace

The Arc de Triomphe was originally commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, but it wasn’t completed until 1836 and Napoleon never actually saw the completed project. The monument was erected to honor the French people that fought and died in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The names of all of the French generals and victories are inscribed on the inner and outer walls. There is also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I and an eternal flame located at the arc.

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Ceiling of the Arc
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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Eternal Flame
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Interesting Statue Inside of the Arc
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Montmartre in the Distance

Seeing the Arc de Triomphe is definitely fascinating, but going to the terrace at the top and seeing the city of Paris and the Eiffel Tower is probably the highlight of going to the Arc. You can definitely expect it to be crowded and only a limited number of people are able to go to the terrace at any given time. The Arc de Triomphe should certainly be on your itinerary if you visit Paris and we are glad that we got the opportunity to see it since we missed it on our first trip.

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Traffic Around the Arc
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Modern Paris Skyscrapers
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Statue in the Arc
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Views from the Arc’s Terrace

 

Eguisheim, France

There are many wonderful towns on the wine road in Alsace, France. One of the first towns that we visited during our day tour from Strasbourg was Eguisheim. It is a medieval town that was built in rings of buildings that circle the town square. With its historic buildings, tiny streets, and unique shops, it is a popular destination for tourists who visit Alsace and the wine road. One of the highlights of Eguisheim is the Chapelle Saint-Leon IX, which is a beautiful chapel located near the fountain in the town square.

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Narrow Streets of Eguisheim
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Chapelle Saint-Leon IX
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Beautiful Architecture
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Historic Quaintness
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Wondering Through the Town

We visited Eguisheim during the winter and there were still plenty of crowds, but we would expect the town to be even more crowded during the summer months when the entire area is a popular destination. Walking the narrow streets is truly like stepping back in time and has an almost magical quality. One of things that we enjoyed were the many whimsical shops that can be found as you take the tour around the main loop that surrounds the town and then leads you to the town center. It is definitely a romantic location.

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Crowded with Tourists and Locals
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Colorful Ceiling Above the Altar
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Whimsical Shops
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Front of the Chapel
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Scenes Depicting Pope Saint-Leon IX’s Life

The Chapelle Saint-Leon IX was built in the neo-Roman style in 1894 and dedicated to Pope Saint-Leon IX. The chapel has beautiful stained glass windows that date back to 1895 as well as colorfully painted walls and ceilings depicting seven scenes from the life of Saint-Leon. It is certainly worth taking time to see the chapel when visiting Eguisheim. Located near the main fountain in the town square, there are also several restaurants near the chapel that serve a variety of local food.

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Witch Above a Store Door
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Inside of the Capel
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Stained Glass
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Medieval Charm
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Colorful Buildings

Eguisheim is definitely a beautiful town in the heart of Alsace. We spent a couple of hours in the town and enjoyed our time their immensely. The town has received multiple accreditations for its beauty and history, making it one of the most popular stops on the wine road of Alsace.

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Bell Tower with Bird’s Nest
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Historical Streets
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Town Square and Chapel
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Statue of Saint-Leon IX Inside the Chapel
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Shops, Restaurants, and a Market