BYRON BAY, AUSTRALIA - As a young girl, my parents would have to persuade me out of the water as the sun was setting. And I would beg my brother to accompany me on the “It’s a Small World” ride at Walt Disney World over and over again.
Perhaps I knew from an early age that I wanted to explore.
Flash forward 15 years to a secluded beach near Byron Bay, Australia. Thirty people from around the globe are gathered for a yoga teacher training class. I was one of them. With different backgrounds and journeys, we all had one thing in common. Something was drawing us to learn more about ourselves, others and the world. I have grown into that explorer.
Years before stumbling upon my current path as cabin crew with Emirates Airline, I was a backpacker. I drove, camped, swam and frolicked over much of Australia, Southeast Asia and Central America. With little experience, but a full heart, I discovered some of my favourite places on earth.
My travels have been quite diverse, from the rugged beaches and beautifully crafted wine region of Australia’s Margaret River, to the misty mountains and cricket lullabies in Pai, Northern Thailand.
I am intrigued by the historic architecture, and the unique flavours of Hoi An, Vietnam.
Left: Kristin Johnstone flies the world with Emirates Airline. Right: Valley of the Giants in Denmark, Australia.
Lush abundant forests, permaculture farms and wild macaws of Pavones, Costa Rica, have forever enchanted me. I will always return to the sacred island of Bali, where I have pushed my limits to find a deeper connection with myself. These experiences have crafted me into the traveller I am today, and I am left with the momentum to discover more.
Now that I work in the skies, I am lucky enough to fly to as many as seven new destinations a month. As in so many other aspects of my life, I desire to find balance in my travel life and often think about how to create amazing, memorable layovers. How do I find the perfect combination of sightseeing and relaxation? What puts a smile on my face and opens my heart to new experiences?
So I made a list for myself. I’m sharing this list to give you some ideas and hopefully inspire you to travel in a way that recharges your body and mind, leaving you feeling inspired.
1- Get Friendly with the Locals
Reach out to someone who lives in the area. Even if their busy schedule doesn’t allow time to show you around, they’ll surely dish on their favourite spots around town. Find out what neighbourhoods are lively or picturesque and head over for a stroll, stopping to eat, drink, shop and take photos along the way.
Try asking someone for directions instead of using your phone. Be friendly and interact. Everyone has stories, start a conversation and hear some.
2- Try the Regional Flavours
Visiting markets and eating at street stalls is an amazing way to discover local dishes. Pick a spot nearby and people watch as you enjoy your food.
Try visiting the supermarket. See what they offer! Buying snacks in the supermarket is not only economically friendly, it keeps your experience authentic.
3- Do some research before you
Go slow and take in the sights, noises, smells. Allow time for spontaneity, conversation and leisurely strolls. If you are craving more of this place after your stay, you’ll find a way to return.
Try doing something you’d do at home, but in a new country. Check out a concert, sports event, or head to the beach. You’ll be surprised how amazingly different the experience is in every country!
4- Shift with your Surroundings
Island time exists, but islanders are relaxed for a reason. Markets in India are chaotic. That’s just how it is! Dinner in Spain starts late, so adjust your pace. Try to remember that we travel to see how others live ... so why not adopt their lifestyle in the meantime?
Take public transit, enjoy a siesta when the shopkeepers in Santorini do, or sit on the street corner eating noodle soup in Hanoi. Instead of finding changes to your typical routine challenging, you’ll embrace them.
Left: Play time in Nicaragua. Right: Admiring street art in The Mission district of San Francisco.
Try learning a few words of the local language. It’s a sign of respect, you create better connections, and you usually get a big smile in return.
5- Curate Souvenirs you Love
Find out what your destination country does particularly well to choose something well crafted and unique.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked where I bought my rose gold earrings (local jeweller from the streets of Soho, N.Y.), black leather boots (Milan), or vintage sari quilt (South Goa). If you are going to bring things home, bring things you adore.
Try visiting vintage shops, especially in San Francisco, New York, Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Copenhagen. There are some amazing, one-of-a-kind treasures out there!
I invite you to try these suggestions next time you travel.
You might be surprised how tiny shifts to your itinerary can affect your connection to a new place. And I’d love to hear how you all stay balanced and shining while on the road.
Until next time, travel well, friends.
Kristin Johnstone works with Emirates Airline as a member of the cabin crew. You can follow her global adventures on Instagram @findingbeautyinsimplicity / Emirates offers flights to the Middle East and beyond daily from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. To find out schedules and fares, go to www.emirates.com/ca/english/