The Tao of Our Travel

The recipe for the perfect trip is very hard to nail down. It seems that instead of leaning toward the chemistry of baking, it tends to sway more toward the wishy washy one pot recipes that grandmas are famous for. You know what I mean. You follow the steps, you use the right ingredients, but, somehow, someway, it simply does not taste like your grandma’s magic.

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Travel dreamers have always strived to unravel the mystery of the perfect get away and, quite frankly, have often failed. The two largest barriers that come to mind regarding this failure are lack of time and a false sense of expectations. So, how do you make a trip the perfect experience? We’ve got a plan!

The Mission: How to plan a trip that makes everybody happy?

The reality? It’s mission impossible. Even if you painstakingly asked everyone for a list of what they want to do at each destination, made arrangements for everything on the list, and detailed an itinerary, no group will be completely satisfied. In fact, it turns out when you are planning for others, it’s because they are not quite sure what they really want to do. In other words, very little of their opinion should make it’s way into your final plans. Instead, keep their interests and abilities in mind when mixing up your next batch of travel. Sort of like chili, each spice makes somebody happy.

assorted-color of houses near lake


The book, Blue Mind by Wallace Nichols, is all about the psychology of interacting with water. It turns out that water simply makes us all happy. As a result, it is an essential ingredient to any travel. Now, now, don’t get skeptical! We’re not saying that it is essential to pack your bikini for any successful trip! Instead, think about all the ways you can include water into your trip like:

  • Taking a short boat ride on a lake
  • Going kayaking
  • Dropping a fishing line
  • Enjoying a canal cruise
  • Eating in a coastal restaurant
  • Transitioning to a new location on a ferry
  • and, yes, going to the beach!


Just as water calms the soul, animals warm the heart. Adding in an animal encounter of any kind can be a way for everyone to reset their patience and temper as you spend so much quality time together.

woman riding horse
  • Going horseback riding
  • Visiting a conservation focused zoo even when it’s not the marquee event
  • Attending a sheep dog demonstration
  • Learning about sled dogs while holding one of the puppies
  • Trying your hand at falconry
  • Focusing part of your travel on a eco-conscious animal experience like an elephant sanctuary
  • Having tea at a cat cafe


Like it or not, there is no escaping that some sense of adventure contributes to lifelong memories and deep connections to destinations. In fact, I would feel comfortable saying that getting a little out of your comfort zone may be just the sense of pride you or anyone you are traveling with. Adventure does not mean that there is a need to push yourself to the limit Amazing Race style. It does mean trying things like:

a man riding a zip line through a forest
  • Plunging in and going white water rafting
  • Renting a bike to explore the city, the beach or the countryside
  • Going over the edge and zip lining
  • Aiming high and experiencing a pristine hot air balloon ride
  • Setting your sites on a serious goal like climbing and hiking
  • Investigating the very cool sport of canyoning
  • Joining in the fun of a scavenger hunt
  • White knuckling the twists and turns of a roller coaster


It’s great to eat local foods but it’s REALLY great to experience food. Now, don’t get nervous. We are not saying that there is a need to eat snails or scorpions. But we are saying that food is so much more than fuel especially as we travel. Food is and always will be a bridge between people. Strangers will smile at each other when they both know that the cup of coffee they are drinking is one of the best they have ever had. Families will share and converse over which pastry to buy from the patisserie. Foodtivities are essential to connecting. Think about:

  • Going on a foodie walking tour
  • Taking a cooking class to learn how to make the regional dumpling
  • Attending a class to be the next great baker
  • Finding your way to a farm that hosts travelers
  • Dining at an experience restaurant
  • Buying candy at the local convenience store
  • Gathering the supplies and enjoying a picnic in a local park

The secret is in the seasoning.

There are two essential ingredients that may quickly get overlooked but warrant a serious amount of consideration. Ready? Culture and a home base.

Culture? Yes! We know, we know it’s the whole reason that you are traveling. However, it’s so obvious that sometimes we miss the art, music, and ambiance that we’ve traveled so far to see. Culture isn’t in the icons, it’s around the corner from them. It’s in the artwork, it’s heard in the music and swayed to during dance. It lives on the stage and weaves through the food proudly set on a table. Mostly, it lives within the hearts of the locals and how happy they are that you are interested in their world. Do not forget to season every plan with culture.

Pragmatically, a home base is a great way to settle into the rhythms of a destination. Choose a local coffee shop to stop into every morning. Take an evening stroll in the same park each afternoon. Enjoy the same sunset each night. The choices are endless and they usually lead to connections that last.

Lastly, here are a few quick garnishes to make your trip plate look its best.

  • Rick Steves always mentions that it’s important to “plan like you are going to return”. In other words, don’t feel like you’ve got to jam in every last venue. We are so guilty of this one!
  • Research, read and research more. Then ensure you have the proper reservations taken care of before you leave. More and more, popular sites are not offering “day of” reservations. This is true for The Anne Frank House, The Vatican Scavi, and much more.
  • Document your senses to remember the moment. Sometimes we see so well that we forget to use our other senses. How did the wind feel on your face at the top of the mountain? What did the train station sound like in New York City? What did you smell in the market square in Poland? How did the patisserie taste in the cafe in Paris? Round out your memories.