How to open new worlds: break your travel rules


A lot of us have travel rules — little edicts about where we will go, what we need to be happy, what’s a deal breaker for us when we’re planning a trip. A friend of mine loves beach vacations — but the beach has to be powdery, white sand. No brown sand, no pebbles, no black volcanic sand: those just wouldn’t do.

You probably have some rules of your own, and in a way they’re a good thing. They help you develop a personal travel style, one that lets you get the most out of the trips you take. But in another way, they can be bad, keeping you from seeing a big part of the world because it doesn’t meet one of your must-have conditions.

So as good as your rules are at giving you memorable travels, breaking them from time to time can be just as good – and sometimes even better, as I learned a few years ago.

For a long time, I planned my travels around one cardinal rule: never go anywhere that’s colder than where you already are. So each winter, when the Canadian winter descended on Toronto, my home town, I started looking for a destination where the palm trees swayed and the monkeys played. And for a decade or more, most of my travels centred around Mexico, Central and South America, and now and then the Caribbean.

And it worked pretty well for me – until the year I found out I could cruise to the Antarctic for a reasonable price. The lure of watching icebergs and penguins at the bottom of the world outweighed the fact that, in mid-January, I was going somewhere that required winter clothes, even if it was mid-summer there.

So I went, and I loved it, even if I had to wear a ski jacket to stand on deck and photograph the stark but beautiful Antarctic landscapes (you can see some of them in this post). Somehow, it even added to the thrill of the voyage, like a testament to how far we’d travelled off the usual tourist map.

A couple of years later, I broke the rules again, signing up for a Mediterranean cruise in late November. I started the trip with a few days in Vienna. My first morning there, I looked out the window to see snow falling. Well, I asked for it …

To be honest, I spent most of my time in Vienna looking for points of interest that let me get in out of the cold. But I still enjoyed it, even strolling the outdoor Christmas markets and drinking in the festive atmosphere. And my visit to Bruges, Belgium was one of the highlights of the trip, even though it was real winter weather (though not quite Canadian winter weather).

I broke my number one travel rule, and I’m glad I did. It brought me to parts of the world I would never have seen otherwise, and added a whole list of exciting places to my wish list for the years to come. I still love to head south when the cold winds blow, but now I’m open to other choices, too – though I’m still not visiting Alberta in February to see what minus 35 feels like.

So if I can break my travel rules, maybe you can too. If you’re been going to the same places, staying in the same four- or five-star resorts, doing the same beach getaways or guided tours, maybe it’s time to forget about one or two of your rules and do something different.

It may feel odd at first, but I’m betting in a day or two you’ll get used to it, and the new experiences you have will turn out to be well worth veering off the well-beaten path. You may even develop a few new tastes – and begin to wonder why you had those rules in the first place.

The bottom line is: try something different next time you travel. You could see new things, and have new experiences — and that’s what real travel is about.


About Author

Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.


  1. I find it’s just best not to have any solid rules. I was with someone the other day who said, “I’ll never by those hippie pants. They look stupid.” The next thing I knew, he was wearing a pair himself! Of course I made fun of him a bit. Never say never!

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