You’ll often hear “act like you’ve been there before” from high school sports coaches or grumpy armchair quarterbacks as an admonishment for over-enthusiastic celebrations on the part of a young player. Although I don’t suggest you break out into a well-choreographed dance routine after touching down in Europe, this simple piece of advice can also help you change how you think about planning and then experiencing your trip. Do you ever feel like you have to plan every minute of your trip, are just checking sights off a list or don’t get to meet locals when you travel? Let me show you how how acting like you’ve been there before can change your travel mindset for the better.
You Don’t Micro-Manage
If you’ve never been to Europe, or even if you’ve been several times, it can be easy to over-plan—to fill every available minute with an activity to do or sight to see. However, micro-managing your time can quickly lead to travel fatigue, a feeling of exhaustion and boredom that can take over even the most amazing of experiences.
If you control every aspect of your trip, it will quickly start feeling as if you are completing tasks, not taking a vacation or going on an adventure.
Instead, act like you’ve been there before. If you had actually been to Munich before, you wouldn’t feel the need to see every cathedral or visit every beer hall, and instead you would focus on just the one or two that are worth seeing again and then devote a lot of time to thoroughly enjoy those sights and experiences.
The trick with acting like you’ve been there before is that it helps you plan a more enjoyable trip by helping you avoid the urge to micro-manage your time. Use the “act like I’ve been there before” mantra to remind yourself that quantity and quality are two different things. Rushing to partially experience five sights is going to be a less rewarding experience than seeing one or two sights thoroughly while leaving some time every day for serendipity to give you a new experience that you couldn’t have planned for.
You Enjoy the Moment
Even when you plan your day with just one or two great experiences, it’s easy to get into the checklist mentality—to be thinking about the amazing thing you are going to see, eat or feel next, and to forget where you are. Don’t miss out on the Mona Lisa because you are thinking about the Eiffel Tower.
To get out of the checklist mentality and into the moment, just act like you’ve been to the next sight, experience or meal before. You’ve been to your town’s best museum, restaurant or sports arena before. So even though you will be excited about going again, it won’t dominate your day. You can harness that feeling of familiarity to help you enjoy the moment you are experiencing.
Just tell yourself, “soon I will be eating, seeing or experiencing something special, but I’ve been there before, and right now I’m experiencing something else special.” By acting like you’ve been there before you will be able to ignore that future opportunity and focus on the current one.
You Meet People
Meeting people can be the highlight of your trip. Even short interactions with locals can be rewarding, but for many people it can also be little frightening. Striking up a conversation with a stranger or just asking for directions might make you uncomfortable at first, but if you act like you’ve been there before, that little moment will quickly pass.
Don’t worry that the person you are going to talk to might react negatively. I’ve found that almost everyone wants to show their hometown or home country in a good light to foreigners. The shop owner, the bus driver, the person sitting on the bench next to you, anyone might be the person that puts a little spark into your trip.
All you need to have is an open and calm attitude, an attitude that says, “I’ve been here before.” It’s a little like faking it until you make it. You only have to pretend that you strike up conversations in restaurants or on ski slopes the first few times you try it. Then suddenly you’ll find that it’s something you do well, and the conversations that come out of it are great.
You’ve Been There Before
If you use this little mental trick you will be able to plan a better trip and then more thoroughly enjoy that trip. Relax. You don’t have to have something to do for every spare minute. Stay in the moment. You don’t have to worry about getting to the next sight, just enjoy the one you are at. Smile. You don’t have to fear talking with strangers, take it as an opportunity to learn about the culture. Soon it won’t be an act, you really will have been there before. Lets get traveling.