Around the World Travel Advice: The little things are often the most memorable

Feb 24, 2014

Whenever I talk about my past travels, people love to hear about the places I’ve been and what I saw. They ask questions like, “did you see the Eiffel Tower?” or “did you get a chance to see the Great Barrier Reef?” Their minds gravitate towards the big icons of those foreign lands and the typical things you might see on a post card like moths to a lamp. They ask what it was like to see those iconic sites, where I stayed the night, and if I would go back. I usually respond with the expected rave review, “oh yes, the Eiffel Tower was amazing to see” or “yes, the reef is incredible and the waters were fantastic.” The responses are accurate but boring. To me, the real interesting stuff is often the most overlooked. It’s the sand that fills in the cracks between the larger things. I remember those experiences most vividly and when given the opportunity, recall them with the most passion.

It’s funny how those little things become the most appreciated. At the time you are doing them, you hardly find them extraordinary or remarkable in any way. It’s only after some time has passed that you recall them fondly with an aching desire to relive them. One such example is the time I visited Bonaire, a diver’s paradise. If you asked me about my fondest memory, you would probably expect to hear about some incredible dive location or interesting marine life I saw. Sure, there were plenty of those but the part of the trip that stands out most in my mind is my first day, even before I had a seen anything.

I arrived at my hostel at 4:00am, well before the front desk opened or any guests stirred in the common area. I was weary from traveling and just starting to doze off in a plastic chair stationed in the lobby when I heard voices in the staff kitchen around 4:30am. I didn’t really want to go to sleep so I decided to poke around in search of some coffee. I wandered through the kitchen area where the staff was chatting in Portuguese and prepping for breakfast. When they noticed me, they stopped and stared blankly for a moment before I broke the silence by saying “café?” One of the girls wearing an apron walked over to a table and filled a cup. She handed it to me, turned, and walked away. Almost immediately the group continued chattering. I smiled, gave a slight nod and walked out. Back in the lobby I could feel a warm breeze as it was open and airy so I decided to wait outside and pulled the plastic chair out front. The streets were dark and quiet and the breeze slowly rattled the palm leaves. I spent the next hour sitting there drinking my coffee while the birds awoke and the light of dawn brightened everything around me. Slowly, the streets came to life and I just sat there, taking it all in.


If someone asked me about the best or most memorable part of that trip, answering that it was the first morning when I arrived early and sipped coffee in a crappy plastic chair on the sidewalk facing the street, would probably leave them thinking that Bonaire has nothing to offer. You’d want to hear about the diving, the “Dutch meets Caribbean” ambiance or the clear and warm turquoise waters.

Another great example is my time in London. I had just gone to see the Crown Jewels and stopped at a small pub on my way back to my hostel for a beer and some chips. It was a Friday afternoon and it was an uncharacteristically warm and sunny day. Similar to the last story, I wasn’t doing anything remarkable; I was just sitting in the shade enjoying a beer at a table watching the world buzz around me. I couldn’t tell you much about the sites I saw that day or my thoughts on them because they were interesting to see, but that’s all I did… I saw them. I can however, tell you that I was drinking a beer flavored with orange peel and the glass was tall with scratches on it. I can also tell you that at 4:00pm it seemed as if everyone had left work at the same time and the streets were filled with the clacking of men and women walking on cobbled streets in dress shoes on their way to their favorite pub for a pint or two.


It’s amazing how these seemingly insignificant moments stand out in my mind. They usually involve me doing something I might do at home but in a new and interesting setting. I suspect those memories are the most vivid because the tastes, the smells, the sites and the sounds all come together in mind to form a lasting impression of the entire scene. Why these become my favorite moments however, is sometimes a mystery to me. Perhaps they are familiar and easy to digest or maybe they are the ones that are the most personal and therefore have the most value to me.

When I travel now, I try to recognize these moments and savor them without interfering. I’ve tried to recreate past experiences in hopes of capturing the magic again but it seldom has the same impact. They stand out the most when you don’t expect them. Unfortunately, when you’re in the throes of having those unexpected experiences and making the memories of them, you are oblivious to their existence. As it turns out, they are not manufactured, they just happen on their own. If you are lucky enough to recognize the moments when they are happening, try not to give them much thought and instead, just let them run their own course and you’ll get to relive them in your mind later.

If you have a small or unexpected memorable moment that you’d like to share, please post it in the comments below. I’d love to hear some genuine experiences that you didn’t intend and were the highlight of your trip.






Written by Teague O’Connell
Teague is a Workforce Management / Operational Leadership expert and PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer with a passion for travel, adventure and the magnificent journey that is, life.

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