How To Have A Life-Changing Adventure On A Budget
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How To Have A Life-Changing Adventure On A Budget

Inspiring natural wonders, rich culture and life-changing, ambition-fuelling experiences—there’s nothing better than getting outside your everyday by stepping off a plane in a new country for the first time. Right now, Asia is at the top of our travel list for all sights, sounds and tastes the stunning, diverse continent offers. And in fact, the vacation of your dreams has never been easier, because Cathay Pacific Airways is helping turn it into a reality, with an offer code just for you. But first, some expert advice from an interior stylist who’s crafted a career based off her passion for travel.

CallingMegan Mortona seasoned traveller is like calling Serena Williams a seasoned tennis player; it’s an understatement that belies a depth of experience and instinct that draws a sharp distinction from your standard case of wanderlust.

A world-renowned interior stylist whose work has been featured on the covers ofElle Decoration UKandVanity Fair, Morton is also the founder ofThe Schoolin Sydney, Australia, where she offers classes and workshops on subjects such as “the science of styling,” screen printing, natural dyeing techniques, and “extreme knitting.”

It’s a breadth of knowledge acquired over many years traveling the globe for her career, and it’s an expertise she’s eager to share with others. In addition to classes at The School, Morton offers intimate excursions to cities around the world, during which she guides a handful of women through an itinerary of shopping, culinary, and crafting experiences that would be all but impossible to put together on your own, no matter how hard you Google.

That’s because Morton is obsessed with finding the most immersive, authentic experiences by a tried and true method that has nothing to do with Yelp, Instagram hashtags, or any other internet tool: She arrives in a new place and proceeds to shape her experience by having real conversations with real people who live there.

“Everyone thinks they’re a traveler because they’re on Instagram,” she says, “but real traveling’s got nothing to do with technology, or paperwork, or a printed trail, or ‘I’ve paid this person to curate my trip.’ It’s really all about people. A really great trip is made even more beautiful when you have a really wonderful time with other humans who you did not plan to meet on the way.”

“Real traveling’s got nothing to do with technology, or paperwork, or a printed trail, or ‘I’ve paid this person to curate my trip.’ It’s really all about people.”

Over the course of the next year Morton and her excursionees will head out on trips to Kenya, Tokyo, Paris and India (and there are still spots open for a wide range of trips), but in the instance that you’re not able to jet off to Tokyo with an ikebana and Japanese ribbon enthusiast lighting the way, fear not: Morton has some super clutch—and economical—travel tips to share so that your dream trip to Bali isn’t a carbon copy of everyone else’s.

Experiences over things (but also, things)

As a stylist, Morton of course knows a thing or two about shopping, and high-end shopping at that. But over the course of her travels, the notion that you’re not simply buyingthingsbut the narrative of things has really stuck with her: “Shopping is easy with currency,” she says, “but experiencing and seeing how something is made and brought to market is a very different thing.”

Whether it’s picking roses in Pushkar, India, alongside women artisans who then turn the stems into incense and the petals into oil, or you’re handing your taxi driver in Bali a laminated piece of paper with the name of an office supply store because they have the most amazing, inexpensive locally made paper goods (a can’t-miss excursion for Morton every time she visits, while her friends and family are at the beach club or a beach bar), Morton stresses the importance of truly connecting your experience with the things you’re choosing to spend money on. Not only does it prevent you from wasting money on things you’ll stop caring about pretty much as soon as you’re back home, but it puts the important question of consumer ethics front and center.

“Once you know a little bit about that stuff, you can’t stop knowing about it. Your systems and your values start to just tighten up a little bit,” she says. By eschewing places whose prices have been inflated by years or even decades or centuries of mainstream tourism, you’re not only coming away with an unforgettable experience, but you have a deeper understanding of what you’re paying for and why.

The art of the “travel triangle”

Morton isn’t here to talk you out of wanting to see the Great Wall on your trip to China. But she does caution against stacking your itinerary exclusively with the big, marquee sights because A) it’s exhausting and B) the potential for disappointment because of jacked-up pricing and overcrowding runs high.

“Everyone’s there bucket-listing it with their selfie sticks, and you’re like, ‘Oh, hang on, I thought this was going to be amazing and life was going to change after this. But I still feel the same and here I am with all the other tourists.’”

“Get your top six things that you want to see in that place, and then get your highlighter and just really think about two of them.”

Instead, she recommends doing a little pre-trip editing: “Get your top six things that you want to see in that place, and then get your highlighter and just really think about two of them. Just think about the two,” she says, “and then build two things around those two things. I call it like a little traveling triangle. At the top, you’ve got the bucket list item. And then to the left and to the right, you have your base. If you’re disappointed by your bucket list item, you’ve got these other two things before or after it that bookend that you can really look forward to.”

As for what those two other things should be and how you can find them: “This is where the humanness comes in. You go on to somebody on a train, or somebody who looks like they could be your friend, and you say ‘Hey, I’m Megan from Sydney. I’ve got three days [here]. You guys look like you’ve had a fantastic time. Is there anywhere that you can recommend?’ And that’s how you find that stuff that doesn’t ever get tagged [on Instagram].”

She encourages travelers to think about the way they communicate their own experiences in real life versus on social media: “What you say on the street to somebody is really different from what you’ll say on an Instagram post,” she says, so capitalizing on the candidness that comes from human conversation is key.

She cautions that the risk of having a trip that feels more like work than play is largely of our own making: “Don’t feel like you’re doing too many obligatory things. Life’s hard enough. Can we just have five perfect days?”

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