Deep Travel: The Secret to Feeling Happier on the Road

Travel is a state of mind.

You know that feeling—the still point in between all the movement and chaos of travel, when you look around and you're knocked out by the beauty of the world around you?

The moment when you're driving through a mountain range across the world, or watching the sun set over the lake in your hometown, and you feel your heart fall into tune with your surroundings? It's a moment when everything drops away, and the purpose of life feels crystal clear and simpler than ever.

For many of us, that feeling is the reason why we travel. Sure, the photographs are great souvenirs—but we travel for the experience.

Some writers have called this feeling "deep travel." According to former New Yorker staff writer Tony Hiss, deep travel is a "feeling of interconnectedness and heightened experience." It's "an exhilarating state of mind that travel can evoke, when everything seems suddenly fresh, vivid, intensely interesting, and memorable."

Of course, it doesn't always work out that way. It's easy to get wrapped up in logistics, to get discouraged when something goes wrong, or to get overwhelmed by pressure to have an incredible vacation.

Fortunately, there are ways to maximize the amount of deep travel experiences that you have, and here's a spoiler: It starts from within.

How to Access the Deep Travel State...

1. Give yourself time

So often, tourists try to cram too many destinations into a single trip. This is incredibly tempting, as there are so many beautiful places to see and most of us have limited vacation time—but really, what are you going to get from speeding between Venice, Rome, Napoli, and Florence in four days other than blisters on your feet and an awful headache? You'd be much better off spending the time soaking in the magic of Firenze. A good rule of thumb for travel in general is to spend at least two full days (or three nights) in any city or location.

If you think back to the times that you've felt electrified, breathtaken, or otherwise moved by a travel experience, you might realize that these experiences don't always happen when you think they will. An expensive beach resort, a wild safari, or a twelve-hour bus tour can create a deep travel experience, but it's more likely that you'll find what you're looking for by traveling slowly.

Image via Lottoland

2. Meet locals

In order to fully immerse yourself in a place, you'll want to avoid the most touristy attractions. The best way to do this is to meet the locals.

If you want to go all-in, you can live with a local through a program like Couchsurfing or Workaway. Couchsurfing is just for accommodations, but Workaway involves doing four to five hours of work for your host each day in exchange for room and board. It's one of the best ways to get close to locals and other travelers quickly, while also traveling cheaply.

Of course, you can also just visit local haunts and start talking to people—or you can enroll in a class, attend a festival, or take part in another experience that will allow you to really get to know the people living there.

Image via The Telegraph

3. Leave things open to chance

Getting lost is one of the absolute best ways to experience deep travel. Especially in the era of WiFi and smartphones, you're not really in danger of being totally stranded (just make sure you check the time of the last bus).

Instead of trying to check off the best destinations, try opening yourself up to fate. Always favor experiences over destinations, ask locals where they think you should go, put on your best walking shoes, and let yourself wander.

When wandering, try to really drink in the sights of the world around you. The gardens hidden between buildings, the old man and his wife lingering beside the river, the accordion player in the subway station—they're what will bring you to that state of peace and connection that defines deep travel.

Image via Artstation

4. Do some research

While you should always be open to chance, it's never a bad idea to do some research and planning before setting sail. First and foremost, you should definitely check bus and train times and book your hostel or hotel in advance; that way you won't have to stress about these things while on the road.

Try bringing along some literature by writers who lived in the area, or carry around a research or fun-fact guide. Having some knowledge of a place's history, culture, and language can only help you deepen your connection to wherever you are—so grab some Lorca while in Spain, or De Beauvoir in Paris, and let your mind wander alongside your body. In general, you should prioritize destinations that align with your interests. Spend time chasing the ghosts of your favorite artists around New York. See the local sports team play. Whatever floats your boat, it's always worth customizing your trip based on your own preferences rather than blindly following in the footsteps of the crowds.

Image via As Told By Ash and Shelbs

5. Don't spend that much money

This is a win-win rule to live by while traveling. While you don't want to deprive yourself, sometimes you can actually enhance your travel experience by sticking to the free or cheap stuff. Typically, the most touristy of attractions can be the most expensive, while gems will be hiding in plain sight.

Instead of picking places or attractions because of their value, pick destinations based on reviews and local recommendations. Instead of favoring expensive meals every night, try out the local dive—or cook pasta with other hostel occupants. Instead of flying from place to place, try out a long train ride, and watch the countryside pass by.

Don't feel like your whole trip is ruined if you skip out on a place because the admission fee was too high. Instead, prioritize experiences over checklists, and memories over souvenirs.

Image via My Belize Blog

6. Don't expect everything to go well

If you set out on the road expecting everything to go exactly as planned, you're going to be disappointed. Accept it now: Your bus will be late. Your hostel will be loud. The food will be disappointing, the attraction sold out. That's all part of the journey. Crying in a hostel bed is part of traveling. Buying the wrong train ticket or falling asleep and missing your stop is, you guessed it—part of traveling.

You can and should plan for mistakes—always leave a few extra hours to get anywhere, and buy museum tickets in advance—but regardless, things will always go wrong while you're traveling. You might see unexpected sights; you might have to sleep in a train station; you might wind up spending the night in a city you've never heard of. You'll wind up in transit and waiting in lines far longer than you planned.

If you can find a way to treat all of this like part of the trip, not like a hindrance, you'll find that you'll be far more open to deep travel experiences than if you'd been meticulously counting your wins and losses.

Image via Western Financial Group

7. Travel alone

Traveling alone gives you time to think and to get to know yourself. It allows you to follow your own rhythms, to create your own path, and to see what you really want to see. It also makes it easier to meet people, and to make impulsive decisions about where to go next.

One of the most rewarding parts of travel is the strangers you meet on the road, the brief bonds or sunrise conversations with people you've never met before and will never see again—and especially when traveling alone, you'll find it's shockingly easy to talk to people, even if you're introverted. Plus, when you're not constantly chattering with a companion from home, you can actually soak in the place that you are, and you can allow new experiences to expand your mind and even change your life.

Of course, traveling alone comes with its own baggage and safety concerns, but it's generally a great excuse to totally escape, to try on new personas, and to embrace your surroundings on a deeper level.

Image via So Tov

Ultimately, deep travel is about opening your mind to new surroundings. It's about allowing yourself to appreciate the beautiful world you live in, and the body that allows you to experience all its salt and wind and sound. It's what pushes us to keep adventuring into the unknown. It's about paying attention to the inner dimensions of your travel experience, rather than just the exterior aspects. If you do it right, it can make all the difference.

As anyone who's been on a family vacation that erupted into fights at the hotel bar knows, any trip can be utter misery if you're in the wrong state of mind. But with deep travel skills in your arsenal, any destination can be a paradise.

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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!


So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—

Workaway Workaway

Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).


You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway

Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker