On this vacation, ask yourself: What would Nixon do? Beyoncé? Anthony Bourdain?

Eternal Spring Shrine area, Taroko National Park, Taiwan.
Eternal Spring Shrine area, Taroko National Park, Taiwan.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Greetings, graduates and refugees from the 9 to 5.

Your reservations might already be made. You may have already checked pressure on the tires and rigged up the roof rack.

But even now, with summer travel season taking wing, there’s still time to fundamentally change the nature of your coming adventure, by doing things differently or just thinking that way.

Consider these tips a traveler’s commencement address. I’ve distilled them from my own trips and many other people’s — but not Mark Twain’s and not Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” because we’ve been there and done that.


Embrace mystery

On June 21, 1940, Richard Nixon and Thelma “Pat” Ryan married at the Mission Inn in Riverside. Almost immediately thereafter, they started driving south, bound for Mexico City. They had $200 and a bunch of canned goods, so that they could avoid eating every meal in a restaurant.

But soon they realized their friends had played a little joke on them — by peeling the labels off their cans. So the Nixons spent two weeks rambling through Mexico and eating randomly, sometimes pork and beans for breakfast, sometimes grapefruit slices for dinner. Every meal, Richard Nixon wrote, “became a game of chance.”

Never mind what happened later. The Nixons did their honeymoon right.

Haeundae Beach, one of the most popular spots in Busan, South Korea, is about 1 mile long, with skys
Sunrise, Haeundae Beach, Busan, South Korea.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)


Meet people and hear stories

Then carry those stories to new people. You’ll be helping stitch together the world at a time when so many others are tearing at its seams.

Lavinia Spalding, author and editor for many years of the book series “The Best Women’s Travel Writing,” explained this idea best in this TEDx talk several years ago. Making us care about people we meet, she said, “is the seed of change.”

Expect beauty and good cheer — but not every minute

One of many wise things Anthony Bourdain said in “No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach,” was this: “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s OK.

“The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

Be sure your luggage is easy to spot

Elizabeth Taylor liked to travel with her perfume in a Louis Vuitton Train Case. In fact, she made sure that all her luggage was Louis Vuitton. And she marked each piece (or had one of her people mark each piece) with a purple tag that said “MINE!” (After her death, the cases sold at auction for $110,000.)

Zhuilu Old Road, Taroko National Park, Taiwan
Be brave, within reason. Taroko National Park, Taiwan
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Don’t be so afraid

In his closely studied text “The Art of War,” which has more applications for tourists than you might expect, the ancient Chinese philosopher-general Sun Tzu said: “Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.”

Every traveler makes waves, you included

This counsel comes from Arthur Frommer, who published “Europe on 5 Dollars a Day” in 1957 and is still dispensing handy (and sometimes ferocious) travel advice. For instance, given the number of disputes simmering worldwide over AirB&B’s effects on local housing markets, Frommer said, “If you arrange a short-term rental of an apartment in any city, you should avoid trouble by demanding proof that the owner of the apartment will remain in residence throughout your stay.”


Don’t be picky, especially if you’re going cheap

As Jack Kerouac has Ray Smith say in his novel “The Dharma Bums,” it’s “better to sleep in an uncomfortable bed free than sleep in a comfortable bed unfree.” (Elizabeth Taylor might have disagreed.)

Be sure you have the right stuff

As in electrical adaptors and plugs. Because as Beyoncé says, “Power is not given to you. You have to take it.”

Mark Twain hiked 11 miles to see Lake Tahoe for the first time in the early 1860s. He and a friend c
Looking south from northern shore, Lake Tahoe.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Follow Reynolds on Twitter: @MrCSReynolds

Get inspired to get away.

Explore California, the West and beyond with the weekly Escapes newsletter from travel editor Catharine Hamm.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.