Seasoned travelers & newbies alike all make mistakes when venturing abroad – it’s inevitable really, but that’s where the fun begins!
Most lessons learned while traveling are learned the hard way. It takes getting your camera stolen after a month-long, impossible to re-create adventure to ensure that you never again forget to back up your photos onto a computer. I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 things I wish I knew before I set out on the road.
Here they are, enjoy!
Don’t be afraid to travel solo
Traveling solo is a rush. What happens? You’re going to get to know yourself better than you ever have before, and that’s a good thing. Travel is all about breaking patterns, stretching boundaries, and learning that you’re a lot more capable than you may have thought. While you may be warned against going it alone (especially if you’re female), as long as you take precautions to stay safe, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have in your lifetime.
Pick your long term travel partners carefully
There’s nothing better than sharing an adventure with another person – when it goes well it can be fantastic, but when it goes wrong…the experience of a mid-trip blowout can sour a friendship long after you’ve returned home. Ask yourself, are you both night-owls who love to party or is one of you a tea-totaling museum buff who’s out the door every morning at 7am sharp? Identify the potential red-flags and address them before you head off on a 3 month trip together. Communication is key to avoiding meltdowns and if you find someone you can travel with 24/7 – hold onto them forever, they are worth their weight (or more!) in gold.
Learn to Meditate
This is one thing I really wish I figured out earlier. Traveling brings on plenty of situations where you’re well outside your comfort zone, often faced with unexpected roadblocks and a general feeling of uncertainty for the future. Taking a minute (or ten) out of your day, to calm the mind, bring your focus back to what’s really important will give you an advantage when things get stressful.
Keep your mind open
Things on the road can feel as foreign as visiting an alien planet. We’re talking food, language, traditions, clothing – pretty much everything that makes up day to day life may be totally different in another country. While it can be disconcerting (and sometimes straight-up embarrassing) when you’re the only one who has no idea what’s going on at dinner, I promise that if you keep an open mind things will start to make sense eventually. Enjoy the ride, don’t be afraid to look foolish and you’ll be glad you did!
Always have a backup plan
Keep copies of your important documents, periodically upload your photos onto a cloud server, and keep more than one bank card in different spots (or hide your cash in separate compartments). You never know what’s going to happen next and minimizing your risk of losing the things you need the most can make a huge difference in the time you’ll have to spend getting your life back on track if you get into trouble.
Less is more
Pack smart! Remember, you need to bring your stuff with you everywhere. It took me ages to master the art of packing – in the past I would bring a giant suitcase full of all the things I thought I needed, only to wear my favorite pair of jeans and a roster of t-shirts, leaving the majority of my suitcase untouched when I arrived back at home. Pick clothes that are versatile, comfortable, and that you LOVE wearing. Then leave the rest at home.
Learn the language (even just please & thank you!)
You’ll be surprised where a simple please and thank you in the native tongue will get you. I’m not saying go out and study every language if you’re only going to be there for a few days, but there’s truly no excuse not to quickly Google and practice some key phrases you can open a conversation with. People will genuinely appreciate the effort and you’ll more than likely be welcomed with warm hospitality by the locals.
Locals know whats up
Getting the inside recommendations from a local can be the difference between an average trip and an AMAZING one. Locals know when and where to get the best deals, avoid tourist traps and secret tips you won’t find anywhere else. Ask around to friends to see if they know anyone at your destination, or online there are also many options for meeting up and sharing tips. It’s always nice to offer a meal or even just a drink in exchange for their time and company.
See the famous sights, but get off the beaten path
There’s certain things you just need to see – when you’re in Egypt, you see the pyramids, when you’re in Paris, you see the Eiffel Tour, or when you’re in Sydney, you see the Opera House…take a look, grab a photo and then be sure to keep exploring! Most major cities have much, much, more to offer than just their well-known landmarks. It’s more than likely that a day spent wandering around a quirky local neighborhood will be more fun than staying near the usually overpriced and busy tourist areas.
Get an early start
Mornings are the ideal time to get out a explore! Sure, it can be hard after a late night but if you plan ahead you can get your sightseeing done in the day before you hit the club. If you want to see popular tourist spots, trust me, you want to get there early to avoid crowds and midday heat! If you’re a photographer, mornings offer great lighting and less people around to ruin your shot 😉
Keep your memories!
Write them down, snap some photos, it doesn’t matter how, but trust me, when you arrive home you’ll have plenty of material to entertain your friends and family at the dinner table, and years down the road you can look back and remember details you would have long forgotten otherwise. If you’re going to write, it’s best to do it when the experience is fresh in your mind. I personally keep a paper journal and write in it whenever I have a second (waiting for a plane, bus journey, or before bed) but it’s up to you – get creative!
These are the top things I’ve learned throughout my travels and hope they can be useful to you too!
What are your top travel tips? Let me know in the comments!