After my first trip, it was like I an addict getting their first hit. I was addicted. I constantly looked for the next place, the next ocean, next volcano to book. Though I’ve only been to 11 countries (not many when compared to true travel connoisseurs), some days I feel well traveled and can be travel guide to the United Nations, and then I travel to another corner of the world and realize how much more I need to learn. For those of you who are preparing to take that first “hit” of travel, I have prepared this post to shed some light on the few things that I have learned on my travels.
Benjamin Franklin said it best, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Vacations can be quiet expensive and the last thing you want is to return home, more stressed than when you left home. When planning a trip overseas Google should be come your best friend. Take some time to learn common phrases in the local language. Being able to say “where”, “thank you”, and “good morning”, can actually take you a long way. Local are often impressed by the fact that you made an attempt at connecting with them by learning these common phrases.
Be cultural aware
- Familiarize yourself with the local language, money and culture. It is important for you to know a little of what is appropriate behavior for sex, age and even race. For European countries like France, where nude beaches are as common as Starbucks in New York, the cultural concepts such as nudity is quite different when compared to a middle eastern country such as Dubai.
- I learned this lesson the hard way. Always bring a jacket. No matter what your encyclopedia says about local climate, bring a sweater or even jacket will be a smart idea. No matter the destination, somewhere along the way, you will wish you had a jacket. The airplane AC on the plane may prevent you from catching up on some sleep, the temperature may drop unexpectedly. During my recent trip to Dubai I was surprised to learn just how cold it can become at night. It was borderline freezing! (Then I remembered 6th grade earth science, deserts are hot during the days average 100F and can drop at night to an average of 25F) Also, you may decide to take a tour of holy sites such as churches and temples, and for that, you’ll need something to cover your shoulders in order to be allowed in.
- Traveling is one of the most memorable experiences of your life, but memory is often fleeting. Capture your travel experiences in a journal or blog, Video. Photos. Letters. Postcards. Anything! so you go back and revisit them throughout the years. Looking back I wish I took more videos/pics of my earlier travels.
Have the proper documentations!
- Before even booking your trip, take a look at your passport. Make sure your passport is valid and not going to expire at least 6 months after your scheduled return. If you’re planning to visit a country that requires a visa such as Cuba or India, add that to your travel budget and get your Visa in advance. Certain countries may even require vaccinations that are not necessary here in the US. Check with your doctor, and make sure you’re caught up on our routine vaccines, as well as those of the country you plan to visit.
- When I first started traveling, I would actually drag around two suitcases, no matter how long the trip is. One for shoes and one for clothes (yeah, I know). Like everything else in life, leave your baggage at the door (well not literally). An oversized suitcase (or suitcases in my case) may seem necessary to hold everything you need, until you realize, that’s you don’t need it. Pack smart. When packing bring things that can be worn or used in multiple ways, and do not take up too much space. A scarf can be worn as a head wrap, used as a light blanket or a pillow cover. Pack several times. Each time removing non-essentials, until you’re left with only what is absolutely necessary. Depending on where you’re headed, chances are if you forget or run out of something you’ll be able to replace it.
Some of the essentials: Jackets, Scarf/blanket, Earplugs, Charger, Camera and lots of cash as you may not have access to an ATM.
Be prepared to be an ambassador of where you’re from
- Like it or not, you may find yourself representing your home. No matter how hard you try to blend in the locals will be able to spot you a mile away. With that in my mind be somewhat prepared to entertain questions about politics, culture, money, fashion and even racism. During my trip to Dubai December 2016, all the question were concerning the recent presidential election. Depending on what they have been exposed to regarding American culture, some of the questions may surprise or even offend. On one little island in the Caribbean I was once asked “How many times have you been mugged”, once the locals found out that I was New Yorker. You don’t have to entertain every question, but keep in mind they want to learn you’re your culture as much as you want to learn about theirs
The fun part is up to you
- During my early trips, I had a list for everywhere I went of all the things I wanted to try and do. I did not complete all my tasks I will return home disappointed. Until I realized that I need to live in the moment. If I didn’t get to see a monument a wade in a river that was ok. My being preoccupied with my list I missed a lot of other wonderful experiences. Eventually, I realized that it was okay if I missed something, or ended my trip early, or extended it for longer, or spent the whole.
- Just go! You will never be know everything, but you will never get there until you leave.
- When in doubt, travel.