Many young adults in university are often asked what they want to do after graduation. A common answer most of the time is to travel before they must settle down. For a lot of people, making sure they have the best experience on their trip is revolved around how they budget and plan. From my traveling experiences myself and asking my friends Alyssa and Sarah, we’ve easily found that these aren’t the most important things. Luckily for you, I was able to put together what I thought were the most valuable lessons my friends and I learned from our travels that we wished we would have known before, so you don’t have to do it the hard way and learn yourself.
1. Take Time to Learn the Language and Culture
No matter where you go even just learning how to say hello or things like please and thank you can change how you are seen and treated by locals. Learning a couple words can give you advantages in a lot of situations. Lucky for us there are many free apps that work without wi-fi that you can carry with you. One of my favorites is DuoLingo. Or as Sarah says, “download google translate, don’t let language barrier scare you! They make for such great stories and a way to expericnce a different culture!”. There is nothing worse than trying to ask for help from someone who doesn’t understand you and that you don’t understand and making yourself frustrated. Going along with language, if you pick up or hear about cultural cues certain places may have, don’t be afraid to use them and show that you have respect for their culture or country while you are there. You are their guest and more people are likely to help you and if they notice you are being respectful.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Talk to Locals
Going hand in hand with downloading an app or trying to learn some of the language, locals know more about the place you’re in than the internet does. When you are in a new of different place, locals will end up being your best friends. Most the time you will learn about the best restaurants or the most satisfying things to do in that specific area when you ask the people who live there for suggestions. Touristy things are fun to do and partake in, but don’t plan your whole trip around them. Take time to find things that will be the most enjoyable to you and your experience in a new and exciting place. Having your own unique experiences in a place that others may not have had the chance to have will make your trip so much more valuable to you.
3. Be Open to Change
Even if you plan everything out, the chances of you having a perfect trip is unrealistic. If you plan your whole trip out ahead of time, it may end up closing a lot of opportunities you could have had. Some of the greatest experiences that come from traveling are those that weren’t meant to happen and are spontaneous without prior planning. When asking my friend Alyssa about her travels and a piece of advice she wanted to share was to “be okay with disappointment. Just because you’ve always wanted to go somewhere and just because everyone else goes somewhere doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. Some of the best memories are ones that no one else has.”
4. Hostels are Your Friends
When you’re traveling, alone or with people don’t be scared to stay in hostels. Hostels get a bad reputation for being dirty or sketchy, but sometimes they can be nicer than some hotels in certain places and it’s a great way to meet people. People who are staying in hostels are usually by themselves traveling and are always looking to make new friends. Not to mention being able to have a connection with someone they usually have valuable stories to share and recommendations on things to do and not do while you are visiting place, which can be very helpful to you in the future. Not only are hostels usually extremely inexpensive, but they even may provide meals when you are staying which can help you save money to use for other things on your trip.
5. Pack Light and Pack Smart
Being an over packer myself, it took me a couple tries until I finally realized I don’t need to have a different outfit every day. When you look back on your trip you won’t think about the outfits you had, but you will remember your experience. Don’t forget that you can buy things as you go, and laundromats exist in a lot of different countries. You also don’t have to lug around a huge suitcase everywhere you go. Less is always more when traveling. Try not to take your passport or wallet with you anywhere unless you really need it, and if you do need it make sure its in an extremely safe place. Alyssa likes to use pre-paid cards whenever she goes places so if it does get stolen, its not all her money in one place. All banks have access to give you these and its easier to load money onto a temporary card then must cancel every card you brought with you that may have been stolen or misplaced.
6. Don’t be Afraid to Travel Alone
Traveling alone allows you to do the things that you want to do. When you are with a group or friends you are more likely to do things that you don’t find interesting or may feel like you are wasting part of your trip. Even if you are with your friends Alyssa says “if you really want to do something, but no one wants to go with you don’t sacrifice that for something else or cop out and stay in. Being alone gives you time to relax and reset which is hard to do if you’re constantly around people”. Use your time on your trip the way it will be most beneficial to you and that you will get the best experience for yourself. Wherever your travels take you, always make it something enjoyable for yourself and use it as a learning opportunity to grow as a person. If you need time alone and are traveling with friends, take that time for yourself! From the words of my friend Sarah, “The imperfections, the shortcomings, they’re the best part of travel. Traveling puts you in tough situations that help you grow, put you out of your comfort zone and push you to be creative. Things go wrong and things go great, and it all makes for an overall phenomenal experience and something to look back on”.
Thank you to my friends Alyssa and Sarah for sharing their experiences with me! Follow their travels and Instagram’s here!