So far in my 21 years of life, I have been lucky enough to travel to a great amount of the world. From this, I have experienced some crazy lows and unforgettable highs during my times abroad, all of which have helped me develop a greater appreciation for not living out of a carry-on and being able to remember what Barcelona looks like at sunset. I have missed flights, stayed in some questionable hostels and eaten at wildly unique restaurants. All of these mishaps and successes have led to this list which will hopefully help you on your next trip abroad!
1. Learn some basic phrases in the country’s language
This piece of advice is extremely important to me right now as I am currently traveling throughout South East Asia and I mistakenly did not look up nearly enough phrases beforehand. Languages can be difficult to pick up, but being able to say thank you or please to someone goes a long way. In no way am I suggesting you get Rosetta Stone and attempt to speak fluently in every country you visit, but knowing some basic words will show your respect for the country. Also, realize before you leave that every country isn't going to have people who speak or understand English to help you find your way. Luckily, many countries have amazing forms of communication. However, for example, when I was in Zurich, Switzerland there were absolutely no English instructions at the train station and my friend and I went on about 15 different trains asking anyone if it was headed for the airport (which was definitely not the best way to do it).
2. Do more research than you think you need to
Going along with my last example in Zurich – that experience would have been so much less stressful if we had looked up what the train stops were in German and how to get to the airport. We could have been more aware of our surroundings if we had given ourselves extra preparation and knowledge of the transportation system. One of the main areas of research I have slacked in is how to get from the airport to the place I am staying. I usually think to myself I’ll just go with the flow, but it would be a lot more efficient if I figured out my route before arriving.
3. Try your best to pack light
You will hear this from everyone but it really is important to pack as lightly as possible. Carrying around a heavy bag is never enjoyable and ten out of ten times you only wear two-thirds of the clothing you packed. So, leave that fourth black crop top at home and have less back problems.
4. Create a budget
This is something I seriously struggle with. You’re going to be tempted to throw money around without a care in the world because you’re never going to be this young or in this country again; it is a once in a lifetime opportunity after all. You can indulge in all of these activities, restaurants and nights out of course, but try your best to establish some monetary boundaries. I have been guilty of bleeding through too much cash far too quickly. It will help you, in the long run, to map out your must-do activities so you are aware of how much you can allow yourself to spend.
5. Figure out cultural differences (like tipping)
Whenever you travel somewhere else in the world you are stepping into a whole new system with completely different cultural norms. Every country has their own way of functioning and it is crucial that you are aware of the significant dissimilarities. This is especially true in any country where the laws are stricter. But, on a less serious note, one of the most asked questions while traveling is: should we tip after a meal? This is something you might be completely unaware of if you don’t look into it before leaving. So, do your investigating and get ready to see what you will learn from these unique cultural experiences.
6. Use Airbnb
I have a serious love for Airbnb. It is a really affordable, dependable and comfortable way of traveling. You can find tons of great places with prices that are hard to beat. I have found apartments in better locations and price ranges than hostels in multiple cities. Everyone always tells you to book hostels, which isn’t bad - they’re great! However, definitely look into Airbnb before Hostel World because you could just as easily find a beautiful apartment where you don’t have to sleep with 11 other strangers (even though that can be super fun sometimes).
7. Ask locals for all of their recommendations
This is a fool-proof way of discovering the best-hidden restaurants, bars, and affordable excursions to go on. Typically, when traveling, people are always willing to help and are excited at the opportunity to show tourists their favorite places. It will also help you meet new people and possibly make new friends!
8. Go on pub crawls
In almost every city you travel to there will be some form of a pub crawl, which is one of the most fun ways to go out. If you are looking to experience the nightlife, this will grant you access to some of the best bars and clubs at a discounted price. It’s a guaranteed great night which will introduce you to the city and leave you with more friends and memories. You might even get to meet a Spanish Chad and Brad duo!
9. Try to use your phone less
One of the things I regret sometimes when traveling is being addicted to my phone when wifi pops up. Traveling is a time to escape and be independent from your life at home, so embrace that opportunity. Facetiming friends constantly or posting more than necessary keeps you sucked into an online world which disconnects you from the better-than-Instagram experience right in front of you.