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What I Wish I Knew Before Travelling Abroad

Travelling abroad is one of the most exciting activities the world has to offer us. I mean, who doesn’t love to see new places and experience new cultures? Although travelling is one of the greatest things, there are also many sketchy and worrisome things you may encounter, especially if you’re female. 

When I freshly turned eighteen and graduated high school the first thing I did was hop on a plane to Europe. I had waited my whole life to be of legal age so that I could travel wherever I wanted to go. Prior to my Europe trip, I had never been out of the country without one of my parents. So, travelling to Europe without them was a big deal. Luckily, I was able to convince my older sister to accompany me on this journey because honestly I probably would have gotten myself killed if I had gone alone. 

Although my sister and I survived the trip, there were many dumb decisions that easily could have been avoided. So, here is everything I wish I knew before travelling abroad alone. 

I don’t know about you, but I find myself often thinking that every person on this earth has your best intentions in mind. At eighteen, I was very naive and had a mentality that nothing bad could happen to me. But as we all know, bad things can happen to anyone, yet there are ways for us to limit their prevalence. 

First, my biggest piece of advice to any girl who is travelling solo or to anyone is never trust anyone abroad. Honestly, there are way more sketchy people out in the world than you’d think. When you’re in a foreign country there is a sense of vulnerability that you inhabit and you become a prime target for anything and everything.

Practicing your best caution skills is the way to go.

But, what do I mean by this?

When I say you shouldn’t trust anyone when you’re travelling, I mean everyone. Every person on this planet has their own motives and the only person’s motives you can fully understand or trust are your own. I know it seems like a lot of fun to get drunk with some random local man that you met in Spain, but things can easily turn wrong, especially in cases where there is a significant language barrier. Nothing super extreme happened to me, but I was put into a really awkward situation that makes me feel a little icky about when I think about it nowadays. 

All the power to you if you’re up for a wild time, but I value playing it safe. I think playing it safe when it comes to locals that know the area and people around is overall the best route to go because of the power and vulnerability dynamics at play. You never know who you’re really talking to, so it’s better to avoid going to new places with new people. General rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t do something in your home country, you probably shouldn’t do it abroad.

Of course there are plenty of locals that are great people and are helpful when you’re lost. But, to keep you as safe as possible I really suggest getting a good phone plan. This way you honestly don’t need to interact with anyone randomly and have a lifeline in case of any issues.

Second, never buy anything from someone on the street and don’t even stop to look. When you’re in super touristy areas like the Eiffel Tower, there are so many people selling random souvenirs and these people hustle very dominantly. These street vendors make it so difficult for you to say no and I hate being rude, so I feel bad. My inability to say no cost me something like thirty euros and all I got was five keychains. 

In addition, if you’re at a train or metro station, do not talk to anyone who approaches you. In Europe, plenty of scam artists like to prey on tourists and take advantage of their inability to understand the ticket machines. Some man almost scammed my mom out of two hundred euros! 

A tip I have to not have any interactions with them is to pretend that you do not speak whatever languages they speak. If they think you don’t understand them, they won’t try to sell you anything. Plus, who needs to know that you aren’t from Russia? No one of course!

Third, this may not be a popular opinion or the most responsible tip, but spend your money on vacation! You’re there to have fun and you probably already budgeted your trip anyways, so don’t be afraid to spend your money. Everyone warns you about being frugal and how expensive everything is, but being scared to spend money on a random activity or food item can really affect your memory of the trip and have you regretting it for years to come.

I missed out on getting churros every night in Spain because I was too afraid to waste my money. That is one of my biggest regrets! Of course, you probably shouldn't be dropping large amounts of money on random things, but getting that dessert won’t kill your wallet.

Who knows when we will be able to travel like we used to again! But, at least know you know some of the things I wish I knew before I travelled abroad for the first time. 

Kiara is an International Studies major concentrating in International Security and Conflict with a minor in Labour Studies at Simon Fraser University.
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