How I Prepared to Travel Abroad

Over the past few years, I’ve traveled through a few countries in southeast Asia. On my first trip to Cambodia three years ago, I ended up packing way too many unnecessary things, and forgetting about some things that I ended up needing. My experiences visiting Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand taught me a lot about traveling light while also being prepared for things thrown your way.

Before the trip, make sure to talk with your physician about what vaccines they recommend. I ended up getting typhoid vaccines and also started a course of malaria pills. Also, make sure to get your visa in order before getting to the country because visa on arrival can sometimes be a hassle. Life is a lot easier if you travel with fewer clothes, so I’ve learned that it’s best to pack around three shirts, three pants, a light rain jacket, six pairs of underwear, six pairs of socks, a nice dress and a hat in order to be prepared for most things. It’s also really important to pack any prescription medication, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes, band-aids and antidiarrheal medicine/Tums. It’s also very very important to bring insect repellent. I recommend DEET wipes because they are easy to carry and not as messy as the spray. In terms of footwear, it’s important to have one comfy pair of tennis shoes and one pair of shower flip flops - I never needed anything other than that.

And although I packed toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo and soap on my first trip to southeast Asia, I soon realized that if you’re going to a big city, they have a lot of American brands of soap and shampoo in addition to toothbrushes and toothpaste. It might be more worth it to buy small bottles of soap or shampoo once you reach your destination than to travel with them. One item that I hadn’t thought of but I really wish I took on my first trip was a chocolate bar. I hadn’t realized how drowsy the heat and long walks would make me, and found that taking sweets on trips prevented the dizziness that low-blood sugar can sometimes cause. They have a rep for being unfashionable, but fanny packs are great for carrying money and your passport. I never experienced any pick-pocketing, but it’s good to be cautious and keep your most precious items within view.

Once in the country, make sure to avoid any foods that are not cooked, don’t drink beverages containing ice and don’t drink water out of the tap. Don’t even brush your teeth with tap water. Tap water in Southeast Asian countries can potentially be contaminated with bacteria that can make you really sick. If you’re shopping around in markets, make sure to bargain! The cost of living is low in most Asian countries, so even if you think you’re buying something that’s already cheap you could probably get it for an even lower price if you try bargaining.

Lastly, make sure you get out of your hotel or wherever you're staying and go meet people! I really regret keeping to myself in the beginning. When I finally started to go out and meet other people, I ended up making a lot of friends. I met a British girl in Cambodia three years ago who was working as an English teacher and bartender in Siem Reap. We ended up becoming best friends and traveling together. Traveling is a great way to make connections and meet amazing people.  

Photo Credits: Eleanor Ritzman