People ask me all the time for travel advice.
Whether it’s helping to plan a trip for a family member or friend, talking about expat life, working with ESL teachers who are getting ready to embark on their first teaching adventure abroad, or simply answering emails from travelers who find me here, there is always one recurring question that I’m asked time and time again.
What travel advice do you offer to first-time travelers?
The answer to that question really depends on the type of travel you’re doing. Solo travel, couples travel, long travel, and travel with a purpose all come with their own sets of rules.
Here’s a list of things that I’ve learned over the past decade that have helped a lot in our travels around the world.
Once you’ve carried a heavy and overloaded backpack for a few hours, you’ll know what I mean. If you’re not sure how much you can carry, pack your pack before you leave and then carry it around for a day. You’ll have your answer by the end of the day.
Take your time and travel slow.
If you need a vacation from your vacation, you’re doing it wrong. When you travel slow, you take the time to engage in more authentic cultural experiences.
Say yes. Just do it.
It might not work out the way you expect it to, but whether it’s good or bad, it’s something to remember.
Be foot-loose and fancy free.
Just because you have an itinerary doesn’t mean you should follow it to the letter. Be flexible and concentrate on enjoying the moment . You don’t need to rush to start the next one.
Take advantage of your social network.
Capture the moment, but don’t over capture it.
In other words, take photos, but don’t spend the entire experience behind the lens. You’ll miss out on the most rewarding moments.
Shop and eat local.
I love eating out and I love eating locally. Whether it’s street food, a new local restaurant to try, a market, or buying goodies at the local grocery store, don’t pass up the chance to enjoy local food.
Listen to a local.
Skip the guidebook advice and ask someone local where the best seafood is or where the best live music venue can be found. You won’t regret it.
Don’t leave until you’re ready to move on.
John and I once spent a month on a beach in Thailand, just for the sheer pleasure of being beach bums. Lots of travelers adhere to a strict schedule or itinerary, but sometimes it’s nice, and right, to just let loose and go where life takes you. For us, it was a little beach bungalow and two shaded hammocks. I’ve never regretted staying on longer in a place I adore.
Plan your wardrobe in advance.
Lay everything that you want to take with you and spread it out on your bed. Then take half of it away. What’s left is what should be packed, so choose wisely
Buy good shoes.
Spread your cash around.
Your ATM won’t work and you’ll be without cash at least once during your travels. Stash some of your cash on your person or in your baggage somewhere so you don’t get caught.
Learn some key phrases.
People will respect and appreciate your attempt to speak the local language.
Don’t forget to smile.
A smile will get you everywhere.
Do it now.
What’s the point in waiting? Travel can be enjoyed at any stage in life, so when your feet get itchy, go with it and don’t look back.
What tips for first-time travelers would you offer to make travel more enjoyable and more meaningful?