When I started this series on my Top Travel Moments, it was because I have found that people ask many of the same questions about traveling and it was my attempt to pre-emptively answer those questions. I answered the most common question (“what is your favorite country you visited?”) last month, but realized I have done little to answer other questions we receive.
What I have noticed in the past 5 months of giving presentations all around the U.S. is that many people ask about travel tips and advice I would give to people who want to travel.
Now, I know this is a loaded question, and much of it depends on each individual person, but in this, the final installment of my Top Travel Moments, I’ll do my best to answer this question and provide my best travel tips and advice for future travelers (and, yes, I realize my unwanted advice isn’t really a “moment” per se, but I get to break my own rules).
Note: the most common sub-question with travel tips and advice is how to pay for traveling, and there is no magic bullet here – you need to save money like crazy for a long time, then be willing to spend all that hard earned money on traveling.
So, in no particular order, here are my best pieces of travel tips and unwanted advice to folks looking to travel internationally:
Move slowly. I wrote about this as one of my first posts, over a year ago, and it still holds true. I know it won’t work for everyone, but my best experiences have been when Kim and I slowed down and stayed in places for long periods of time.
Be polite to everyone you meet. You are in a foreign country and it’s nearly impossible to understand the subtleties and intricacies of other cultures. I have found it best to be polite to everyone I meet, because I never know how much is lost in translation. Remember: you are a guest in their country, so it’s your job to adjust to where you are, not the other way around.
Carry packing cubes. This is the one must-have item for any traveler. Digging through your bag will drive you bat-shit crazy after a while, and these little wonder-cubes will save your sanity (and your time!) when you are looking for your last clean pair of undies.
Do some research before you visit a place, but don’t overdo it. One of the most sure-fire ways to ruin your experience is to read everything you can about the place you are visiting. I’ve found that this can, in some ways, make it feel like you have already been there and make it feel like there is not much left to discover. Let your experience and knowledge of a place come more organically by asking questions to people while you are there.
On a related point, lower your expectations. Another great way to ruin your experience somewhere is to place expectations on it before you arrive. You might expect a place to be beautiful, amazing, mind-blowing, etc. due to what you’ve heard about it, only to arrive and have it not be what you thought it would be. Only a handful of places in this world can live up to what we create in our heads, so it’s best to go into places open-minded and with no expectations – then we can only be pleasantly surprised.
Be curious. I don’t really know how to instill curiosity in people, but once I do, I’ll let you know how to do it. But for now, just be as curious as you can be about the places you visit.
Indulge yourself every now and then. Yes, budget hostels and eating pasta every night are great ways to extend your budget, but you should indulge yourself every now and then by paying for the nice room or enjoying a fancy meal from time to time. The longer I am homeless, the more I realize how important these occasional indulgences are.
Related point: money is important, but it’s not the most important thing. Money is a large part of the equation that makes traveling possible, but if you concentrate too much on spending as little as possible, you’ll be limiting the experiences you’ll have. Remember: you can always make more money, but you can’t make more time to experience something.
There is no stupid question. People like being asked questions about themselves and where they live and, more often than not, will be happy to take the time to answer your questions. Sometimes it’s awkward and uncomfortable, but you’ll learn so much more about places by just simply asking.
Do it. Whatever you are planning, be it travelling, starting your own business, or whatever, do it. Take the leap. You don’t want to look back in 30 years and regret not giving your dreams a chance. I know it’s clichéd, but one of the most important lessons I have learned in the past 6 years is that living without regrets is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
So that’s it, those are my best travel tips and unwanted advice I can give to people, but I know that’s not everything. What have you learned from traveling that you would like to pass along to others? I’d love to read your travel tips and advice in the comments below.