International travel is an incredibly rewarding experience in your twenties. Seeing the world, exploring and eating incredible food are one of the many benefits of spending time abroad. Whether you’re out of the country for a few days, a few months or a year, here are ten universal tips for making the most out of your multicultural experience.
A few days before your trip, lay out everything you think you’re going to need. Now throw half of it away (maybe not literally — the laundry basket will do). Make lists way in advance for what you need. While some people rely on Google spreadsheets, a handwritten list is sure to jog your memory. Pack as little as you can seeing as many hotels and hostels have laundry services. Multipurpose jackets are great for all types of conditions, so consider leaving your heavy fleece at home and opt for something lighter.
Use Guide Books
Guide books are an excellent resource for learning about what to expect from a new place, and new adventures you can look forward to! Rick Stevens, Lonely Planet, and Backpackers Guides have all the inside scoop for your big trip, so be sure to take a look. Many of these books also have money saving tips and tell you how to navigate public transportation, that way you can save a little extra cash!
Interact With the Locals
Want the true experience of a new country? Interact with the locals as much as you can. If you’re traveling internationally with a group of Americans, it can be easy to get stuck in a routine of only doing things together. While this is comfortable, it’s just not the full international experience! You could pick up on words in a new language, customs you hadn’t thought of before and even the best place to grab dinner. Until you form bonds with the people that live there, you’ll never fully immerse yourself in someone else’s culture.
Avoid Tourist Traps
Every major city has big and sprawling tourist traps. Not only are those not an authentic representation of your exciting new location, they can also be dangerous to visitors. Many pickpockets hide out in main shopping squares, looking for unsuspecting and unobservant tourists. Don’t let this be you!
Keep Your Passport Safe
The importance of keeping your passport safe cannot be overstated. If you’re out and about and need it, buy yourself a belt or under the shirt passport carrier. If pick pockets come for your bags and your passport is out of reach, you’ll save yourself a whole lot of trouble. If your hotel has a safe, consider leaving your passport there during the day instead of bringing it into big metropolis cities.
Eat the Local Cuisine
No matter how outlandish the foreign dish seems, you absolutely must try it. Whether the food is in your comfort zone, say if you’re on a vacation in Italy, or if you’re in completely unknown territory, trying the local cuisine provides an authentic experience. (If you’re in Scotland, sample some haggis! I totally recommend it.)
Don’t Party Too Much
For safety, financial and enjoyment reasons, avoid partying too much in a foreign city. Not only is this a good opportunity for bad people to pray on the vulnerable drunk, it’s also a sufficient way to get yourself lost in an unfamiliar city. I’ve had friends lose their wallets and phones because they were partying and lost track of them. Not only this, but who wants to be hungover while traveling?
Journal Your Experiences
Document everything you’ve learned, what you’re feeling and what your day has been like. Writing down important dates and memories are a great way to keep track of your exciting adventures, all while on the go! Got some time before your next flight or train ride? Whip out your journal and write what you did today and how you’re feeling. While detailing your day on Facebook might be easy (and it gives you bragging rights!) enjoy some quiet time to yourself and reflect. You’ll thank yourself later!
Take Pictures of Everything
I mean everything. Even if it seems inconsequential, or it interests you and you don’t know why, snap a photo of it. You’ll have oodles of memories to look back on later, and lots of time to relive your experiences once they conclude. Not only will photos of exotic lands look great on Instagram, you’ll have something concrete to enjoy forever.
Leap Outside Your Comfort Zone
Don’t just tiptoe to the edge of your comfort zone, jump out of it. Ever been skydiving, or want to take a day trip by yourself? No one’s stopping you! Enjoy some out of this world art museums, buy some street art or even rent a bike through a new city. You’re experiencing a whole new world. The best way to enjoy it is to try something that scares you every single day.