Before I left on what turned out to be a 7 month trip across Europe, I spent a lot of time procrastinating and curbing my anxiety by reading travel advice. Now that I’m back (briefly), I’ve had a chance to reflect on some of what I learned and wanted to share it with others preparing for their own solo trips.
Below is a collection of travel tips for my future, forgetting self. These are things I try to live by—many (if not most) of which I learned the hard way first while traveling.
Hope it’s helpful!
You can also see a gear list from the beginning of my trip as well as what was still my pack by the end of my Euro trip on my blog at: http://www.alasdairplambeck.com/packinglist2016/
- Never keep cash in your pocket. It won’t stay there very long.
- Avoid ATMs and restaurants in city centers and around tourist attractions.
- Get a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees.
- Get a debit card that doesn’t charge ATM fees.
- Keep backup cards for both in a separate place in case you lose your wallet.
- Always have a plan for how you’ll get out of a major transit hub (bus station, railway, airport). The local cab driver’s plan is likely to be very expensive.
- Always know the exchange rate ahead of time.
- You don’t need to carry shower soap with you.
- The best thing you will ever pack are earplugs and an eye mask.
- Have a designated place for everything you pack and always put things away.
- Never put anything down on the seat of a car. Not even for “just a second.”
- If you aren’t using something you packed, give it away. Many things you don’t need will be exotic to locals or useful for other travelers.
- Handwritten thank you cards are the best gifts. Sweets, chocolate, and wine will also do the trick.
- It’s amazing how much you can see and do when you aren’t hungover.
- Sometimes the hangover is worth it.
- Default to yes in new situations but don’t be afraid to say no when you need to.
- Always carry a book, Kindle or a device with Audible with you for the countless hours of in between time.
- You don’t need to be facebook friends with everyone you meet. Being friends in the moment is enough.
- Unless it’s your wine, don’t pour it.
- If you feel lonely or overstimulated, change your plans. You have control.
- When you feel lonely, write to someone. You’ll feel less lonely and it’ll be nice when you hear back from them.
- If you feel really lonely call someone as soon as possible.
- Send postcards often. It’s like shooting off little love missiles from all over the world.
- Go easy on the planning. Most things are easy to find out when you get there.
- If you stay at a hostel with a bar attached to it don’t expect to get much sleep.
- Travel is no excuse to not be reading. Keep feeding your mind.
- Be patient. Sometimes the long route is the best one.
- You don’t have to see or do anything that’s on someone else’s top ten list. By simply being present where you are you will see and do plenty.
- Knowing how to say “hello”, “thank you” and “cheers” in the local language will get you by in 90% of situations.
- A notebook and pen will get you by in the other 10% of situations. Turns out travel includes a lot of awkward games of Pictionary.
- Making an effort to use just one word (even incorrectly) in someone’s native tongue can change the dynamics of a conversation and an entire relationship.
- Don’t forget to smile. It’s the fastest way to communicate your intentions.
- Be nice. Everyone is doing the best they can.
- Don’t take it personal. You never know exactly what others are going through —it’s probably more than you think.
- Always know the visa requirements BEFORE entering a country.
- Trust people. Like you, they generally want to help.
- If you don’t know, ask. Curiosity is usually well received. Ignorance isn’t.
- If someone has made your experience special take the time to let them know. They will appreciate it.
- If someone has made your experience special take the time to let others know. Everyone will benefit.
- Generosity isn’t infinite. Pass it forward.
- Ask for help when you need it. Being “self-sufficient” is a myth.
- Leave things better than you found them whenever you have the chance.
And Most Importantly…
- You are an ambassador for your country. Work for peace.
“Written by Alasdair Plambeck. Originally published at www.alasdairplambeck.com.”