I suppose if I were to label myself with one word to describe who I’ve become in my young adult life “traveler” would be it. Over the past few years my feet have landed on 4 different continents, my toes have touched the shores of 3 different oceans, my tongue has stumbled over the twist and turns of 2 new languages. Still the classification of “traveler” feels awkward to me. Often times people come to me seeking advice or ideas to which I usually am at a loss to give. Perhaps it’s because I don’t think I am by any means an expert at travel. Over time, I think I’ve come to realize that probably no one else in the world is either. Every experience is different. Everyone experiences things differently. Traveling entails having no idea what you are doing and doing it anyway. It is to be humbled over and over again by this world. That being said, while I urge you to embrace any adventure travel has in store for you, I have come up with 5 things to keep in mind on your journey.
Trust your instinct
If there was ever a time take this over-used cliched saying seriously it’s when you’re traveling. When you’re in a new place that you don’t understand, logic and research will only get you so far. Your instinct is the most valuable thing you have. The thing about travelling is it forces you to trust yourself. To take care of yourself. To take control of your life and get you in and out of situations and the only way to do that is by listening to what the innermost part of you is saying, and trusting it.
Live it up to the fullest
There’s no time like the present. Another cliched saying, but seriously when you’re traveling there really is no time like the present. You may never again be where you are right now. So seize every opportunity. Every time you can do something, do something. Go to bed late and still wake up to watch the sun rise. Live off of happiness and caffeine for a while. Who knows when you’ll get the chance to go hiking in the Fiordlands of New Zealand or wander the streets of Florence or explore the rice fields in Bali. Do it. Do it all. You can sleep on the plane.
Use your money wisely
Which brings me to my next point. I’m all for cheap travel. I live for cheap travel. But the trick about cheap travel is knowing what to spend your money on. Don’t let expensive plane tickets hold you back from places where you can travel and stay very cheaply*. Nothing about traveling when you’re young is supposed to glamorous. This means living off beans and rice. This means sleeping on a suspicious bunk bed next to ten other people in a suspicious room. It means taking buses for Lord knows how long to get to the next destination because it’s the cheapest option. Expect these things. Appreciate them. They are all part of your adventure.
*Just make sure you have enough money to get back home.
Use every contact you can possibly find
Even if it’s your Mom’s-college roommate’s-nephew’s-wife find her, listen to her advice. If they live/ have lived in the place you are visiting they will be more valuable to you than any guide book could ever be. Don’t shy away from this opportunity because you think it will be awkward or an inconvenience to them. In my experience people embrace the chance to help someone out and to share with them the place they love. Embrace this chance to make new friends and get a different perspective on your destination than that of a tourist. Who knows, these connections you make could lead to a cheap scuba diving deal in Hawaii, or a free place to crash while traveling Western Australia, or even a sweet bartending job on the beaches of Costa Rica. A big part of what makes traveling so special is the people you meet along the way, people that will change your life, people who will always hold a place in your heart. You just have to let them.
This is probably the most important piece of advice you must always always keep in mind. This is not your home. This is not your culture. You are a guest and on your travels you should always act this way. Be respectful. Wherever you are it is not your place to attempt to enlighten, save or appropriate any culture anywhere. This is the time to listen and learn. Be friendly and open but remember that you come from a place where it is your privilege to be able to come and travel to these far off lands. If you follow any piece of advice on here, please follow this one. It’s more than about being safe or savvy it’s about being a decent human being and appreciating all the world has to offer you.
There is no right way travel, there is no secret formula to a successful trip. No correct amount of preparation can prepare you for diving into the completely unknown. You will have moments where you will be so overcome with wonder and amazement you can hardly believe that this is in fact real life. The will be times when you will be so overcome with stress and confusion you will, again, hardly believe this is in fact real life. As long you are safe, these are all signs that you are doing something right. Travel is full of extremes. It is meant to push you, and stretch you, and take you beyond what you thought you were capable of. So let it. Embrace the adventure. You will learn a lot about the earth and a lot about other people but mostly you will learn a lot about yourself.