Travel, much like life, is a constant learning curve. Of all the lessons world travel has taught me, developing the ability to be flexible and understanding are two of the most important. I’ve acquired a particular set of skills in my time on the road, but looking back on a previous version of myself, there were so many things that I came to discover on my own, and I’m appreciative for it.
Here are 14 Things No One Told Me Before I Began Traveling The World.
Bubble Trouble: In the west, we generally maintain a level of distance in the majority of our day to day encounters. This distance, is also known as a personal bubble. The funny thing about the personal bubble, is that it doesn’t exist in many countries. That’s part of being a traveler. You’d better learn to deal with it.
Cash Is King: Cash is easy to carry and accepted everywhere. Carry a healthy amount of cold hard, clean crisp cash. You can always exchange the cash if you return home with surplus and it makes budgeting simple. However, do your best to keep it concealed and on your person as often as possible and never announce the amount of money you have. You can also store it in a safe or a locker if you can get them locked.
Tip: Carry a dummy wallet full of useless cards and old paper in case you get robbed. Put your actual wallet somewhere different.
Credit Check: Credit cards are indispensable on any trip, especially in the age of technology. Always ask for the customer’s copy of the receipt. Check your online statement every few days to make sure no suspicious activity has transpired on your card. It’s not a bad idea to have an extra credit card with a much lower limit in case of an emergency. Also, depending on who you bank with, let ‘em know that you’ll be out of town. Banks are known to freeze credit cards when transactions that seem out of character pop up.
Currency Exchange: Most people don’t care for walking around with a pocket full of receipts. They’ll just end up in the garbage anyway, right? Sort of. Unless you need them for tax purposes, the least you can do is put them in the garbage when you’ve returned home. Why? Airport officials may or may not ask you for your currency exchange receipts. It would suck if you missed your flight because you were being detained and interrogated, wouldn’t it?
Crazy Cabbies: In a perfect world, all cabbies would know the ins and outs of their cities like the back of their hands. But they don’t. If you’re traveling to a country and don’t speak the language, make sure you have directions and/or the address of your accommodation in the local language. I usually look up a rough estimate of how long it will take as well. Also, don’t be shy to negotiate for a better price if you take an unmetered cab. In some cultures, haggling is a good thing. But once you’ve reached an agreement, both you and your driver are expected to keep your word.
Tip: If you think you’re being ripped off, threaten to call the police. But do this at your own risk. Police can either be on your side or entirely against you. Maybe they have an agreement with the cabbies. Maybe they dislike foreigners. Maybe they just don’t care. Read your chauffeur’s reaction when you mention the police, he/she will either stick to their guns or lay off and give you a better price.
Gestures And Symbolism: Part of why we travel is to discover other cultures. With that in mind, it’s probably not a great idea to knowingly or unknowingly impose your customs on a foreign place. Be very careful when you point, touch, tap, stare. As a rule of thumb, don’t touch people in any way that seems even mildly inappropriate unless you’re certain it won’t be offensive. Spitting (never sexy), yelling, chewing gum and many other actions that are no problem in the western world can land you in jail in other countries. Proceed with caution.
Government: It’s never a bright idea to say anything disrespectful about the government of another country, no matter how terrible of a job they seem to be doing. You never know who you’re speaking to or what their political ideologies are. It’s better to keep your opinions on this matter to yourself as much as possible.
Home Is Everywhere: Although no location can ever truly replace your initial home, it’s easy to make yourself comfortable in an entirely foreign place. It’s about your mindset. If you’re open to new experiences and people, you’ll find yourself fitting right in and feeling right at home anywhere you go.
Love At First Flight: Whether it’s with a place, a person, a kind of food, a feeling or something else, travel will have you all the way in your feelings. It’s inevitable really. And you know what? It’ll probably be your favourite part.
No Means No: In Rome, while at the train station heading back to the airport, I was escorted to the train tracks (less than 20 yards away) because I “seemed lost.” After the two guardian angels guided me to the train tracks, they asked me for a tip, you know, for all of their assistance. I flatly refused on the premise that I didn’t need or ask for their help. The brawnier of the two took a step forward and insisted I tip them, I took off my backpack and calmly told him that I would not. The two then walked away. The moral of the story is, be cordial but firm in your dealings with strangers in foreign lands. You don’t have to pay for any unofficial service from anyone. You can if you’d like to, but you are in no way obligated.
Post Trip Depression Is Real: This applies to different types of travelers to varying degrees, but that doesn’t make it any less real. When you’re back at home, in a setting that is all too familiar with nothing but your emotions and memories, it eventually sets in. That one of a kind trip is over and it’s time to get back to “reality.” This is the time to hang out with like-minded people. Shake off the blues by exploring your own city and planning future travel. It’ll do you a world of good.
Taxi Services: Taxis are as different as the countries they belong to. Research whether or not the airport you’re arriving at has a reputable taxi service. While you’re at it, look into what the most affordable and convenient way out of the airport is. If you do opt for a taxi, it may or may not be beneficial to stray a little further from the airport for the drivers that don’t charge an airport fee. I personally try to avoid taxis because I find it easier and more fun to learn a city on foot or via public transit. It’s usually much cheaper too. If you have any doubts, cough up the cash for a proper taxi and get to your destination safely. You don’t want to start your trip off on a sour note.
Up In Smoke: Smoking is kind of a big deal in other parts of the world. The West has made strides to reduce its impact. But other countries are a little slower to follow suit, this means you may find yourself in an establishment full of cigarette smokers. If that’s the case, ask for a non-smoking section or go elsewhere.
Visa: Probably one of my top 5 least favourite things about traveling. They can at times be time consuming, expensive, have wait times and every country requiring a visa has their own process. They also take up entire passport pages. The experience you’ll have can be different from one country to the next, try to be prepared, and relax when handling visa situations. The rest will fall into place. But be certain to look it up ahead of your arrival.
What have you learned throughout your travels? Did any of the lessons above apply to you? Leave an intelligent response below! I’d love to hear from you.
Until the next time,