We put together a little cheat sheet for you folks who are attempting your first international trip. These little hints are the sum of all our knowledge from visiting a couple dozen different counties on 5 continents. These are the things that we wish we would have known, but were painful lessons learned out on the road.
1)Roll with it
Ok, this is your first trip abroad. You happen to be the type A, planner type. Take a chill pill! Regardless of how planned you are, things are going to be different than you expect. Roads don’t exist that are clearly on the map! This is a really good thing. Experiencing another culture, another language, and another environment makes you a better person. You can understand and cope with differences better after your return. You become more deep as a human being. Just to recap, things are going to be crazy. A lot of things are going to come at you fast. Savor every moment!
2)Speak the Language
If you are a loyal 1000 Fighter, you know that we always harp on this. It is so critical in order to really get to know a new country, you must, must, must know some of the language. You by no means need to be fluent. Its better if you are not. You do need to know enough to engage in a small conversation without relying on your native tongue. Our goal is always to know enough to chat up a taxi driver for 10 mins. Know how to talk about the weather. You don’t need to conjugate every verb, you need to know how to ask a kid their name, and how old they are.
3)Just Try It
This little nugget of advice applies on so many levels. Lets start with the food. As you departing on your first international trip, you are going to see menus that look Greek even if you are in China! When you walk into the food establishment, glance around, pick out something that looks interesting and give it a try. Why not? (If your are in Cusco, Peru- give the guineu pig a try!) You have never been on balloon flights UK? Follow rule number 3. Just try it! The beauty of experience days is stepping outside your comfort zone.
4)Ask a Lot of Questions
Luci is a real pro at this. It is her reporter background. Regardless if we are on a plane, in a museum, taking a nature tour, or just in a cab, she is always pumping anyone that will listen for information. Why? Frankly, you don’t know what you don’t know. There may be another bigger unknown waterfall just around the corner. There may be a cheaper place to buy your souvenirs just down the road. The taxi driver might have a brother that runs a better tour. All of these things have happened to us. Only because we asked.
Traveling internationally, trust your gut. One of our fave couple travel bloggers: Y Travel Blog recently did a post on safety tips for single female travelers, in this article Caz says: “Trust your intuition. It always knows best. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. There is a reason why you get that unsettled feeling in your stomach when you meet that strange person on the beach. Don’t freak yourself out by imaginary monsters, but definitely pay attention to those little messages our animal instincts give us.”
If you are in a place that doesn’t fell right, leave. Common sense kinda stuff. We must say, be careful of situations where your instincts are dulled: “see drinking too much barley pop.”
We give you permission to forget every other one of our hints in this post, please don’t forget this one. This is the most powerful hint to traveling abroad. The smile is the universal language. Attempt to speak Turkish, compliment them on their beautiful country and then grin ear to ear. Your feeble attempts at communication will be supplanted with the power of the smile. If you are struggling figuring out the exchange rate and what all of the multi-colored monopoly money means…flash a big toothy grin. No problems. Smile at everyone. Give the little children you pass on the street a warm smile, the old man in the chair in front of his flat a big one as well. The returns from this small gesture will pay huge dividends.
The old boy scout motto applies to international travel. If you are going to the Amazon, buy some medical evacuation coverage. If you are going to Tahiti and you only wear a certain sun tan lotion, bring it. Think through things on a couple of levels. Put your money in a couple different places. Another couple of our travel friends, Cam and Nicole have a great story about this! “How I got robbed by a Thai prostitute on the streets of Bangkok.” Cam shared this story with us when we were up in Vancouver, BC this summer. We are still laughing. The moral of the story is always be prepared!
It is soooo tempting when traveling abroad to do what everyone else is doing. But didn’t your mom warn you about doing this? If not, we are! Don’t go on a tourist bender. If you are prepared, and follow the other tips above, wander out of the norm. See the undiscovered sites. Are they still out there you ask? YOU BET THEY ARE. Will you get lost? We sure hope so. Some of our best moments traveling are when we get lost. Be a leader, not a follower.
9) Show me the Money
Every place you go, you are going to need rupees, pounds, yens, or coconuts…Be prepared. Exchange some cash at the airport. Have a couple different flavors of credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, and something else. Anywhere you go, money will flow. Have some. The law of travel we have found that is that ATMs are never close, and they are finicky. Having cards from different banks is literally a lifesaver.
We really hate to put this one in. How can we preach something we don’t practice? Mike is the all time worst packer. He packs a ton. He is a child of the 1980s so he has to match the seasons, with clothes for every event, restaurant, and setting. Don’t follow his example! Here’s why it is so critical that you follow this suggestion. Luggage is heavy. On every single international trip we have taken, we have ended up walking long, long distances with luggage. It WILL happen to you. If you pack heavy, you will be tired. Good decisions are rarely made when tired. Especially if you are traveling as a couple. You can always buy more clothes when you get there. In fact, this is a really good idea.