When I decided to go traveling, I jumped straight into the deep end and scheduled a two month trip around the United States- by myself. I’d never been to another country or travelled alone, but I have a wanderer’s heart and after growing up in relatively small city, I was desperate to see the world. The two months I spent flying, walking and wandering around the US were some of the most memorable months of my life, and even though I had a schedule, my favourite memories are the ones that occurred on a whim. Here are 6 things to remember when you travel so out get the most out of the experience.
1. Dream big
I know it sounds strange, but when you’ve travelled for 24 hours, are stressed about money and have gotten lost, it is easy to dismiss the opportunities that are right in front of you. Make the decision that you won’t waste a moment of your journey. If you want to go and see something, go and do it. If you dream of finding a small, reclusive café that no one has ever heard of- don’t give up until you find it. You never know if you’re going to return to this place, so decide what you want and go get it.
2. Have an open mind
You are going to enjoy your travels far more if you accept the fact that things are going to be different. You are stepping into a culture (even in other western countries) that has its own set of norms and practices. People will think differently, act differently and speak differently. Food will look different and you will feel different. Have an open mind and allow yourself to learn from these experiences. Difference is all part of the adventure- embrace it.
3. Make new friends
You don’t have to Contiki or party to make friends. One of the best parts of my trip was meeting friends of friends, visiting people’s homes and going to random churches. People will often gravitate towards you because you are a foreigner, so don’t be afraid to make conversation with them. In my experience (even as an introvert), the people you meet will make the place.
4. Stay safe
Let’s be real, you need to stay safe when you travel, but you don’t want it to take away from the experience. As a solo 21 year-old, I had to alter my plans to minimise traveling alone after dark, I kept my cash and ID close, and I pre planned transport as best as I could. Research your destination and find out what is culturally acceptable. See if there is any suspicious food or drink you should be aware of, and find out the areas you should not travel in alone, or where you need to take extra caution. Safety doesn’t have to impede on your fun and it helps you to enjoy the experience a whole lot more in the long term!
5. Plan well
As a details-person, I had pre-planned nearly every part of my trip. I had an itinerary, budget, prearranged transport and accommodation. While you don’t have to be as particular, planning the major things in advance gives you the mobility to use your time and energy on the fun things. You can always deviate from a plan or itinerary, but it’s nice to know you have a warm bed to sleep in at night rather than dashing round at the last minute and finding everything booked out.
6. Create your own adventure
Some of my most memorable experiences when traveling occurred on a whim: a friend’s suggestion to go hiking; the invitation to eat real Mexican food; my determination to explore Philly despite the bucketing rain; navigating the monster that is public transport to get to Venice and Santa Monica. Plan your days, but leave room for wandering. Spend time with others, but also spend time alone- let the culture permeate your heart. Follow your gut, because the best adventures are unexpected.