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Travel Tips

You learn a lot when you're traveling. Whether you're only a few hours' drive from home or halfway around the world, there are some truths that emerge. Here are some of the best tidbits that I've picked up in my experience so far:

  • Keep on moving. You may catch up with rest, but the most interesting things simply don't happen to you when you're sitting at home.
  • Don't be too ambitious. You don't need to bring so many clothes. And don't plan too many places into your itinerary. You'll want to stay in each city you're in. So why not stay longer? If anything, you'll save money.
  • And you're not going to be able to sightsee for 10 hours a day non-stop. Anticipate downtime.
  • The most priceless memories do not have to be pricey.
  • Use the resources you can find online. There are lots of good websites out there:
    • Search for flights with flexible dates on Skyscanner, and then use ITA's Matrix to hone the lowest price before booking with the airline itself. [Also, clear your cookies/cache, or use private browsing, because such sites can change the price if they see that you've been shopping around!]
    • To find a place to stay, use CouchSurfing, or search trivago for hotels.
    • Need a ride? If you're not available to hitchhike, get a rideshare via Craigslist (USA) or Mitfahrgelegenheit (Germany).
  • When confronted with something that's simply different, you will feel tempted to become angry. Don't. You need to question why you're becoming angry, and then accept that it's (usually) a part of the culture that you didn't understand. Shouting at someone is not going to change their culture.
  • Be inquisitive. If you don't ask, the answer will always be no.
  • There are many things you won't know. Don't be embarrassed. You'll be blown away by the things that people have done and what skills and talents they have. And they'd be more than happy to share those with you, so be an audience and connect with those around you.
  • The people you meet will inspire and energize you. After you travel enough, you will be the one inspiring people.
  • Be yourself. As much as you try to blend in with the locals, you will always feel at least slightly different. The more you act true to yourself instead of hiding your identity, the more you'll see that people are really interested in you and your own culture. This feels just as rewarding, if not more, than successfully "passing" as a local.
  • Social networks are extremely useful. Don't be afraid to get back in touch with someone you met a few years ago. They'd most likely be really happy to see you again!
  • Especially on extended trips, you will feel homesick at some point. Take it as an opportunity to think about why you're homesick. What parts of this country do you like and dislike? What things don't make sense to you (have you asked people to explain why things are they way they are)? Maybe call home and see how everything is. Put yourself in the other situation: If you were home right now, would you be having adventures as interesting?
  • Bad things will happen. Each time, you'll have to deal with it or learn to live with it. Don't carry it with you.
  • Have a backup plan. As fun as it is to live carelessly, you are still out there in the "real world" with all the "bad guys" that mommy warned you about. Know where a hostel is, in case your couchsurfing host is a no-show or gives you a bad vibe. Know the train schedules, in case you miss your bus. Carry some cash in different places. Have a couple credit cards, in case one is declined.
  • Do some research beforehand. Don't just hitchhike to a city you know absolutely nothing about. At the least, read through the wikitravel article, look up public transportation info, and browse through a couple city maps so you know where the airport, city center, landmarks, coast/river, and hostels are. Don't rely on your smartphone: It might not update or you might lose your charger.
  • Don't be afraid to take people up when they offer something. As nice as it is to continuously live independently, you can't do everything yourself. You'll meet people who offer to take you out to a place that only locals would know about, or they'll have access to a show, or they'll be going to a party that you'd never find out about. There are opportunities everywhere, you just have to open up and they'll all come to you!
  • When you return home, you'll go through the stages of culture shock all over again. Reverse culture shock can be worse than regular culture shock, because you don't expect it at all. After all, you're home. Everything should be back to normal for you. But that's the thing about journeying: What is "normal for you" changes, because you change. Everything at home will generally be the same, but you'll see everything in a different way. But don't be a jerk about it, don't continuously whine about how much better the trains were in Germany, how much more food there was in Singapore, or how gorgeous the beaches were in Costa Rica. Think that you're still traveling and will need to take some time to adjust to this new state of being. Unfortunately I don't know of any long-term cure for the travel bug (Wanderlust) besides planning your next adventure!