Top 5 Tips To Become a Better International Traveler
Updated: Dec 6, 2019
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Whether you’ve never traveled outside your home country or you’re a full-time digital nomad, we could all be better international travelers.
Most of us want to blend in when we travel rather than stick out for all the wrong reasons. Keep reading to maximize your chance of taking enjoyable trips and being a respectful guest abroad.
1. Start with realistic expectations (and roll with it)
First, be sure to have realistic expectations. Many people assume a vacation will magically remove all stress in their life and they’ll return as calm as a Buddhist monk. (But we all know that’s not the case...)
The freedom to be on your own schedule and do whatever you please while on a trip is extremely liberating, but keep in mind there will still be everyday stressors such as traffic, rude people, and bad weather. Don’t start your trip off on the wrong foot by building up the expectations of your trip so high that they can’t possibly be met.
Your expectations about how much you can see and do while on your trip should also be realistic. Do not...I repeat DO NOT plan a full itinerary for every second of every day. If you do, you’ll only be setting yourself up for failure.
There will certainly be things that throw off your schedule so be flexible and understand that these kinds of things happen.
Missed your train? There’ll be another one.
Tour of Rome full? Maybe exploring on your own will be more enjoyable.
The point is not to let changes to your plans ruin your trip. If you can just roll with it, you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience.
2. Do Your Research Before You Go
What are the visa requirements?
What’s the local language?
How do you say “please” and “thank you?”
What’s the local currency?
What’s the weather forecast?
These are the absolute basics you’ll need to know before your trip. But take it one step further to be a better international traveler.
Look up the local news.
Research events going on during your stay.
What’s the best way to get around town (preferably how the locals do)?
What are the cultural differences between your home country and destination?
Something as simple as whether or not local think it’s appropriate to say hi to strangers on the street can make you more confident in how you behave so that you fit in.
3. Pack smart
You should begin thinking about what to pack well in advance of your trip. Consider the activities you’re likely to take part in at your destination, make a packing list, and then pack HALF of what’s on your list.
Most people over pack because we think “what if...?” But other countries have stores too, ya know. If you absolutely need an item that you did not pack, you can pick one up while you’re there.
If you have ever followed The Minimalists, you probably know about the “20/20” mindset. If you can get an item for under $20 or in less than 20 minutes, why lug it around all the time? Better to not have lugged too much stuff across the world unnecessarily than to have forgotten a single, small item that is easy to pick up at a local retail store (can we say souvenir?).
A few specific things to note:
Chances are good that you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Don’t be the person whose feet hurt and is done exploring for the day by lunchtime.
Pack shoes that are comfortable and are decently worn in (under no circumstances should you buy new shoes right before a trip!).
Pack clothes you can layer based on the weather on any given day. This will reduce the total amount of clothes you have to fit into your luggage.
Also, consider wearing items several times. We highly recommend clothes made out of merino wool for it’s quick-dry, fit-any-weather, anti-microbial properties. It keeps you cool when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm. When traveling, comfort and versatility are paramount. Some merino wool can be quite expensive, but we have found a solution to that! Check out Woolly clothing to find high quality merino wool gear for a fraction of the price of some of those other companies we’ll let remain anonymous. We both personally own Woolly clothing and love the quality.
4. Be courteous and embrace the local culture
Make no mistake about it, you are a guest in another country. The same rules apply as if you were visiting a neighbor’s home.
Be understanding of cultural differences.
Engage in conversation and be a good listener.
Observe how others behave and follow suit.
Use your manners (you did look up how to say “please” in the local language before your trip, didn’t you?)
Overall, tourists get a bad rap. And let’s be honest, some deserve it. Do your best to be more of a traveler who happens to fit in than a tourist.
You’ll be able to experience the local culture more fully and will generally be well-received by locals if you are courteous throughout the duration of your trip.
5. Keep Your Personal Information Safe
While at home, most men feel comfortable carrying their wallet in a back pocket that is open at the top (as in a pair of jeans), but it’s not recommended while traveling. Pick pocketing is all too common. Instead, opt for a smaller wallet with only the items you’ll need abroad and carry it in a front pocket (preferably in a zippered pocket). Eddie and quite a few friends and family use the NOMATIC Wallet. It’s slim, lightweight, comfortable in the front pocket, and extremely easy to use. This will make you less of a target for thieves.
Women should heed similar advice as men...don’t be an easy target. Carry a purse that has a zipper closure. The cross body style is the easiest to keep secure while traveling.
If the weather is cool enough to need a coat or jacket, wear your purse underneath it. Also, choose a purse that is as small as possible for the items you plan to carry. Bulky bags and purses can make it difficult to know if someone is trying to pickpocket you.
Also, you will need to carry certain documentation which has sensitive personal information and would be concerning to lose while on your trip. They include:
Passport - take a photo of your passport before your trip. If your accommodations offer use of a small personal safe, store your actual passport in it and carry the photo with you at all times. If not, carry your passport with you and keep the photo in your luggage at your accommodations. They key is for the two to not be in the same place.
Accommodation information - you may have this information stored digitally on your phone but your phone battery could run out or you may not have cell service so it’s a good idea to also print a copy.
Medication list - in case of emergency, it is good to have a list of current medications with you at all times as you may not be able to communicate with the people treating you.
It’s also a good idea to have access to sensitive documents and account passwords while on your trip. LastPass is a great way to store such information in a digital format securely. You can add notes, images, passwords, payment cards, etc.
It also provides the option to set Emergency Contacts who will be granted access to your information should something happen to you.
These are by no means the only 5 things you need to do while traveling, but they are a great start.
By following these 5 steps, you’ll be on your way to becoming an expert international traveler in no time!
-Eddie & Megan
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