1. Before you leave book 2 nights in a hostel in the city you’ll be flying into. This will give you a chance to get some rest once you arrive, adjust to your new surroundings, talk to others and hear their tips and insights.
2. Pack light.
3. Understand that overall the destination is only a small fraction of your trip. It’s the experiences and connections with others that will define your time on the road and the moments that will be remembered later on. Travel with an open mind.
4. Once you arrive in the airport of your destination sit down and have some tea or coffee. Spend 20 minutes or so just sitting and watching the people around you. It will give you a chance to take a breath, relax for a bit, and get the first glimpse of the local culture.
5. Recognize and accept early on that things can and likely will go wrong at some point during your trip. You might lose your luggage. You might take the wrong taxi or subway line. Don’t get too frustrated; often these moments end up making some of the best stories.
6. Become comfortable with the uncomfortable. Realize every journey is a moment in personal growth and part of that is stepping outside of your comfort zone.
7. Learn the basics of the local language before arriving. Even just learning simple phrases like “Hello” and “Thank you” can make an impact on your connections with locals.
8. Call your bank before you take off on your trip and let them know you’ll be traveling. Find out about any fees you may be charged for using your debit card internationally and make sure to tell them the countries you’ll be in so your account won’t be flagged if it’s used in an unusual location.
9. Combine your trip with activities both on and off the beaten path. Tourist attractions exist for a reason. Don’t miss out on something because you think you’re too cool for it but also don’t be afraid of taking a unprompted detour on your trip.
10. Know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed or discouraged.
11. Do your research about the customs of the destination you’re visiting before you go. Don’t expect the locals to adhere to your cultural standards. Accept that you’re the visitor.
12. Let go of your expectations and keep yourself open to any and all possibilities.
13. Don’t spend too much time on the internet. One of the greatest things about traveling is being able to get away from it all. Enjoy the fact you can disconnect for awhile.
14. Take pure joy out of finding beauty in simple details.
15. Don’t over plan your itinerary. Take things slow. Don’t focus too much on maximizing every day to the fullest. Immerse yourself in each experience instead of rushing yourself.
16. Exercise caution but avoid paranoia. You’ll realize that most people are the same all over the world and not out to harm you.
17. If you’re traveling long term allow yourself to take a day or two here and there to relax and recharge. Maybe this means spending the day at a café on your laptop catching up with people from back home or maybe it means laying in bed all day watching movies. Either way, don’t feel like you have to do something amazing or adventurous every single day of your trip.
18. Be humble. Be gracious. Be kind.
19. Keep the location of your hostel written down somewhere in a hidden pocket. This helps if you get lost or forget the name or address of your hostel.
20. Remember no matter what you can always go home and home will always be there for you to return to.
21. Stay alert to the US news and any travel advisories that may impact your trip.
22. Do as the locals do. Eat street food. Take public transportation. Consider couch surfing. Try to understand and see the world through their eyes.