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Regardless of whether you're a seasoned traveler or preparing for your first international hop, it will always be a good idea to take a few minutes out of you packing time to stop and think about your upcoming trip. Trip planning involves a lot of physical preparations (getting visas, swapping money, buying a new luggage tag because you lost your old one....)
Planning for travel involves so much more than just picking, paying, and packing. Let's go over a few ways to "prepare outside the box."
Learn some customs
Did you know that there are many cultures that do not show kindness through smiling?? There are certain behaviors that we prescribe meaning to based on our own culture and experience, and letting go of that a little to learn how people in your chosen destination interact with one another can be really helpful. In the early months of my time in Korea, I had a hard time reconciling the kind gestures directed towards me, with the fact that no one ever smiled during the transaction (even if I did). It took time and an awkward Q+A with a local for me to figure it out.
Learn the language
You don't need to worry about becoming fluent, but picking up a few key words and phrases can go a long way with locals-- especially in countries and regions that experience very little tourism. Things like: 'hello,' 'thank you,' 'please,' 'bathroom,' and 'how much?' can really make an impact. Ready to take it a step further? Learning numbers, the increments and name of the local currency, and how to introduce yourself will surely impress.
Prepare to be disliked
Remember how I just said that language skills are sure to impress? Well, I was exaggerating. Locals are likely to be impressed, but there will be some places you visit that just don't want you there. You're "invading" their home and they'd just assume have you on the next bus outta town. Do a little research into the areas you plan to visit and see if there is any information on how visitors are received. Though you might not be able to do anything about the opinions and attitudes of the locals, you can get a better sense of what level of preparation and precaution are needed.
Check your own attitude
Sometimes in our excitement, we lose sight of the fact that we are visitors in someone else's country, city, or possibly even home. It has been my personal experience, that some individuals use the "its ok because I'm a traveler" mentality as an excuse to behave badly. It is easy to forget the necessary step of "checking ourselves." We may not be able to act like we would in our own countries, and we need to respect the local traditions-- even if we don't agree with them. Covering from ankle to wrist to clavicle is sure uncomfortable; but if that level of conservative dress is required of me, I'm going to suck it up and do it.
Sometime's ya just gotta go solo and find an artsy mirror to pose in front of, right??
Do a little "comfort-zone" stretching
How far off the beaten path am I willing to go? Do I need to give up my vegetarianism to be able to survive? Should I go solo? You should be prepared to say "yes" as often as possible. If you're not an avid hiker, but a group from your hostel is headed to hike a volcano; you wouldn't want to miss that experience just because you "don't usually enjoy that." Or what if your home-stay family prepares a lovely traditional dish that contains meat.... but you've been veg for 2 years now?? You shouldn't feel pressured to compromise your personal ethics, but for the sake of the experience (and sometimes, being polite), you should consider stretching your limits a bit.
If you're going with a friend...
You two need to work out a game plan to get away from each other every few days. Even the closest of friends can get on your nerves when you're together all day, every day for days (or weeks!) on end. I had a friend who enjoyed napping, so I would head out for a couple of hours to give her some privacy to sleep and hang solo. I'm a fan of agreeing that one meal every few days, will be a "silent meal." You're sitting together, but not interacting. You can read, and they can write a travel blog. Or you can people watch and they can research your next day trip. Even if you're an extrovert, you never quite realize how important alone time is until you've gone a long stretch without it!
If you're going solo...
On the flip-side of the companion travel suggestion, if you're going alone- find a way to socialize. Even the shyest introverts get restless after prolonged hermitage. Book a couple nights in a hostel with a well-reviewed social atmosphere. You'll find other solo travelers and will have automatically have something in common. Or perhaps you can find a day tour to join. Most cities offer walking tours, bike tours, food tours, pub crawls, etc.
My Favorite Trip Planning Resources:
- TripAdvisor is a literal BANK of information. From the hotel and food guides, to the overview and weather patterns; TA is a great place to get some info before you go.
- I also love the Lonely Planet guides because they triple as: an itinerary aid, local guide, and a history book. Each LP guide has a great rundown of everything you need to know (I like saving the history/book/learning portions for my down-time reading!)
- Hop onto Pinterest and and you'll find a goldmine of resources. Type "quiet hostels in Bali" or "London on foot" in the search bar, and you'll have loads of articles and reviews from people who have been there!
- Have you ever arrived at a destination, only to realize that you were utterly mentally unprepared?
- What steps do you take, when preparing for a trip, to ensure you're mentally ready?
- Do you have any "alone time" recommendations for when you need to escape your travel-buddy for a bit?
Just a heads up that this post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links are great in that you can grab the product at no extra cost to you, but I get a teeny-tiny percentage of that sale (its like getting recognition for advertising products I already love!)