Travel better with these three recommendations for your next trip!
Rather than make a post about a specific country, culture, and time of life, the simple “To Dos” on this Travel Tuesday post are things that I’ve learned through the 27 countries I’ve visited, that I hope will help you make the best memories the next time you venture out!
1. Do talk to strangers. Some of the best moments traveling have been the serendipitous conversations with passerby-ers, people staying in the same hostel as I, and strangers next to me on the bus or train.
I remember a time in Queretaro, Mexico striking up a conversation with a gentleman standing outside of a play I wanted to see. I was with a few other students and we all showed up late, without tickets. It was sold out. We ended up striking a conversation with a guy outside, having no idea he worked at the theater. If we hadn’t taken the time to chat, he wouldn’t have then snuck us in a backdoor so we could see the second half of the show… It pays to talk to strangers; you never know where it’ll get you!
Another time, a guy with blue hair, gauges in his ears, and wearing a leopard print shirt was traveling from Spain to Morocco on the same flight as I. From the looks of him, this guy was someone I wouldn’t have talked to on my own turf. However, he asked me a few questions about Morocco, namely why was I going, and then happily told me allllll about his vacation. From plane, to taxi, to train, we ended up sticking together through the travel process in making it to our destinations. Halfway through our 2 hour wait for the train, I heard him ask the people around us about phones and buying a SIM card and data. He turned out to be a huge asset as together we found a mall a couple of blocks from the train station with a phone store, got food, and he even carried my bags on and off the train for me. You can find great comradery in friendly travel conversation, even with someone who looks like they just rolled through their sister’s closet by accident.
With strangers I’ve gone rock climbing, dancing, out to shows, connected with over drinks, and like the guy from Morocco, even finding and buying phone data in foreign countries! Strangers, while keeping a close hold on my phone and wallet, make traveling worth it as we’ve exchanged stories and experienced life together. After all, my current fiancé was just a stranger on a ship at one point, before we started talking!!
2. Do travel alone. I LOVE group trips. It’s important, fun, and you come back with shared stories to talk about for years to come. BUT the times I’ve traveled alone, I’ve learned more about myself—what I’m capable of, what scares me, and how to stretch myself out of my comfort zone. I am more aware of my surroundings when alone, whether for safety reasons, or just to make sure I arrive on time to the next bus or train. It allows me to take in more with sights, sounds, and smells. I get to pull out my camera, and not feel pressured to hurry because I’m with people, as I capture the both the breadth and depth of life around me. I love a good solo trip, even if it’s just for a day to branch out in a new city.
3. Do what locals do. I’ve certainly stood out as a foreigner in many travels. Even just to NYC, 5 hours from where I live in Pennsylvania, if you’re not from the area, locals can tell. And with that comes the risk of being targeted for money, scams, pick pocketers, or worse. I’ve learned to research the customs of the areas I’ll be traveling to in advance and have gotten advice from people through Facebook groups, blogs, tour guides and even “safe zones” like hotels and Airbnbs. Doing the local thing, by researching in advance will save you money and harassment, I promise.
A small, but telling story of being naive in a new place was as simple as buying a gelato in Italy. You would think it was a simple thing, buying gelato in Florence. It’s everywhere. Street corners and plazas. Piled high in beautiful, colorful mounds. Luckily, I’m not much of a dairy eater anymore, or I would have fallen for the simple trap that those gelato stands have going on in most touristy places throughout Italy. I learned from a local that those tall, gorgeous piles of gelato aren’t real (artisan), and shop owners charge double, 6 euros, instead of 2 or 3, for a scoop like in true gelato shops. She said the real places with homemade, artisan, and authentic gelato keep it insulated in small containers. And she warned to not spend more than 3 euros for a dish. If the workers tried to charge more, she said tell them you know better and you’ll pay the local rate.
It doesn’t matter what country, city, or culture I’ve visited, I’ve been naive and have stood out many times. But through seeking locals’ and avid travelers’ advice, and by doing what they do and going where they go, I’ve always had a richer experience.
By the end of my Italy trip, I ended up trying gelato a few times and it was always the right price and quality, saving me a few bucks as a foreigner.
That’s it! My three “To Do’s” to making the most of your next trip. Drop a message/ leave a comment with your To Do’s when traveling; I’m always open to the advice of others!