10 Tips For First Time Travelers
Travel is a powerful method to explore the vastness of our world. Before setting off on your first travel adventure, it’s important to be aware of key principles that will help you on your journey. When doing something that you’ve never done alone or even with trusted companions, there can be a fear of the unknown. This is why planning ahead, being vigilant with spending and pushing past your comfort zone with new experiences can help combat that fear. When you stay in one place for too long, you start to learn the DNA of your home and it’s surroundings. You can read it like the back of your hand. You know everything and everyone. While there is beauty in that, when the travel bug taps on your door and asks you to step out and run with it - why not see where it could take you? As long as you have a solid head on your shoulders and a curiosity that outweighs the moments where you are scared, it may be the thing that changes your life. Below is the advice I would give to a new traveler ready to take that first dive:
1. Know that you are not alone
Wherever you go - there is a network of travelers who will be open to answering questions, guiding you, and even making friends with you. You can connect with them through going to hostels, hubs or joining apps such as Meetup, Couchsurfing and TravelPal. Additionally, you can connect with a travel professional to help you plan your trip and be with you every step of the way so you know that you have someone who’s priority is the well being of your overall travel experience. Additionally, there are many people who have stepped out to travel and have written books, journals and documented their experiences. Once you take a look at how many people are in the same boat as you - you will start to feel more like an active explorer walking down a path that has been carved out for you rather than feeling like a fearful traveler who is doing something that has never been done before.
2. Embrace your fears
When traveling, it is almost impossible to remain still for too long. With short time housing/motels/hotels, you are often moving from one place to another. Looking at these changes in a way that excites you can combat those fears and help them dissipate. One thing everyone can typically count on in their day to day lives is a somewhat monotonous schedule. We wake up, we go to work, we do fun things on the weekend and have our own adventures - but they often do not expand outside of our comfort zones. Having a solid foundation can provide a comfort that at times we want to break free from. Traveling can give us the space to change our scheduled lives and find something magical outside of it. Everytime the fear arises, ask yourself when was the last time you did something that you have never done before. Then think about how this travel experience will be forever remembered as your first. You will never forget it and that is beautiful.
3. Try not to be in a rush (unless you need to be)
There are times when you have to be moving fast to make sure you get on your flight, get out of your housing at the right time, etc - but there are also days that should be dedicated to living like a local even if you are across the world. Take the time to relax, to visit coffee shops and bars, to journal, to visit parks and the shores of lakes, rivers and oceans, to ask the right questions to the right strangers. Take the time to feel like you are living somewhere you are traveling to, even if it is just for a few hours on one day of your trip. That kind of daily travel style has always helped me acclimate to places I’ve visited around the world. If it’s your first time, it may be feel too scary to settle in - but find somewhere where you are your most comfortable and see how it feels.
4. Get people’s contact information (See #1)
You will most likely come in contact with people who you connect with while traveling. When you are in an open and vulnerable space and meet other travelers doing the same - sometimes lifelong bonds can be formed. You may have a lovely chat with strangers and feel like you may never see them again so you don’t take the steps to get their information, but that is something that I would recommend. You never know what can present itself along the line - and getting a list of contacts all across the world is an amazing feeling. You may happen to be traveling to where they live and wish you could’ve had their name so you could reach out. You don’t always have to get numbers especially when you live in a different country - get Facebook, Social Media, or even an email address. Over the six month course when I stayed in Hawaii, I met someone who I had known for only two weeks there - and we have been sharing back and forth email correspondence for the better of five years. You never know what could arise from simply just saying “You are awesome and I hope we can continue talking after our we leave.” Those are opportunities that you seldom want to miss.
5. Be strict with your schedule but try to remain flexible
Whether you embark on a trip on your own or go with a travel professional, there are often itineraries and schedules made to ensure the trip runs smoothly. While it’s important to make sure you reach all the points you had made when planning - leave room for those unexpected (positive) surprises. Even with fully fledged itineraries, there is typically always room left for personal exploration. You never know who you could meet on your travels and you should always try to leave room for those unknowns. Give yourself the space to let things happen on their own.
6. Save more money than you need
Do not take more money out of a sense of fear that you will not have enough - take it to know that you will have the room to try new things. Take it so you don’t have to keep checking your bank account to make sure you haven’t gone over your limit. Give yourself a cushion to fall back on, not because things may go south but so you can have a sense of freedom. Even saving up an additional thousand dollars that you may never touch will help you feel a sense of security. Always extend tour budget. Additionally, be aware of the currency and exchange rate if you are embarking on a visit to another country.
7. You are already trying something new, why not step out of your comfort zone a bit further?
Speaking for myself, I am an introvert. I prefer solitude and I often do not push myself to be friendly at all times. I used to think this would be prevent me from having a positive travel experience - but sometimes being in a new environment with new people will bring out a light in you that is often hard to find. The truth is, whether you are an introvert or not, we all need connection. We need to share stories, to learn from others, to see ourselves in a different light. Often times, when traveling it’s easier to let shyness take a backseat when you’ve already made the decision to set off on an adventure. I would recommend simply just finding kind strangers and talking to them, going to those Meetups and saying hello and being as positive as possible. Almost like clockwork, something will happen that brings you to another person that sparks a conversation. Try to keep the hope alive throughout your trip and get out there!
8. Have a personal source of communication
Always have a form of communication in you that you have ownership of while traveling. Do not rely on using another person’s phone or computer. You can download apps such as Whatsapp if you do not want to face roaming charges - but always have a way to reach people. If you are working with a travel professional, you will be able to contact them with any questions you have and they will be able to contact you with any changes. If you are on a personal trip, it will help you feel safe and in charge and is the only way you can connect with those apps that will help you meet people faster. If you have to add more to your budget to do so, do it. It’s something that you will not regret.
9. Pack Light
Overpacking is a common struggle when it comes to traveling. This issue spans across all experience levels. We all want to make sure we have everything we need but often times we add things to our luggage at the last minute because we are scared that we’ll run out of what we need. According to many travel professionals, 30 pounds is a perfect weight. They also recommend that you don’t take more than a week’s worth of clothes because there are laundromats everywhere. Packing light is one of the best ways to feel free when you travel. You are not stuck carrying around what weighs you down. You release it and you are free to have so much more fun.
10. Research the destination before you go
Research the local culture, best restaurants in town, etc. Use Google Maps to see exactly where you’ll be staying and look through pictures. Get an idea of your surroundings before you touch down so it does not overwhelm you. The amount of research you should do depends on your comfort level with embarking on your trip. If you want to have a very clear idea, you can get a lot of information - but always remember that the experience of travel will teach you more than what you can read up on. Regardless, it is still smart to be aware of where you are heading to.
So there you have it! 10 tips for beginners in travel. At Better World Tours, we curate group trips of ten or more and have met many people of all ages who traveled for their first time with us. We help you manage everything so there is no fear - but our deepest hope is that every individual gets a chance to explore this beautiful world and find connection even thousands of miles away from their homes. Whether you read this as a first time traveler or to help someone who is - I hope you’ve gained some knowledge that you can take with you. Travel is the tool that we use to heal the world and everyone is invited.