Traveling abroad can be a daunting experience for first time travellers. With the following tips we hope your travel experience become all the more richer.
1. Open up. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. When in a strange country ask and ask again. It’s OK to be vulnerable and trust people.
2. Sharing is fun. Remember show-and-tell time in kindergarten? Traveling is like that, but on an extremely large scale. On my travels I’ve introduced South Africans to Mexican food, shared photos of my family with villagers in Uganda and taught Rwandans how to play bingo. In exchange, I’ve picked up a few new phrases in different languages, sampled local foods and learned how to wield a machete in a rice field.
3. You can’t be prepared. Six months ago, my biggest fear was getting sick in a strange locale, inspiring me to haul around more medicine than your local Medicity. But contrary to the Boy Scout motto, I’ve found that it’s impossible to always be prepared. In other words, I never expected burrowing flies, flatworm parasites or a monkey bite. At a certain point, you have to let life happen and deal with it as it comes.
4. Be the butt of a joke. It’s impossible to blend in when you’re the only white woman in an Amazonian village or on an East African bus. People WILL stare, point, laugh, and openly talk about you in languages you cannot understand. Accept the fact that you are a complete oddity, and then move on.
5. Take the unexpected path. The globe is starting to become one gigantic Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Every time I take one road, there are five others I long to travel. Often the one I fear the most is the one that offers the most reward. Like hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, nothing comes easy but the pay-off is huge.
6. Stay in one place. This seems contrary to the very essence of travel, but it’s actually a way of enhancing the experience. My favourite memories so far have all come about from staying in a location long enough to get a feel for the community.
7. There isn’t one way to travel. I used to think that people on package tours or cruise ships were missing something, and I apologise for that. There isn’t one right way to see the world. It’s about what you do when you get there.
8. There is beauty in the familiar. Traveling makes home more appealing. A fantastic temple is astounding and exotic, but there are days where an e-mail from home is more important. Sometimes the sound of a familiar voice feels like the meaning of life.
9. The world is complicated. For example, I was completely opposed to visiting Uganda, due to the country’s heinous treatment of gay people and a history of human rights violations. After visiting Uganda, however, it has become a special place in my heart. I’ve realised that you can disagree with a government but still love the people.
10. Some things are universal. Of course, pain and suffering exist all over the globe. But laughter, smiling, dancing, faith, kindness, love — these things don’t just exist, they thrive.
There really is goodness everywhere.
By Graham Green