Traveling is wonderful fun, yet it can also be a great learning experience. Here are the top five things I’ve learned while traveling the globe!
Although I have over a dozen countries under my belt, I still consider myself a new traveler. I’ve only been at this thing for three years, and in every country I’ve visited, I’ve learned the importance of asking questions.
It doesn’t matter if you feel ashamed for asking a simple question, ask it. It can save you time, energy, and money.
Put your pride to the side and ask for help. You might have to mime it—like I did my first week in China, when I was asking for toilet paper—but just ask!
Some of my most vivid memories are from my trip to Laos. My friend Esther from college invited me on a “trip of a lifetime” to go zip-lining in the rainforest for three days. We had incredible guides who spoke some English, but they couldn’t write.
One evening, I gave an English lesson to one of the guides inside of my mosquito net for a couple of hours. I created a little book for him to practice English and also share the wealth with others. He mentioned that people had given him oral English lessons, but no one had ever made anything for him. I was glad to give him something that he could treasure and give to someone else.
3) Learn the Lingo
I get it, we’re not all linguists. We don’t all have the discipline or tenacity to dig into another language and make it our own. However, I find that even attempting the local language is appreciated.
Even if you get the tones wrong or mix up the words, the effort is respected. In my opinion, English speakers and readers have it so easy when traveling. I find that the locals are very accommodating and helpful when it comes to English speakers.
The least that you can do is learn how to say, “Thank you!” in the local language.
Google Translate has become one of my fondest friends on the road.
4) Too Much Bling is Not a Good Thing
I’ll be the first to say that I love my big faux pearl earrings, and my giant faux pearl necklace. However, I’ve learned that sometimes you just need to tone it down.
Of course, it’s nice to be stylish while traveling, but you have to use wisdom too.
Since I frequently travel solo, I often do a self-check, to see if I’m drawing too much attention to myself with my attire.
Be aware of the customs and culture where you’re traveling.
Some temples and churches require a certain dress code, which can serve as a hint to what’s expected within the culture. It’s also good to remember that sometimes travelers are overcharged, robbed, and hassled because of their appearance. Remember, you’re there to see the city. The city isn’t there to see you.
Remember, you’re there to see the city. The city isn’t there to see you.
5) Haggle, Hustle, and Handle Your Business
One thing that I loved about my time in China was the ability to haggle. My parents came over during Thanksgiving in 2012, and I was excited to show them my haggling skills—in Chinese. Somehow, I was able to bring my mom’s new jacket down by about 80 percent of the initial asking price. I’m still not quite sure how I got it down so low, but I’m sure that knowing my numbers in Mandarin didn’t hurt!
One more thing: bring U.S. dollars. If you need to exchange money in a country, I wouldn’t recommend bringing several hundred dollars worth of Chinese Renminbi (RNB).
I went on a trip to Cairo two years ago, and I was absolutely clueless about the importance of exchanging your RNB before leaving mainland China. When I got to Cairo and tried to exchange it to the Egyptian Pound at the airport and banks, I was unsuccessful. However, my driver was extremely helpful. He had a connection who exchanged it for me, but I had to pay one hefty fee!