“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
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What do you see when you look at a map? I see adventure and opportunity! It’s no secret that I get a thrill out of traveling. Booking trips for others also bring me joy, as I love it when people explore the world beyond their immediate surroundings. To travel is to experience, and some of the best experiences occur in foreign lands.
Traveling abroad can be life-changing. It’s exciting to witness how people of other cultures and ethnicities live. However, there are a few important items to take care of before stepping foot on a plane or even before hitting the “book it” button. Besides the basic step of obtaining a passport, there are other matters to consider. Listed below is a checklist of actions you’ll want to take to help ensure your next trip to another country will be an amazing time to remember.
Find out if there are any specific travel advisories.
On my day job, we get travel advisories often and I appreciate them. As I said earlier, I do love adventure, but I also don’t want to put myself in jeopardy of not being able to enjoy another trip. You want to avoid any area where there is civil unrest or other activities happening that can put your life in danger. Also, if you have or are looking for a job that requires a security clearance, traveling to a restricted area could result in your clearance being denied or revoked. Check out this website for all travel advisories. Have fun, but be wise.
Get a quick history lesson.
Find out as much as possible about your destination. Not only will this pique more interest, but researching historical sites beforehand will make planning your itinerary easier and prevents wasted time. This is particularly useful if you only have a day or two to explore. Also, find out about any practices that are frowned upon. You want to refrain from doing anything that offends the local nationals. For instance, in Japan, it’s bad manners to stick chopsticks upright in rice. This is what Japanese do at funerals for the deceased. Another very important thing is to know and abide by the laws of the country you are visiting. Don’t assume your home nation will/can protect you if caught doing something ignorant. Search online for useful information or go to your local library (which is my preferred method) to check out and read a few books.
Learn the language.
By this, I don’t mean you must become fluent, but at least become familiar with some useful phrases and keywords. Aside from picking up a language book, find an app that provides the correct ways to pronounce words. Sometimes, there may be two words that sound the same but have entirely different meanings. When I taught at an English school here, I ran into that issue a lot. I would ask the children how to say something and when I tried, it sounded right to me, but obviously not because they often laughed. Those crazy kids!
See what events are happening while you are there.
You can bet there will be a festival or other fun activities happening during your time of travel. Take advantage of it! Cultural festivals and parties are a great way to experience the indigenous people fully. You’ll also be able to score a few trinkets and souvenirs that you may not be able to find otherwise.
Check the weather.
This goes without saying. Sometimes the weather is a bit unpredictable, however, still consult a weather app or website to get a general idea of what type of clothing you’ll need while visiting. When booking travel, I typically try to avoid rainy seasons and frigid temperatures.
Be prepared to eat something different.
Chances are you are going to have some delicacies that differ from what you are used to eating. Go in with an open mind and don’t be afraid to introduce your taste buds to something new. Now, there are some dishes I refuse to try because I know my gag reflexes. However, I make it a point to refrain from making faces or expressing disgust just because I see something I would probably never eat. That’s rude. Also, I will try most dishes at least once.
Let family and friends know where you are going.
Tell a few of those who are close to you where you’re going, where you’ll be staying and when you’re expected to return. When going to foreign destinations, it’s important to let someone know your whereabouts.
Have a way to communicate back home, if possible.
Some people like to avoid all wireless communication when on vacation. However, in case of an emergency, you’ll want to be able to reach someone back home or have a way for them to reach you. Depending on where you are going, you may not have access to WiFi. Although at times expensive, it could be beneficial to invest your coins in an international calling plan. Alternatively, look into purchasing or renting an international prepaid cell phone. Some airports have cellular phone rental booths available.
If you are traveling to a place with limited to no internet service and cell phones cannot be used, leave the hotel information you have reservations with. Now, if your lodging area is in some jungle off the beaten path, you are obviously a professional and will know what to do. I don’t think I’ll ever have to worry about this scenario.
Notify your credit card company.
Sometimes, foreign transactions can raise a red flag when using your bank card–especially if you don’t travel much. Call your bank or credit card company and advise them of the dates you’ll be out of the country. This way, you won’t have to worry about your card declining while at paying for dinner at that 5-star restaurant.
Pick up some of the country’s currency.
Be sure to obtain some foreign currency either at the bank or airport. Use it for the taxi ride to your hotel or in that little shop that looks a little too shady to use your credit card. Also, some places may only accept certain credit cards or none at all. While many stores in Japan do not accept American Express, most of the time you cannot go wrong with Visa. When I travel, unless I’m going to a really nice restaurant or paying for my hotel stay, I prefer to use paper currency.
Hope these tips help. Get out, see the world and have fun!
All the best, always.