Ready? Think Again.
You’ve caught it. Your feet itch to wander and trek. Your eyes search horizons. Your mind yearns for knowledge of foreign countries. It’s the travel bug. You’re infected and there is no cure.
In your mind’s eye all you see are images gleaned from the pages of National Geographic and all you hear are the enthusiastic voices of bloggers and travel show hosts whom extol the cuisine, culture and scenery of every country they visit.
You’ve made the hostel reservations and booked your tickets. Your passport is updated and your visas are in place. You have everything you need right?
The most important ingredient for a successful adventure abroad is missing; a wary mindset.
The travel and tourism industry provides a rosy picture of travel provided through glossy photos and edited testimonials. The truth is that travel is hard. The personal growth which many experienced travellers talk about comes from having jumped through hoops of fire. Reveling in their victory over the harsh realities of travel they describe giddiness experienced when travelling without discussing the hardships. For every mountain climbed, each secluded beach found and every piazza discovered there are difficulties and problems which were overcome.
Homesickness (mention that this is for a long stay or internship away from home)
You’re ready to fly out of your parents nest and abandon old friendships for new ones. The excitement of travel will be your new companion, your new family. You are very wrong. Being on a different country is akin to going to a different planet – the sounds, smells, scenery and habitants are all different. You will be disorientated and will long for those familiar individuals you so hastily left behind. Make sure you have a data package or a global cell package to contact loved ones. You will miss and need them. Keep photos of them on your phone and research any internet cafes you may need to use to send long descriptions of your travels and obtain recounts of their days back home. A tweet won’t suffice. You will want to revel in memories of loved ones. Don’t. Instead remember that they want you to do well. Reach out to make friendships and meet new travel companions. Hostels, local Meetups and cafes are all great ways to make friends. These new connections will carry you through the wave of loneliness travel often brings on.
We do not mean a tsunami. Instead I refer to personal disasters which mar your perception of your host country and seem unsurmountable when in a foreign land.
Guard your health zealously. A frequent jaywalker at home? Do not do this while in another land. This or any other kind of physical accident will lead to exposure to sometimes subpar healthcare systems, vast expenses, mental distress and the trouble of navigating foreign languages and customs when ill. Remember to get all needed medical shots. Be extra careful and do not take risks.
Losing your cell phone or wallet at home may be stressful as it is. Losing these belongings in India, Egypt or even Scotland can be extra hazardous. Identity theft is a real issue across the world. Police and law enforcement may not be as streamlined as in your home country, sometimes requiring bribes which means breaking laws – which you should never do. Finding your lost wallet, cell, passport, camera or backpack will be next to impossible and will prevent you from booking into hostels, hotels or leaving countries. Remember to take safety precautions such as wearing a money belt when sightseeing.
Think you have enough? Unless you are from a(n)? European royal family you don’t. Take the amount that your favorite blog or magazine recommends and double it. You now have a more accurate idea of what you need. Even in countries where the currency is much weaker than yours expect to be charged extra due to your obvious identity of a foreigner. Expect incidental costs such as a Starbucks Panini when you are extra hungry and can’t indulge in potentially contaminated street food, or replacing a lost pair of shoes or having to pay for transportation back to your accommodation from a club all your friends went to. Budgets should always be flexible when travelling as you will always incur extra expenses. You will certainly experience some level of poverty when travelling, be prepared. You are leaving the cushy, affordable lifestyle back home for a more vagabond experience abroad. Your travel brochure will not state this.
It is your time to grow
Despite the risks, there are many rewards to travelling. You will expand your knowledge of the world, you will become a global citizen, you will see and experience unimagined beauty. You will also be uncomfortable and frequently challenged. Beware of the hardships of travel and you will more readily experience the benefits. If anything the challenges are half the reason you actually grow.