December 25, 2017
My Top Seven Tips for Exploring a Foreign Country
Everyone has different habits and preferences when it comes to travel, and everyone wants to see and feel different experiences on the road. That said, here’s seven tips I think all international jet setters can use.
No matter how well you plan your trip, just assume things can wrong. Your luggage might get delayed or lost, your credit card might get declined, your phone’s battery might die as you’re pulling up the address of your hotel. Don’t get frustrated when these things inevitably happen. Try to laugh it off and approach it as part of the travel experience. Trust me, you’ll get through it and you might even get a good story out of it.
Of course you should visit major tourist attractions in a new city or country. But recognize that these are polished sites and likely not part of everyday life for locals. Once you’re done visiting the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame in Paris, just pick a direction and start walking. Every time I do this I run into hidden gems that I wouldn’t have found on TripAdvisor. It’s common to walk past new restaurants you wouldn’t have known about, perhaps find a smaller church off the beaten path, find locals to interact with, or even run into a donkey who wants to be your best friend.
Don’t Over Plan
Before I fly somewhere new, I do basic research ahead of time to see what there is to do and make a list on my phone. I don’t create a day by day itinerary of where to go and what to eat. When I arrive at the hotel, I ask the staff for recommendations and I incorporate these into my loose itinerary. Then I’ll typically start by going somewhere on my list, and if I see something interesting on my way there or in the area, I just go exploring. While there’s a certain level of comfort in having a planned out itinerary, you’ll often miss opportunities that present themselves if you have a strict schedule to stick to.
Take Care of your Body
I’m a fairly health conscious person. I exercise 3-4 days a week when I’m home and I eat pretty healthy. It’s normal to want lots of desserts, alcohol, oily foods, etc. when you travel. It’s also tempting to put off exercise since you’re out and about in a new city or tanning by the beach. I’d just encourage you to do everything in moderation. Go ahead and have mochi in Japan, but also find time to visit your hotel gym.
Eat Like a Local
Please don’t run into McDonalds and Burger King when you’re in another country. Try the local food. Even if you don’t like German food, try it when you’re in Germany. Trust me, it will taste very different than in the US. Try sake and sushi in Japan, try Korean barbeque when you’re in Seoul etc. You’ll be surprised how different flavors are in other parts of the world.
Divide Your Money
Always know exactly where your money is and never bring it all with you. I travel with several credit cards, a debit card, and IDs. One of the first things to do when you check-in to a hotel is to divide your credit cards and cash and leave some of it behind in the room safe. That way if you get pickpocketed or mugged (not likely to happen but you never know), you still have money to fall back on. It would be horrible to be stuck in a foreign country with no money. On a similar note, don’t walk around with a thick wallet sticking out of your back pocket, an expensive camera hanging around your neck, or wearing a flashy watch. You’re in a foreign country, don’t speak the language, and don’t know the area. Use common sense.
Pack Basic First Aid Supplies
I’ve been sick in other countries before and I can assure you that finding a pharmacy and explaining what medicine you want or what symptoms you have in another language is not fun. You can avoid this headache altogether by packing some basic supplies-like Tylenol, cough drops, Vitamin C, TUMS, Band-Aids etc.
Finally, say yes to new experiences. Force yourself out of your comfort zone. Talk to strangers. And experience as much as you can!