Useful Tips for a Student’s First Time Traveling Abroad
For young people traveling abroad for the first time, it can be as exciting as it is stressful. Working with America By Rail, we meet travelers of all types, and we often find students are the most hungry for knowledge about what to expect and any helpful tips when they first venture out of the country. With that in mind we reached out to some savvy young travel bloggers and asked their tips for young people and students traveling abroad for the first time.
Ayngelina from “Bacon is Magic”
“I’m Ayngelina and in my mid-thirties. I left an amazing job, boyfriend, apartment and friends to find inspiration in Latin America. I’m creating a new life choosing what I want instead of what other people think I should do.” To find out more about Ayngelina, please click here.
When it comes to traveling, Ayngelina says:
- “Pack enough clothing for one week not every foreseeable situation. You will want to buy clothing wherever you are anyway.”
- “You do not need fancy travelers clothing. You spend a lot of money on it and it’s all the more painful when you lose it or someone steals it. Unless you plan in alpine hiking, your regular clothes will do.”
- “Don’t plan too much! There’s nothing worse than realizing you will miss out on something great because you booked 6 months of airline tickets in advance. It’s much more liberating to buy a one way ticket and let the spirit of adventure guide you.”
Rob from “Adventure Rob”
“My name is Robert Fitzsimmons and I am a twenty-something year old from Portsmouth in England. I left my job at Christmas 2008 and started travelling and writing this blog early 2009. This website is my personal blog documenting what I do, the places I visit, my thoughts, photography and advice on things as well as the odd random musing. I hope it inspires others to leave the rat race like I have and travel!” To find out more about Rob, please click here.
Rob’s travel tips:
- “To sum up in one sentence, I’d advise you to pack light, plan a little (like I want to go to xx country and see xx) but don’t go deeper than that (like day-to-day planning). Just do what you want to do! Don’t follow a book/blogger’s path…just feel free to use them for inspiration in your own travels.”
Shannon of “A Little Adrift”
“Shannon O’Donnell here, I’m the chief (and only) traveler and storyteller here on A Little Adrift. I’ve circumnavigated the globe a few times now, and my perpetual travels started in the fall of 2008 when I set off on a full-year traditional round the world trip. This blog started as a way to chronicle my personal round the world travels, and while it does still function like this I craft stories to inspire the arm-chair travelers out there, lend advice and inspiration for others setting off on RTW trips, and occasionally share resources and thoughts on location independence.” For more information on Shannon, please click here.
Travel tips from Shannon:
- Pack lightly! “Pack Lightly and Enjoy Yourself! When I left to travel abroad for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the experience and a little stressed pre-trip about all of the details. Work through that, because once you leave it’s all an adventure from that point forward. You’ve heard the advice before, but I cannot stress enough that you should pack lightly and use a backpack rather than a roller suitcase if you plan to move around a lot. Then, once you’re over there, don’t cheap out on all of the experiences; although it’s easy to blow through a lot of cash because of the exchange rate, also keep in mind there are experiences (churches, train rides, hikes, tours, etc) that you may never again have the opportunity to experience — so do them! “
Emily of “Maiden Voyage”
“I’m Emily Starbuck Crone (formerly Emily Starbuck Gerson–just got married), a 20-something travel junkie and professional writer. I’ve sailed to Santorini, strolled through the red light district of Hamburg, gawked at glaciers in Alaska, bathed in a hammam in Istanbul, explored ruins in Belize, and embarked on a variety of other adventures.” For more on Emily, click here.
- Expect the unexpected. “When you embark on world travel for the first time, prepare as much as you can, but expect the unexpected. One attitude I used to have been that I had to make a very detailed itinerary, and I would get upset if things deviated. While I believe that thorough research, especially about transportation and finances, is vital in advance, I’ve learned that you have to accept the fact that things won’t always go as planned. I arrived at a hotel in Istanbul, and even though I booked it months before, they lost my reservation and were overbooked. They had to send me to another nearby hotel that was nowhere near as nice. One time I ended up staying alone in Paris for a few nights because the friend who was supposed to be in town at the same time got mixed up and wasn’t there when I was there. I got really sick to my stomach in Windermere, England and missed exploring a part of the Lake District I had planned to see while I was there. And the list goes on. There will almost always be disappointments in something as logically complicated as world travel. But travel abroad also comes with endless great surprises. You’ll walk down a road and end up with breathtaking views you didn’t know were there. A local will suggest a no-name restaurant and you’ll have the best dining experience of your life. You’ll meet someone on a train who tells you about an amazing museum the guidebooks don’t even mention.”
- Carry a cheat sheet! “If you are going to a place that speaks a foreign language, it is always prudent to buy a pocket-sized guidebook to take with you. You may think that’s nerdy, but it’s honestly so helpful. Before you go, spend a little time learning the basic phrases that you will likely need to use. Locals are generally more likely to help you if you show an effort to try to communicate in their language–especially in certain countries such as France.”
- Understand important foreign traditions and customs. “Before you travel to another country, do some research to make sure you’re aware of important customs or traditions. For example, I learned in Italy that if you want to go inside one of the historic cathedrals, women are required to have their shoulders covered. It’s better to know some of these things in advance so as not to offend locals and appear ignorant. So many cultures already view Americans as ignorant–please don’t further that stereotype!”
- Take advantage of easily available resources, especially blogs! “When I was younger and started traveling, I didn’t know much about blogs. Now, there are countless travel blogs filled with priceless advice and tips from those who have been around the world. So many of these blogs are written by people in their late teens and 20s (including mine!), so they offer excellent tips for young people and those on a tight budget. Take advantage of them and do lots of reading before you go!”
Jason from “Life After Cubes”
“This site chronicles our path into our life after cubicles — we share our travel stories, travel tips & tricks, and our entrepreneurial attempts to sustain our life after cubes lifestyle. Sharon and Jason went to the same high school (Folsom High School), but ironically never knew each other. They met in college, at the University of California Santa Cruz (go Slugs!), but didn’t start dating until after college when Sharon obsessively followed Jason to San Jose (in actuality, Sharon moved to San Jose for a job). After spending nearly 5 years toiling away for big companies in cubicles, they decided it was time for a change. October 19, 2009 began their life after cubicles with a one-way flight to Hong Kong.” For more information on Jason, click here.
Jason’s travel tips:
- Don’t let packing stress you out! “Don’t over think or stress about packing. You can always buy what you need at your destination. And in fact, purposefully under-packing and buying things there is a great way to learn about a new place and get some useful souvenirs.”
- Step outside of your comfort zone! “Don’t be afraid to try new food or experiences. Make your default response, ‘yes’.”
Laura from “A Wandering Sole”
“I am a twenty-something southern girl with a background in design. I’m a runner, a volunteer, an Africa enthusiast, and a bit of a free-spirit. I graduated from college in 2008, took a 10-week trip to Africa, and returned home to a crappy economy with $200 in my pocket. My sister and brother-in-law graciously let me move in with them, and shortly after, I found a job. And then I got antsy. So instead of waiting for the economy to turn around and for that dream job to appear from thin air, I took things into my own hands. I pulled out my travel guides and started planning” For more information on Laura, click here.
Travel Tips from Laura:
- “Go prepared. If it’s your first time overseas, it will be less stressful if you have planned ahead. Have directions to your accommodations, know how to get from Point A to Point B. And, take a map!”
- “Give a friend or family member your itinerary with details of how they can get ahold of you, and let him/her know if something changes.”
- “Depending on where you are going, register with the US Embassy to receive travel warning updates.”
- “Know the emergency telephone number for the country you are visiting (unfortunately it’s not 9-1-1 in every country).”
- “Always carry US dollars on you for emergency situations and know where, and how often, you will have access to an ATM to withdrawal local currency.”
- “Once you’ve packed, remove about half of it. As long as you are prepared for the weather, I promise you don’t need to lug as much as you think!”
- “Bring an adaptor for your electronics!”
- “My first couple of trips overseas were either with school or family, so there was little stress and planning on my part. My first independent trip overseas was to Egypt, Kenya, and Tanzania. For the most part, things went pretty smoothly. However, when I got to the Tanzanian border (I was traveling by bus), I did not have enough money for the visa. It had just doubled in price about a month earlier, and I didn’t know about it! I did a lot of begging and gave them all of the local currency I had to make up for what I lacked in US dollars. Finally, they agreed. It never hurts to double check things like the visa price right before you leave for your trip!”
Candice from “Candice Does the World”
“ My name is Candice Walsh. I’m a 20-something female dangling precariously on the edge of eastern Canada, in St. John’s, Newfoundland. You may recognize me as the angry redhead. My first travel experience occurred two years ago, when I left Canada for the first time and studied for six weeks in England. In that time, I hopped to Scotland, Ireland and Holland. This year, I’ve navigated Mexico and France. Ironically, now with the launch of my new travel writing career, I remain motionless. My current financial situation has me rounded indefinitely, until I plot world domination, win the lottery or marry a sugar-daddy. Or hey, maybe I’ll just pay off my student loans.” For more information on Candice, click here.
Candice’s Travel Tips:
- “Stop buying everyone a souvenir, and use that money for a new experience. The first time I studied abroad in England, I felt like I just HAD to buy a little something for all my friends and family…and the cost added up. Plus how original can these souvenirs be? I remember my friend bringing home a coffee mug from Paris for me, and on its underside, the words “Made in China” were engraved.
My souvenir of choice? Either a bottle of wine/alcohol from the country to share with my friends, or a postcard made from one of my original photos. Affordable and fun!”
About the Author: Brittany Sozak is a contributor for America By Rail, offering train tours and vacation packages across North America.