Before moving to Spain, I hadn’t done much traveling in my life and had done very little without my parents. So, deciding to move abroad to Spain and travel to several new countries with different cultures, food, and customs on my own was an exhilarating challenge for me. These experiences have taught me some critical skills that I think anyone who is considering traveling anywhere should know! So here’s what I’ve learned so far as a Novice traveler:
- Map out everything- Even if you are the “most go with the flow person” in the world, planning is essential. Before you book a place to stay, look at a map of the city to get a general idea of where your points of interest are in relation to where you’d like to stay. Of course the closer to popular attractions you are, the more expensive lodging usually is. So don’t count out those hotels/hostels/Airbnbs that are little outside the city center especially if the city is walkable or has a well-connected transportation system. Check the city’s website for transit maps and fares, they’re usually up to date. I know I’ve spent way more hours than I’d like to admit at a bus station or airport trying to figure out how to get to my accommodation and over spending on transportation because of it. If you’re traveling alone get really acquainted with the map, so you’re not walking around staring at your phone or a map for directions. It is very important to stay aware of your surroundings. Plus, you don’t want to miss the small gems you may stumble across as you explore your destination.
- Know your (and your friends’) travel style– We all daydream about having the perfect girls’/guys’ trip with our friends that would be an epic time and bonding experience because we all love each other and whatnot right? Sure, but you first have to know what kind of traveler you are and know what you and your friends want to accomplish on the trip. Good communication before the trip is key. I’ve been on a few trips with friends that have turned sour because we can’t agree on things to do or what to pay for activities. Believe me, no one wants these convos to happen mid-trip as things can get really awkward. You might be a art or history buff who’s cool with spending $25 on a museum and $2 on a burger while your friend is a foodie who’d rather spend more money and time exploring the local cuisine. So, before booking anything talk about what interests everyone has for the trip and get real about your budgets. And while we are on the topic of money…
- Split your cash and alert your bank– Nothing is more irritating than being on hold with your bank for an hour on vacation because you forgot to tell them you were traveling and now your cards are frozen Even worse, it can be really embarrassing in a check-out line. It’s great your bank is protecting your money but not so much when they’re protecting it from you. It’s usually quite simply done through your bank’s app or with a quick phone call BEFORE you leave, even when traveling domestically. Also, don’t put all of your cash in one place! Split it between your wallet and duffel bag or something you don’t carry with you all the time. This simple hack saved my life when I lost my wallet in Belgium and couldn’t find it before heading to Amsterdam the next day. I still had money to truly enjoy the city!
- Towels and flip flops are your friends– They’re not only for summer trips to the beach! For year round traveling, these items are essential. Especially if you plan on staying in a hostel or Airbnb. It took me two instances to finally realize this simple packing hack; once in a hostel where they wanted 3€ to rent a towel! The second time where I stayed in an Airbnb where the host offered towels but when it came time to use it, it was covered in cat hair (GROSS)! So, to stay on the cheap and sanitary side pack your own towel from home and use flip flops for community showers and to walk around your lodging in.
- Research common phrases in your destinations language!– It’s so fun to think about going around the world and sipping coffee on a terrace while taking in an amazing view, right? But would you even know how to order that coffee? Traveling around Europe, a [two] hour trip can take you to a place with a completely different culture and language. Sure most touristy areas have people that speak multiple languages but don’t always depend on this! Americans, especially, have a bad reputation for traveling and expecting the world to cater to their culture and language. So don’t fall into the stereotype! You should always at least know how to say, “Hello, Goodbye, Please, and Thank you” in the respective language of that country. From my experiences, people are much more willing to help you if you are at least trying to speak to them in their language. You may sound like a 5 year old trying to recite the Gettysburg address but as they say “Nothing beats a failure, but a try”!
I hope these notes are helpful and if you haven’t started traveling yet, get going! The world is waiting to be discovered by you!