Travel is the only thing that makes you richer
Welcome to another edition of Reader’s Q & A, Fall Edition.
Autumn is now well installed and brought shorter days as well as chilly nights. We had a great summer, so I have absolutely no complaints! Now it’s time to enjoy sweater weather, coffee, hot chocolate and watch Nature do what it does best, offer us a grandiose show of colors 🙂
You know that I LOVE receiving correspondence (a.k.a=emails) or messages from you, whether it is through Social Media or to by Inbox! It sure encourages me to keep doing what I have been doing for over 5 years and also know that what I write does not fall on deaf ears, which is quite a relief 😉
I sure am very humbled and quite honored when a reader, whether young or young at heart confide in me and write me to ask for advice. It is a great opportunity not only to share what I know and but also share my own experiences or lessons learned.
As in previous installments, I replied to my reader’s email by being as honest as I possibly can and give my two cents.
The following caught my attention as soon as I read the subject line and knew I simply had to respond!
Here is the question:
“Dear Karla, I am an avid reader of your blog and decided to write to ask you for some advice.
I graduated from high school a few months ago and want to travel before going to college.
I was wondering what you recommend or suggest for first international trip.
Thank you so much for your help!
Here is my reply:
Thank you so much for your message!
It makes me happy to read that my blog posts are well received by people all over the world and young adventurous souls like you.
First of all, congratulations for your graduation! Well done. I am sure that you are proud of your accomplishment and deserve taking a break before continuing your studies!
As someone who took a gap year, before going to college, and also studied abroad (even though it was only for a month but what a fun experience that was!), I absolutely encourage anyone to do the same.
Trust me, it will be very helpful and you will learn many valuable and necessary lessons in many areas for which you will be grateful later on!
Now I applaud you for having the courage to leave your comfort zone and for wanting to go out there into the world and explore it (while always having your safety in mind of course).
Since you asked, here are my 5 Important Travel Tips I offer you.
1- Please remember how valuable our passport is. Never take it for granted and guard it very closely.
I have already shared with you how incredibly fortunate and blessed I am for having 2 passports (Canadian and Salvadoran) and how much work my father went through in order to get it for me, my siblings and my mother.
There is not a time I don’t stop and say in silence, father thank you, I appreciate all the sacrifices you made in order for me to be able to wander to the four corners of the world.
I sure have been to a few places thanks to it. Not everyone can have it, so whatever you do, always keep it in a safe place while travelling and make photocopies in case (God forbid) happens. I always have it in a passport cover and carry photocopies inside my luggage and wallet.
2- Always buy travel and health insurance.
As you know by now I LOVE adventures and they have taken me to places I didn’t think I EVER would.
River Kayaking in Southwest Florida where crocodiles live and are in their natural habitat? Check
Zip Lining through 18 platforms deep in the Costa Rican the rain forest? Check
Finding myself in one of the most beautiful Scandinavian cities for the first time? Check
Traveling through my home country and taking my family on many road trips? Check
Living and working in one of the most crowded yet fantastic Asian cities for a year? Check
I could go on and on giving you examples but they all have one thing in common. I bought individual and comprehensive travel and health insurance, both individually and others for a year (great value and protection).
As they say, it’s better be prepared and not need it than needing it and not having it. Starting any trip with peace of mind and knowing that you are covered in case something happens to you while abroad is simply priceless! I know It can add up to the cost of your trip ($40-$50 extra?) but think of how much it would cost if (God forbid) something would happen to you, like an injury or medical emergency (which would come from your own pockets and who knows how).
So I am an enthusiast advocate of insurance and greatly recommend you get one EVERY . Single. Time you go somewhere. It is totally worth it, do trust me on that one.
3- Make a list of things you absolutely need
This is something I learned the hard way and I am sure some of you have as well. Nowadays your luggage weight is very important if you don’t want to end up paying unnecessary fees.
I see people at the airport trying to squeeze things into one suitcase or their carry-on (I’ll get back to this). And it is obvious that it does NOT fit so why sweat over it?
Before you leave home, take the time to sort all the things that you want to bring and narrow down your selections. Do you really need 5 jeans and 10 pairs of shoes, seriously?
The great thing about point No 2 is that after buying travel and health insurance, the company or website I buy it from sends me a very handy check list which helps me plan and pack for any trip.
You can tick the boxes as you go along and in the end you have your basics (hygiene products, clothing, skin protection, documents, important info etc.) It has worked pretty well for me thus far and I highly recommend anyone to at least look at it.
Now I have mastered the art of packing light, roll things up neatly so that there is more space left for things you will bring back and being organized will help you locate things quicker!
4- Do some research on the destination you are visiting
Photo credit: wilofcom
Thanks to all the information available to us within easy reach allows us to virtually visit any town, city or country with just a click of a mouse. You can buy a real city guide or download many maps or guides available online to your computer, mobile or tablet.
Learning some basic words (like good morning, hello, good-bye, thank you) or expressions will greatly be appreciated by the locals! They see that you are making the effort and even though language may be a barrier, a smile, kindness and gratitude go a long way!
I must admit that I am the first to avoid touristy and overcrowded tourist sightseeing spots and often go off the beaten path but I am careful and not wander where I shouldn’t. I always have a map with me or ask locals how I can find my way back to a subway station or starting point.
I have been a very fortunate and happy recipient of Random Acts of Kindness but that has taught me great and important lessons.
Ah bring enough funds to cover all your expenses and perhaps just one credit card with enough funds to cover a real emergency but not to go on a wild shopping spree.
One of my biggest mistakes EVER was to have plastic cards. It can totally ruin your finances and transform you into a slave to the credit card companies or bank (you’ll be like a hamster on an endless spinning wheel), use it with great caution. Again bring your ATM card and liquid funds and keep them in a safe place. Do not flash it as a lot of people still do!
5- Immerse yourself in the culture and do as locals do
The whole point of traveling to a new destination is to become immersed in the local culture, history and do as locals eat, live and play!
Do not go to restaurants like you do back home (golden arch, I am talking about you), try a local eatery instead.
Be open to try local specialties, be adventurous with food! Why not take the time to actually sit down at a café and enjoy your drink with a view or strike up a conversation instead of running/walking away with a cup in your hands?
Photo credit: JayMantri
I also highly suggest to go to festivals, exhibitions, where the locals gather. Interact with people, they can tell you stories of the place you are visiting. They are the natural story tellers!
Overall, be nice and respect them. After all you are the guests! So be good ones.
If there is an important piece of advice I could give, it would be the following.
Set a good example for yourself, your group AND your country!
When I worked at a store and restaurant, I witnessed and served loud, rowdy and rude visitors and had to stay calm and not let it get to me. Their superiority attitude was a real shame. It made the rest look bad! Have good manners, please do not trash!
I have seen people throw bottles, cups, paper bags, wrapping paper or just different things in broad day light while others look and think it’s not a big deal. Well, newsflash, it IS a big deal.
There are bins for that purpose so keep it clean. Ah, something very important I am forgetting is to be considerate and orderly where you are staying (hotel, hostel, Bed & Breakfast, vacation home).
Do not waste unnecessary resources (letting the water run, leave the lights on, leaving the room as if a tornado hit it etc.) Again, be a responsible traveler, a good guest and leave with positive and unforgettable memories!
So that rounds up my 5 Important Travel Tips I can give.
I hope you will go on many adventures and have a great time. I know you certainly will!
Now I’m turning it over to you.
Tell me (us)
Do you agree with what I said?
Would you add something else?
What do you wish you had known before you first traveled?
Share your stories and speak your mind in the comment section!
Until next time, hasta la próxima.
Happy Travels, Felices Viajes!
Tashi Delek, All the best