As I was teaching my students, I had an epiphany, “the key to enjoying travel abroad, is knowing yourself…” I was reading a character’s “online comment” about Canada when it hit me. The comment said that Canada was too mountainous, too cold, and had too many bears. Since my students travel abroad often, I felt the need to share that this comment only reflects parts of Canada. I explained that I enjoyed my time there since my goal was to see Niagara Falls and spend time with my mom. I told them that the experience you have is greatly impacted by your expectations.
To maximize your travel abroad experience, consider the following:
Tip 1: What’s in your wallet? On my last trip, I didn’t set my budget until I went to the ATM for cash. Though I didn’t exceed my budget until just before returning home, and though it was not by much, I didn’t maximize it because I didn’t keep a few things in mind:
- Does my bank exist where I’m going? Sometimes, it is cheaper to wait for cash withdrawal until you reach your destination. If your bank is a partner with a bank in the other country, the only cost may be the actual conversion. It doesn’t hurt to do a little digging.
- Does the hotel exchange money? Hotels that have frequent international guests usually exchange money at the front desk. They’re rates are usually similar to those of a bank, while their fee is less than the fee your bank may charge.
- What’s in my budget? On my last trip, I set aside another payment for my hotel, so the budget I determined at the ATM was strictly for spending. Spending on what, exactly? Food (of course), maybe slight excursions, possibly clothes…though not a very strict budget, I knew that I was not going to spend more than what I took from the ATM. Even my casino money was factored in. Knowing that your funds are still secure when you return allows you enjoy your trip stress and guilt-free.
Tip 2: The company you keep… Who you travel with can make or break your experience; being best friends does not make you best travel buddies. Before you leave, make sure you are travel compatible by considering the following:
- sleeping patterns – if you’re a night owl and your companion is an early riser you are headed for disaster
- eating habits/preferences – there’s nothing worse than a hungry travel buddy so synchronize your tummies
- exploration tendencies – nomadic travelers wish to go with the flow, while focused voyagers have places to go and people to see already mapped out, another battle waiting to happen. If you’re “exploration tendencies” differ, agree on some destinations you both want to visit and leave other days as freebies
- cultural sensitivity – opposing views about the region you are exploring can make for an uncomfortable experience. Even if you are exploring an unknown culture, be sure that your companions will respond to cultural differences in a way that does not upset you.
*If you can’t find a compatible road-dog, you can always travel solo-dolo. If that idea is too scary, then be sure to reach compromises with your partner-in-a-good-time prior to the actual trip. You want to return from the trip still speaking to one another.
Tip 3 – Do What You Want to Do Everyone always says “try new things” when you travel; this is true, but within reason. It’s one thing to explore cultural past-times, visit regional gems, and try local/famous cuisine. But to go camping in Europe when you absolutely hate the outdoors is a ridiculous waste of money. Instead of a walking tour, you may be more inclined to take a wine tour, or an art tour. You may be more interested in shopping or nightlife. The things that make you happy are the things you should do. Sometimes the experience is not doing something different, but doing it somewhere you never imagined.
Tip 4 – You Are a Person of Color As a person of color, it’s important to know how you will be received in your country of choice. If you are sticking to touristy spots, you should have virtually no problems; after all you’re making them money. But to ensure the best experience, do a little light research on the countries feelings toward people of color.
I expected to be an oddity in China, but I have had to put on my “big-girl-draws” on quite a few occasions, setting aside my initial reactions and accepting the fact that Chinese culture views diversity very differently than American culture.
Keep in mind that your research will not provide absolute answers, but at least you’ll be better prepared.
Most travel abroad to relax, make memories, and experience things outside of our daily routines. To maximize your experience tailor your coin, your people, and your activities. It may be a once in a lifetime experience so make it worthwhile!