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Guest Blog | Try Anything Once – First Time International Traveler

January 11, 2012

Today’s guest post comes from Terri of Try Anything Once Blog.  I met Terri when she was Mrs. Swan on Weddingbee.  She now writes a travel blog.  Check out her helpful tips for a first time international traveler!

If you’re thinking about traveling abroad for the first time, I would say that the Nike slogan applies here: “Just Do It!”

I know that there are a lot of constraints perceived and real that deter people from getting out there to see the larger world: lack of vacation time, money, worry about safety, etc., but I want to tell you to do it anyway. Here is some of the advice I’d give to folks thinking about traveling abroad soon:

1. Be intentional about travel. If you do want to go abroad, make a plan. Maybe that means preparing for over a year, but at least you have travel on your radar and are focused about incorporating it into your life. As I get older, I realize that the everyday aspects of life can get in the way VERY easily and take priority over travel, i.e., bills, family obligations, career goals, and the like. If you do want to travel, I urge you to take the steps that you need to do it whether that means applying for a passport for the first time or adding a line item to your household budget specifically for travel.

2. Learn a little about the history and culture of the place you’re visiting beforehand. You definitely don’t need to read Phd. level history books, but it really adds to your experience if you take a little time to even read the history section of the guidebook, Wikipedia or SOMETHING before exploring another country. Understanding the context for what you see and encounter will deepen your experience while there.

Salvador, Brazil

3. It’s okay if you don’t speak the local language. I want to tell you that being able to speak English is a big asset. English is widely spoken by many people in the tourism industry all over the world. I’ve spoken English to Balinese shopkeepers, Turkish cab drivers and Brazilian street kids. Yes, there are some countries where English is not widely spoken, but to be honest, that is actually part of the experience of traveling abroad. In those instances, some good basic phrases or some genuine smiles and hand gestures can go a long way. People have been so nice to me when I have addressed them in their language and made an attempt to speak even if I don’t sound like a native (or even close).

Bali, Indonesia

4. Safety is important, but don’t let it paralyze you. I know that we live in a crazy, scary world sometimes. I’m not staying throw caution to the wind and make a trip to Afghanistan tomorrow, but the evil forces in the world that perpetrate bad things want many of us to live in fear. I refuse to do that, and you shouldn’t either. If I thought about terrorism on a regular basis, I would never leave my apartment or use the subway where I live. We need to be vigilant about our safety wherever we are. With this in mind, actually heading out and seeing the world will only help in understanding that the world can be a welcoming place.

Dublin, Ireland

5. It ain’t like home. That’s the point though, isn’t it? The beauty of the modern world even with its computers and cell phones making it a little bit smaller is that people still have customs and lifestyles that make where they live unique. The fun part of traveling is to explore those differences. I came across this quotation the other day, and I think it summarizes what I mean:

When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make youcomfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable. ~Clifton Fadiman

Being outside of our comfort zones from time to time is a good thing.

I hope that 2012 will bring you lots of opportunities for international travel!


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