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If I Knew Then What I Know Now: 10 Travel Secrets

Nobody starts out an expert. It takes trial and error to build insight, and naturally, we all begin with questions. Here are 10 Travel secrets I wish someone would have shared with me when I began my love affair with travel.

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1. There is no right way to travel

Just like we all have different tastes in food, hobbies and clothes, people’s nuances vary in travel as well. There is no right way or wrong way to travel, so keep an open mind. Try things first-hand to decide what you like, and don’t be afraid to try it again because you’re discovering your tastes. Don’t be quick to judge new experiences – let them resonate. But, by the same token, follow your bliss. You decide how your trip unfolds, what interests you and how you want to spend your time.

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2. The Locals Know

It’s easy to guess that local people will know an area better than anyone else, so instead of trusting a guidebook, trust them. Ask for recommendations of places to go and things to do in the area. And if you see a restaurant packed with locals, get in there and try the food. I talk a lot about getting to know local people because the majority of my best travel experiences have come from the people I met in the communities I was traveling in.

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3. Plans aren’t everything

Planning for a trip, especially when you’re first starting out traveling, feels good. It adds an element of predictability to an otherwise unpredictable experience. There is nothing wrong with planning, if you like to do it, I say great. But, leave room in the plan for spontaneity. You never know what amazing opportunity you’ll run across that you may want to explore. Don’t let the plan limit your experience.

Here’s an article I wrote about a time in Peru that I stumbled upon an unexpected opportunity.

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4. Trust your instincts

Some people are more in touch with their instincts than others. Living our modern lives we aren’t in touch with the animalistic side of our instincts, but it doesn’t mean they’re not there. When your surroundings shift, tap into those gut reactions of who to trust, what to do or not do, and when to push yourself.

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5. Research

Before you go, learn everything you can to enrich the experiences ahead. What language is spoken in your travel destination? Learn some basic phrases to communicate. What is the culture like? How about geography or food? Dig into the place before you go so you have a sense what to expect and how to prepare. Documentaries are a great way to get a real live preview of the place you’re going, and, of course, there’s always the internet.

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6. Budget for success

This is the un-fun part. I hate dealing with money, but the truth is a little planning ahead goes a long way to making your trip the best it can be. Before I travel anywhere I research the costs of the following: place to stay, meals, transportation, fees (including visas, entry/exit, car permits, etc) and nightlife – keeping in mind your travel style. Coming up with a rough budget of how much you plan to spend a day and keeping track of it as you go can help you gauge your purchases, depending on how far you want to make your money stretch.

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7. Travel blues

There is a certain sadness that hits while traveling – sometimes it’s nostalgia, missing family or friends, or just feeling off. Disconnecting from a routine and a community feels strange, as if something is missing and you’re all alone. This is totally normal. Use these moments to write, to reflect on your feelings and how you can grow from this experience. Take time to be alone. And, if all else fails, pamper yourself with every vestige of home you can get your hands on. Sometimes just curling up with a chocolate bar and your favorite show and take the pressure off the travel blues.

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8. Stay Healthy

Being healthy is your ticket to a good trip. Nobody wants to be sick when they should be out exploring. There are a handful of tricks for staying healthy while traveling. First, do your research. Are there any recommended vaccinations? What’s the weather like where you’re traveling? Next, stock a small first aid kit with your destination in mind. This is especially important for off the beaten path travel in rural areas and long-term travel. Once you get there, eat nutritious food but be aware of sanitation conditions where you eat and wash hands often. I keep emergency hand gel on me for situations where I can’t wash my hands but know they need it.

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9. Culture Shock

This is an inevitable part of traveling. No two cultures are the same and you may find these moments of difference confusing, frustrating, or even offensive. For me, this is the magic moment. You’ve been pushed to the edge of your comfort zone and you’re stepping beyond. Uncomfortable though it is, I like to sit with it. To let it teach me about what makes us human and to try to grow through engaging a new world view. Open your mind to a world where this is the norm and see what that new perspective does for your long-held world views.

Here is how I reacted to my first encounter with Culture Shock.

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10. Show respect

It’s not cool to greet a new place or its people with attitude. Be kind. Listen. Find out about their cultural traditions so you can respect them. For example, what is the traditional way to greet someone where you’re traveling? Mistaking a bow for a kiss on the cheek can put you way outside the cultural norm. What is the appropriate dress in this place? What do table manners look like with their cuisine? There are so many ways to show respect to a person or their country of residence, and being informed is a great start.

Now that you have the advice I wish I’d had – get traveling!

Were these tips helpful? Share you own tips, questions or ideas in the comments below. We love to hear from YOU!

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