1. Travel insurance is everything
If you do only one thing before you leave, make it getting travel insurance. I’ve heard far too many horror stories of travellers injuring themselves in remote places and ending up in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt. Don’t think that it won’t happen to you, because you know those travellers thought that, too.
I’ve use World Nomads for my travel insurance provider for six years and recommend them to everyone I know. They were fantastic to deal with when making a claim.
2. Eat the local food
One of my biggest regrets from the first year of my travels was that I wasn’t brave enough to try any of the local food. I was raised a picky eater and that, combined with debilitating anxiety and an eating disorder, led to me believing that I would either hate or be allergic to anything I hadn’t tried before.
I was so, so wrong.
Food is now my absolute favourite way to get to know a place better.
I love trying new things, and I’ve found a thousand amazing dishes that I never would have discovered if I’d continue to eat from supermarkets around the world. Trying new food isn’t scary, and you’ll build your confidence up as you fall in love with more and more things.
Try everything, even if you have no idea what it is. I promise you won’t regret it. Or fall straight into anaphylactic shock.
3. And a stash of emergency cash
I carry a spare 300 USD that’s split up in various places in my backpack, daypack, and occasionally, my shoe when I’m nervous I’ll be robbed. It means that in a worse-case scenario, I can pay for some food, a dorm bed, and a Skype call to my family to get an emergency wire transfer until I can get back on my feet again. I went with U.S. dollars because it’s the most widely accepted currency around the world and easy to change.
4. Expect everything to go wrong
I’m definitely testament to that! But expecting everything to go perfectly on your trip is only setting yourself up to fail. Nobody goes travelling and comes back without any stories of mishaps. No matter how prepared you are, at some point you’re going to get lost, get scammed, miss your bus, get food poisoning, injure yourself… the list is endless! Expect it to happen, and don’t beat yourself up when it does. In a month’s time, you’ll find it funny rather than frustrating.
5. The smaller the menu, the better the restaurant
That’s why street food is so delicious! While you’re travelling, look for places that only do a handful of dishes rather than offering 500 options. There’s a better chance of stumbling upon an amazing dish when someone only makes that one single thing all day everyday!
6. Leaving your comfort zone is the best thing you can do for yourself
I cite leaving my comfort zone as the number one way in which travel has helped me. It was leaving my comfort zone that gave me confidence in my abilities as a traveler. It helped me to overcome my anxiety disorder by showing me the things I was panicking about rarely happened — and if they did, they were never as bad as they thought they would be. And it introduced me to new experiences — most of which I unexpectedly loved!
7. If there’s no internet, embrace it
Play a card game with someone in the hostel common room, read a book, lie on the beach, go for a walk, talk to a stranger, think about life. Some of my favourite travel memories are from times when I didn’t have an internet connection to suck me out of the moment.
8. Invest in a good camera
Your photos will be some of your best memories, so invest in a good camera. And, of course, take the time to understand how it works before you leave.
9. Practice your miming
Traveling in places where you don’t speak the language is surprisingly easy, but get ready to mime a lot. You can mime eating to ask someone if they’re serving food, mime sleeping to ask someone if there are any beds available in the hostel, and I even mimed that I needed to go to a train station by saying, “choo choo!” and drawing a picture of a train in my notepad for a taxi driver in Taiwan!
10. Don’t forget about your friends back home
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of your travels and forget about the friends you have back home. It happened to me and took a lot of work to repair my friendships. Let people know you’re thinking of them: arrange Skype dates, send postcards, chat on Facebook, and buy them gifts from the places you visit.