Some Travel Advice for Those Days Abroad
Here’s one of the most important pieces of travel advice: you are as awesome as your world around you. Taking the jump into the unknown is no small feat and requires some serious guts, so, even if your spirit falters, don’t underestimate yourself.
There’s plenty of room for error abroad, and it’s this chance for learning opportunities that builds you into the “New And Improved Person” that you’ll return home as. Seize each chance to develop, remember to take care of yourself, and don’t slouch—even when the pack that you’re carrying is weighing you down. We all have our less-than-Beyonce days, that’s okay!
Keep the following travel advice in mind as you embark on your next adventure abroad. Be a fearless explorer and embrace the challenge of occasional discomfort. It’s all part of the ride.
1. You’re stronger than you think you are.
Daft Punk isn’t just for pumped up gym playlists; they’re a great reminder that you’re harder, better, faster, stronger. Spending meaningful time abroad isn’t always easy: there’s plenty of surprise circumstances, language barriers, culture shocks, late buses, personal growth, and time zone changes that can get under the skin of even the most experienced travelers.
However, you can handle it. Each day abroad imparts more than a month inside a classroom, and every new sunrise brings about another degree of growth. Humanity has adapted and survived for centuries, and a gig on the other side of the ocean is no biggie in comparison. Sure, there’ll be butterflies in your stomach, but they’ll find their way out and start painting the sky before you know it.
2. Time abroad is not defined by the less-than-great days.
Most days, the mere act of looking outside the bedroom window and seeing rickshaws waddle over dusty roads or giraffes grazing in the savannah will be enough to flood your heart with ecstatic excitement. But some days, you get on the wrong tram, order a sopa instead of a sope for lunch, mess up deciphering 24-hour time, and accidentally insult your host dad (hey, it can happen when you’re living with strangers).
Not every day is guaranteed to be perfect, but the overall experience will add up to be nothing less. The learning curve is higher than any kinks in the road. Looking back, nostalgia will paint everything with a golden light— yes, even long walks home in the rain will be missed.
3. It’s OK to feel what you feel.
Here’s a reassuring fact: your feelings are always valid. Just because you’re studying abroad in Rome or volunteering in the Bahamas doesn’t mean that the sun is going to be shining every single day (well…). Frustrations can occur daily. In fact, there’ll be plenty of unexpected annoyances with simple tasks that you probably didn’t account for. Who knew that buying a bus ticket could be so complicated? Or that all of the stores are closed at all convenient hours?
That being said, don’t let people tell you that you can’t complain or have bad days because you’re “living the dream.” The best moment of spending extended time abroad comes with the realization that your “time abroad” is actually just a continuation of everyday life, not some magical fairytale chapter filled with unicorns and rainbows. People stump their toes, spill coffee, get angry at paperwork, and have days where everything goes wrong in all countries of the world, and then turn it around.
Want some real travel advice? La dolce vita is a mindset, not a translation of “life in Italy.”
4. Days off are totally legit.
It’s tough to turn down requests for social or educational outings, because you’re abroad and every single offer seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something amazing. This is true. However, it’s also true that you’re a human and, sometimes, you just don’t wanna.
Here’s some expert travel advice for ya: Days in with buckets of Blue Bell mint chocolate chip ice cream (or local equivalent) and an extended Netflix session are necessary for the soul. When your body tells you to take it easy, listen. Get into some comfy sweats, turn off the phone, do some yoga, and then wrap yourself up in a blanket for the rest of the night. Recharge, reset, and then reemerge, ready to tackle the next few months.
5. There are no such thing as stupid questions.
This is probably something you’ve been hearing since kindergarten, but it has never seemed as valid as when you’re inspecting that mini bathtub next to the toilet in your French host family’s apartment. Or when you need to take the trash out in Mexico, but there are no dumpsters. Or when you have zero idea in which aisle you’re going to find the Zahnpaste that you were supposed to pick up on the way home.
It might seem frustrating, that the rest of the country you’re living in has this knowledge magically inside their head, and you have no idea how to make heads and tails of something. But, it’s a great reminder to remember that not the entire world functions the same, and what is perfectly normal in their hometown is alien gibberish to you. Ask! It’s fine. It opens windows to both worlds (once they tell you how to unlatch that weird lock).
6. Mistakes mean you’re trying.
If you vow to never speak Polish until you have mastered every one of its 35,192 verb tenses perfectly because you’re afraid of making a mistake, you’re never going to open your mouth in Poland. And if you’re afraid of looking silly in public, you’re probably going to miss out on a lot of fun. So, ditch the perfectionist inside of you, come back down to a more human level, and make as many mistakes as you can. All it means is that you’re not afraid to learn and grow.
It’s also good to know that you’re a stranger in a foreign land, and, more than likely, you’ll never see most people again after you leave. So, who cares if you trip on the curb or over your words?
7. All things (good and bad) come to an end.
Time already tends to fly by fast; abroad, it’s gonna rush past as a whirlwind of motion and emotion, so keep this in mind when livin’ la vida loca. Indulge as much as possible: taste, smell, feel, and experience all that is available. Say yes. Takes risks. Learn. Step outside of your comfort zone. Make the most of the situation, and pack in as much fun as you can into the time period that you have. These are truly some of the best pieces of travel advice you can get.
When getting on that plane back home, don’t leave any room in your luggage for regrets or untaken chances. Every day will end- probably too soon. Remember this when rafting down Amazon rivers or making clown of yourself in front of your beginners German class.
8. You’re ABROAD!
Surprisingly, you might need an occasional reminder that you are abroad. If you’re feeling unsure about yourself or your surroundings, take a deep breath and take another look around you. Let go of the little things and be one with the environment.
You lost your keys? You lost your keys in SHANGHAI. Invited to a study session? It’s a study session in MARRAKECH. Getting groceries? You’re shopping at a market in the PHILIPPINES. Even the most mundane tasks seem more exciting when you place them in an exotic location, that’s why so many thing seem better abroad. Adapt the culture, learn the language, befriend the locals, see the secret sights, and align yourself with the place you now call “home.”
9. Laughter is the best medicine.
Laughter is a universal language; use it more than your merci’s and takk’s. Attract positivity (and some cute locals!) with a smile, and laugh off any mishaps. Life isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, and, with adventures abroad, this resonates even more.
Use the world to learn and have fun along the journey.
Final piece of travel advice: humans are humans, regardless of where they live. Compassion and acceptance can be found in every community, and the need for social dependency is a lot more important than we might think. People understand that you’re the new kid on the block and tend to want to help. Whether it’s explanation with directions, a warm meal, or a long conversation in two broken languages, travel support comes in all forms. Accept it, and pass it on the next time you see a lot soul in land familiar to you.