15 Travels Lessons I learned from my first lone International Adventure
When I was preparing for my first trip out of the country, I did TONS of research. I talked to tons of people. I watched hours of youtube videos. I wanted to be fully aware of EVERYTHING as to keep my mistakes to a minimum. Which I think I did? Maybe? But there were still mistakes, some of which, could have been avoided if I had read this blog. Whether you are traveling in the near future, or just want to learn about some of my screw ups, you are in the right place. Based on my loads of mistakes, here are my tips & tricks to hopefully help you not make them.
1. Understand that at LEAST Day one will be a bit rough
Just like starting anything new, there is going to be a learning gap. And when going somewhere you've never been surrounded by people that don't speak the language, you are probably going to experience culture shock. I thought I would be a pro right from the beginning. But day one & two I was super anxious. During this time, it's best to keep in touch with friends & family so that you feel still connected to the world and not like a random drifter!
2. Know how to go out to eat!
I didn't know how restaurants worked at all in Greece. I thought all of Europe was the same. That you had to make sure to ask for your check, or they won't give it to you. Nope! In Greece, they give you your check right after you order and you need to remember to pay it before you leave.
Four questions I would suggest you figure out the answer to before you head to a different country are:
Is it polite to waive the server over?
Do you need to tip?
How/When do you get the check?
Do you walk right in the restaurant? Or wait to be seated?
3. Understand that you may be the town gossip
The island I went to in Greece is barely a tourist area to begin with and once "winter" hits no one really goes there. Keep in mind, their winter is nearly 80F (lol, Buffalo take note please). Being on a small island where everyone knows each other, I learned pretty quickly that myself and the other volunteer were their entertainment. That being said, it's best that you are friendly with the locals and do your best to adapt to the culture.
4. At least TRY to speak the language
I get it. Some languages are harder than others. Trying to learn Italian vs. trying to learn Greek was very different. But at least try! Trying to speak the language and screwing up is still a lot better than just not trying at all.
5. Don’t just jump to staying at a hotel, look at your options
I wish I would've taken the risk and stayed in some hostels. While hotel rooms are quite affordable in Europe staying in hostels allow you to meet other young adults who are traveling just like you! I've heard it's a great experience. Next time I travel abroad, I will be sure to stay in a hostel for at least one night!
6. DO NOT BUY A SIM CARD IN AIRPORT
I cannot stress this enough. If you can help it DO NOT DO IT! I listened to a friend who suggested this and wasted 65 Euros on a Sim Card only to find out it didn't even have call or text. Later on in Greece, I purchased one for only 12 Euros. Spend the extra time to walk to a phone store to purchase the Sim Card. It will save you a lot of money!
7. Try to figure out the style/dress of the place you are traveling to
To be honest, I thought all the women in Greece were going to be wearing light colored clothing and be super feminine in the way they dressed. I thought I was going to stick out like a sore thumb with my nearly all black attire. GUYS! I DIDN'T. The women in Greece were all dressed like they ruled the world. Wearing dark clothes, sassy sunglasses and heels during the day. I was so glad that I left my flower printed dresses at home!
8. Leave MORE THAN more than enough time between travel
Yes, I mean MORE THAN, more than enough time because I had more than enough time and it wasn't enough. I left nearly three hours to get from the airport to the train station. It was only a 30 minute subway ride to get there. My plane then got delayed 2 hours and I missed my train by just 5 minutes. I had to buy a 100 Euro train ticket to replace my original 50 Euro ticket. It was a sad day. If you can help it, book LOTS of time between your travel arrangements.
9. Know how to get a ride & do research on rates
I had read that in Italy there were taxi stands everywhere. Which there were in the tourist areas. Unfortunately, my hotel was not in one of said touristy areas. So cue me wandering around Rome trying to find a taxi to take me to the colosseum. Literally it took me 30 minutes to find a taxi. At one point I wanted to give up and take an Uber, but Uber rates in Rome are quite high since it is mainly used by tourists who won't use public transport or taxis. Do extensive research before your trip to understand what the easiest and most affordable travel options are.
10. Pack for all weather and pack things you can throw away
This was something I was super happy to have done. I brought old clothes, towels, toiletries that I didn't mind leaving behind. This way I didn't have to worry if I had room to bring home souvenirs for family in friends, but I still had everything I needed for my trip.
11. Check hours of tourist attractions before you even leave the country
Since I was doing a volunteer program, I wanted to wait to meet the other volunteers before making travel plans around the island. I was there from the end of October to mid-November. Eventually we decided to rent a car and head to Olympi Cave, a cave that is nearly 25 MILLION years old. We went in November, once we got there, we found out it closed at the end of October. If we had known, we would've planned to go as soon as we arrived.
12. Go where the locals go
But it will be crowded. The first few days we walked past some great restaurants because it looked super packed. We could tell that the whole city went to those restaurants every night and we didn't want to intrude. Eventually, we decided to go and it was a lot of fun and the food & drinks there were SUPER good! Don't be afraid to head somewhere that all of the locals are at.
13. Get your international license in advance
I drove around in the Greek Mountains. That is a sentence I never thought I would write. About half way through the trip we realized that it was much cheaper to rent a car for a day full of adventure than take a bunch of taxis. Getting my international license didn't take long at all, but you will need to find somewhere to print it and do some scouting to find the best rental price, so it is best if you plan ahead.
14. Look into any dangerous plants, insects or animals
I have to be honest. I didn't do this at all. It wasn't until I was on an unexpected hike through the mountains that I thought I should probably have done this.
15. RELAX & LET IT GO
It's easy to make trips that are supposed to be relaxing stressful by packing in as many touristy activities as possible. I didn't see everything on the island I stayed on. But I did get lots of reading and writing done, two things that I normally don't get to do enough of. Don't listen to what other people tell you your trip should be like. If you want to adventure, adventure. If you want to eat, eat. If you want to be a morning person, start waking up early. Make your trip everything you have every wanted.
Prepping for a lone international trip is time consuming! These are simply what I learned from mistakes I have made. If you'd like to see a post about how I prepped for my trip, comment below! ALSO, are you headed anywhere soon? Let me know where!