By Katie Ford
When you first decide to start traveling, whether it be while you’re studying abroad or just because, there will be an onslaught of things that you need to learn, and a large amount of advice streaming in from every direction from well-meaning people who may have done it before. What those people won’t tell you is that there are some things that you’ll just have to learn by trial-and-error, and there are other things that would be way less fun if you didn’t learn them yourself. Here is the list of things that I wish I knew before I started traveling on my own:
- It won’t be perfect. Half of the fun of traveling are the mistakes, mishaps, wrong turns, and other crazy things that happen while you’re exploring the world. If traveling was perfect, it would be significantly less exciting, and you would learn far less. Whenever something goes wrong, approach the situation knowing that you can handle anything that happens, and smile through it. There will be something amazing to come out of it if you have the right attitude!
- There is such a thing as too much research. Knowing about where you’re traveling to is a really good thing, but there comes a point when you’ve really over-researched your trip. If you know every detail about every site in the city, you’ll likely only see those sites, which means that you’ll be missing out on a lot of the city that isn’t written about in the guide books.
- Getting lost can be the best thing to do. Getting lost in a city you don’t know may seem intimidating, but it’s also incredible exciting and usually very worth-while. Take some time to get lost in the city, find local places to eat, and do what locals do- you’ll probably have a much better experience, and you’ll also get a taste of what life is like in another part of the world!
- Every opportunity can be a good opportunity. Getting the opportunity to travel somewhere is always a good thing, but how that trip actually works out can be situational. You need to approach a trip with a good attitude, willingness to learn and to try new things, and most importantly, an open mind. When you travel, you’ll likely see things that differ greatly from anything you’re used to or have seen before, and those things can be incredibly jarring if you’re not prepared to openly question them and learn about them. The opportunity will be what you make of it!
- Sometimes it’s better to travel alone. Traveling with friends is an absolutely great experience, but sometimes it’s better to go somewhere by yourself. You’ll have the chance to do exactly what you want to do, eat what you want to eat, and see what you want to see without having to check in with anyone else’s wants or needs. Traveling by yourself gives you the opportunity to problem-solve and learn about yourself in an entirely new context- plus, you’ll likely be able to meet some other solo travelers that you might not have otherwise met! Treat yourself to a trip by yourself, you’ll be amazed at how good it feels.
- Your travel bucket list will never shrink. The more you travel, the more places you’ll want to see. I’m always amazed at how often traveling to one place inspires me to want to visit another. I always want to make a comparison between cities in the same country, or countries with similar history. You can cross as many countries off your list as you’d like, but you will always be adding more and more places to visit. Once you start traveling, it’ll become a life-long obsession, so embrace it early and figure out a way to keep going!