25 Things You Need to Know to Happily Travel the World
A Note From The Editor
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The idea of traveling the world doesn’t have to be some type of romantic notion just for the free-spirited. People of all ages and from all backgrounds have taken on their bucket lists with gusto and are traversing the world to get a broader perspective on life.
Travel bestows a new appreciation for cultures and humanity and lends a glimpse into the life and ways of others on this planet. As the world becomes closer than ever and many restrictions have been lifted by various countries, there is no time like the present to globe trek.
Here are 25 things to keep in mind about traveling the world that can convince you to get started and make it easier and more cost-effective:
1. Your papers, please.
It’s actually easier than you think to get or renew a passport in the U.S. in just 24 hours. When we relied on paper processes to get things done, it would be next to impossible to get a passport issued so quickly. However, the digital age has sped up most every type of transaction, including passport issuance. Online passports and eVisa services like Fastport Passport help you get on your way even when you decide at the last-minute to visit a foreign country.
2. Exchange programs.
Start with work exchange programs that cover the cost of traveling while providing you first-hand experience working on a local level. Not everyone wants to do the tourist approach to travel, so participating in a work exchange program offers a way to become part of the local color while having your travel costs covered. The other advantage is that these programs make you feel as though you are doing some good on a social level, plus you can gain valuable experience to apply toward your career back home. Start your search with organizations like HelpX or Workaway.
If you are looking for an enriching experience, volunteer while you are on a trip. Organizations in many countries will accept short-term volunteers for various projects. You can look online in advance of your trip or contact volunteer groups when you arrive.
4. Learning abroad.
With more universities and colleges accepting international students, you can also study abroad as a way to travel to other parts of the world. It's not as expensive as you would think and is sometimes even cheaper than attending an institution of higher learning in the U.S. This makes it possible to travel the world and get your degree at the same time. Sites like Study Abroad can make this a reality.
5. No currency hassles.
You don’t need to deal with travelers’ checks or currency exchange in most countries because of a more global banking system that lets you use debit and credit cards for most transactions. With the growing global acceptance of plastic payments and the migration to EMV (chip-enabled) credit and debit cards, you’ll feel more confident with payments and not worry about having checks or cash misplaced or stolen. There are ATMs and POS systems in stores all over the world -- even in the most remote places. Smartphones and smartphone readers are changing commerce for all countries.
6. Cheap flights.
You can purchase an around-the-world ticket that is open ended and a much better value than if you buy a separate flight ticket to each location that you might visit. This provides you with more flexibility to change your itinerary and stay longer in one place or alter your future destination. There are some limitations to keep in mind, including the fact that you would have to complete your travel within one year and only travel in one direction rather than backtracking. Use this ticket for country-to-country travel, and rely on local country airlines for shorter trips.
7. Hotels are expensive and boring.
There are so many other options for accommodations besides hotels. Hostels are not just for students anymore. Plus, you can now use services like Airbnb nearly anywhere in the world to rent a room, apartment or even a house, depending on your needs, budget and length of stay. Your money will go farther, and you'll have a better travel experience.
8. Rest insured.
Travel insurance is an excellent decision for any trip because it provides a safety net for when things go wrong, especially if you have a medical emergency or your belongings are stolen.
9. Skip the tours.
You most likely will see and learn more by not doing guided tours. While some people like to go in directed group tours to see the sights, seasoned global travelers will tell you that the experience is enhanced when you self-guide your way through destinations. It’s a good idea to ask locals where they would go for a meal or a day out. Most of the travel books and websites won’t know about these hidden gems.
10. Go local.
Use local street markets and stores to eat for cheap, but be cautious of the conditions, and use your common sense in regards to what may be safe and what looks unsanitary. You can also visit local grocery stores for food rather than rely on restaurants where you will get far less for your money. Many countries have joined apps like Yelp so you can be sure to find street markets and shops that have been recommended by fellow travelers.
11. Travel light.
You don’t need to pack your closet to go on a global trip. Take very little because you can purchase local clothing to acclimate and look less like a tourist. Many accommodations also offer washers and dryers so you can regularly clean your clothes.
12. The power difference.
A voltage converter will be the smartest purchase you can make for traveling around the world. Many novice travelers don’t realize that they can’t just take their power cords and hair dryers along and plug them directly into the wall wherever they land. Various countries use different voltage as their standard versus what is used in the U.S. Amazon and other retailers sell all types of voltage converters that offer numerous conversion options and include a way to plug in multiple devices at once.
13. A world of phones.
Check whether your carrier will provide you with an international plan for the various countries you are visiting. Not every country will just let you use your smartphone on their network. You’ll need to plan ahead and determine what works in each locale. You may be able to find WiFi, rent a phone, buy a disposable phone, or rent or buy a hotspot. It may be a combination of those things, but planning ahead helps you remain accessible.
14. Most places have a deal.
Look for discount sites that offer reductions in the price of attractions and the sights. In Europe, there are apps available, similar to Groupon, that offer ways to save money. The London Pass is a prime example of a way to save significant amounts of money on some of the tourist activities you may want to do.
15. Ignorance won't be bliss.
There is still risk to traveling abroad. Local scams and cultural issues could create conflict between you and those you are visiting. Take the time to study about the places you are visiting and determine the risks. You can check U.S. government websites on travel restrictions or warnings. Also, don’t be the typical tourist lost in their map books and phones. Stay alert about your surroundings. Know where you can get assistance, including the local embassy for your country.
16. Follow your phone.
Google Maps will be another one of your best friends -- after the voltage converter. Rather than carrying those huge fold-up maps that scream tourist to everyone around you, be sure to have Google Maps downloaded on your phone to help you navigate as much as possible. Those around you will only see you looking down at your phone, so you won’t stick out.
17. Backup everything important.
Backup all your data and information, including keeping digital copies of your passport, health cards, birth certificate and other vital records. Thanks to cloud storage, even if your electronic device that stores this information gets stolen, you can still get to these copies while in a foreign country to if needed during an emergency. These cloud storage solutions can be accessed from anywhere to help you out.
18. Be stoic.
Life will be different than what you are accustomed to, including having to go without some of the creature comforts you enjoy at home. Don’t complain or make a deal about this. Remember the idea here is to go experience something outside of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in another way of life. Besides, it’s just temporary and it might just help you to appreciate your life a bit more or change your perspective on what’s really important.
19. Stay loose with your schedule.
The best experiences are likely to be the ones you didn’t plan. While some people develop complex itineraries down to an hour-by-hour activity description, traveling around the world just doesn’t work that way. Transportation and people in other countries operate on a different sense of time that typically is not predictable or consistent. Step away from planning everything, and go with it. You’ll have some of the best memories from the trip this way.
20. The germs are foreign, too.
You may need more vaccinations than you would if staying at home. Many countries have other diseases that are uncommon in the U.S. That means you need further protection to avoid getting ill while traveling or upon returning home. It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your physician and discuss where you plan to travel to so they can update your vaccinations and potentially provide any medications that might help you. This saves discomfort and cost later on.
21. The embassy is your friend.
Register with your embassy before leaving the country so they can contact you via email, phone or text if there is a political situation that requires you to immediately seek safety. This can provide a way for safe passage in case anything should happen. With ongoing terror attacks, this is very important.
22. Money ups and downs.
The conversion rates in different countries fluctuate and can significantly alter the cost of anything you buy. It’s easy to look at the price of something in a foreign country and conclude it’s cheap, but you need to familiarize yourself with the exchange rate because it could be costing you twice the amount it says. You can download currency exchange apps like XE to help you know the price you will really pay in your own currency.
23. Your body is far from home.
Your body will get a workout from the time changes and the act of traveling, so be sure to treat it well. Your body clock may not be able to keep up, but try to stick to a routine as much as possible. Do things that help your body recover from the shock of time changes by getting as much sleep as possible, focusing on healthy food choices, using sunscreen, staying active and drinking a lot of water.
24. Take the bus. Or train.
Public transportation is often easier, but different than you may be accustomed to. In the U.S., not every state has great transportation options, but even developing countries offer a fairly accessible system to get you from point A to point B. Make sure you consider all those options rather than just seeking out a way to rent a car. You may not want to attempt driving on the opposite side of the road than you are used to or navigating different routes and busy city roads.
25. You'll want to go again.
Once you start traveling the world, you will have the bug and won’t want to stop doing it. This type of experience will forever change how you see life and will alter your priorities. While you may not believe it, everyone who has ventured to various countries comes back with plans for their next trip. You will too!