Have you experienced the excitement and wonder that travelling to a new country gives you?
They say that going on a trip is one of the few things you can buy that actually makes you richer, and I totally agree. Experiences make you richer, and whenever possible you need to treat yourself to the riches of new experience by planning a trip somewhere completely foreign to you. I started travelling in my early twenties. Something about boarding a plane and knowing that for the next 2-3 weeks (or longer if you are able to) you will not be at home base, you are outside of your comfort zone…it’s scary and exhilarating at the same time.
In a month’s time I will be heading to the Netherlands and then Spain. Not only am I heading to Spain for the first time but I am getting to experience it with a friend who is travelling to a different continent for the first time.
Travelling abroad can cause some understandable anxiety. That’s no reason not to travel. Not when there is a whole world out there to discover. Travelling can help you find out a lot about yourself. I’m not a travel guru but I am a fan of lists. So I have created some easy go-to steps for easing my travel anxiety that might help you when preparing for travel:
- Learn the basics of the native language – Most places you go in Europe will have people that speak English, but it is usually not their first language, and there are a lot of small towns or older generations that may not understand your English. It’s nice and a lot of fun to learn the basics of their national first language both as a means to get around easier, and to be polite in your attempt to communicate as a guest in their country. It can ease the anxiety knowing some basics. You don’t have to take a language course, but a travel pocket book, or use the mobile application “Duolingo” a month or two before you go can help you get a feel for it, and make you more comfortable asking for help from locals. Disculpeme Donde esta el bano?
- Protect your documents – Plan to keep your most important documents (Passport, other identification) in the safest spot you can while you are travelling and keep digital copies as well in your email or a safe online application. If you lose your phone you can access the copies in your email from a computer. If you are to lose important travel documents you will need to contact your countries Embassy in the Country you are visiting and they can help you. Having your health insurance information/travel insurance information accessible digitally is a good idea in case of an emergency where you don’t have your wallet. You should be able to access all of your travel tickets online.
- Map out the area – When you arrive to a new country it can be a bit overwhelming when you land and think of getting around in a new city you have never seen before. It is one of the exciting things for me, but it can also be one of the most stressful. Once you know what neighborhood your accommodations are it is a good idea to either take a walk around the area and get a good feel for it, and or you can use MAPS.ME free application to download maps in advance of the whole city, and then access them offline. These maps point you in the direction of any transit, sights, accommodations, pharmacies, or food places. You can find your way anywhere at any time without an internet connection!
- Pack light – Think of your most-likely activities for your trip, and make a list of clothes you want to pack for your trip accordingly. Did you forget to pack something? Barring your passport, and access to your money, you can buy everything else from shops. You don’t need as much as you think you do. Unless it’s vital to getting you where you need to go, or needed for health reasons (pack your medications) and you have zero money to spend, then its not a big deal if you forgot to pack a bathing suit, or a hair brush.
I would eliminate packing soap, shampoos, conditioners all together because not only can you buy it there (or its provided at accommodations), but then you don’t need to worry about them exploding on your other belongings in transit, which is something that has happened to me more than once. It’s easier and cheaper to pack light and buy something you forgot than to overpack and have to ditch items at security, or have unnecessary items in your luggage weighing you down. I promise this will save you a lot of headaches during your travel transit time. Try and remember your phone and charger though…which brings me to the next step.
- Communication plan – Now that most places in the world has access to Wi-Fi there is no need for expensive long distance phone plans, especially with mobile technology applications like Skype, and WhatsApp that have made long distance texting and calling free to access. Most popular cafes especially McDonalds, Starbucks will have access to free wi-fi. Download WhatsApp for texting family back home or update your Facebook status so everyone knows your safe and sound. You can also talk face to face on Skype, or iPhone users can facetime for free on Wi-Fi as well. You can also turn on location services on your phone settings and “Nearby friends” on Facebook so you family can see where you are at even if you are not online at the time. If you are travelling with friends, agree to a meeting spot (back at accommodations) should you get separated without speaking about it first, and are not able to communicate by technology means.
- Give yourself time before flights – I am a punctual person, but add in some time change jet lag and things can get pretty screwy in realizing the time. Missing a flight is never fun. Missing a connection in a foreign country is even worse, and leads to a lot of unwanted expenses (not to mention butterfly effect losses). Set an alarm clock, set another alarm clock, and leave with enough time to get to the airport 1-2 hours in advance of your international/domestic flights. You can check the status of your flight the day of on Flightstats. You can double check with your airport carrier also to see if there are any delays. Unexpected things happen that can delay flights (additional plane maintenance required, weather, other airport traffic, etc), and if it is a significant time delay go to the airline carrier desk and ask nicely if they would comp you some vouchers for having to wait around. Remember the carriers are not legally obligated to comp you anything extra, it’s all written there when you buy your ticket, but the carriers are trying to get you on the next possible flight that is safe, so being a jerk to them because you are inconvenienced is rude and likely wont result in any benefit for you. Being nice might make your wait more comfortable.
Those steps alone will probably help in your preparation for an amazing whirlwind trip, and your anxiety can start to turn into excitement about all of the cool things you are about to see.
I can’t wait for my trip to Spain, and I will be sure to write about all of the great things I have learned, and come back with a fresh perspective for Edmonton.