I hesitate to give travel advice.
I used give it. Heck, I used to serve it on platters. Oh, you’re going here? Bam! Here’s the list of must-sees, here’s where you’ll want to avoid. Go at this time, and save money by doing this and that. I heaved advice like I was throwing hay to livestock.
But over the years I’ve realized a couple things about travel, and more importantly, a couple things about giving advice that I should have learned long ago: aaaand I'll share those things in a second. Before I do, I should say five years from now my opinions may change. But today, right now, here are three pieces of advice for people who might be planning a trip in the coming weeks, months or years.
TIP ONE: There are absolutely no absolutes!
Here’s one thing about travel I consider a fact: No two people travel the same way.
Some people want to do it cheap, some don’t. Some want a schedule. Some don’t. Some people believe the only way to see the sights and experience the culture is to spend a week/month/year doing so. Others feel sufficiently immersed in days/hours/few minutes. In my humble opinion, the right answer is entirely personal.
You can absolutely do Rome in a day, or you can do Rome in a week. Or you can spend a month and barely scratch the surface.
So take your time. Or don’t. Go at whatever pace you want and don’t feel guilty or superior about it. You didn’t see or experience a great deal more because you spent a week at Angkor Wat than the
guy who spent a day.
That’s the beauty of travel.
TIP TWO: Not everyone speaks English, and that’s okay!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen travelers become frustrated in foreign countries when the person they’re speaking to doesn’t speak English. Remember, English is what you speak, not what they speak. It seems obvious, but it’s an easy thing to forget in the situation.
My advice: Don’t get frustrated when you have difficulty communicating in foreign countries. Just don’t. It’s not a big deal. So the meal you got wasn’t what you thought you ordered. Don’t worry about it. If you have urgent dietary needs, you’ll need to plan for those. Phrases like, “I will die if I eat peanuts. Are there any peanuts in this dish?” are phrases worth knowing cold if they happen to apply to you. If not, don’t worry about it. Learn a couple words, and hack your way through the rest with a smile (and a phrase book).
All will be fine. If nothing else, you’ll return from your trip and blow everyone away with your charades skills.
TIP THREE: It’s easier to avoid trouble than it is to get out of trouble!
Eyes opened, folks. That’s it. Realize where you are. Walk with purpose. Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of the people around you. It’s easy to get distracted in foreign countries. I’ve found myself in a number of shifty places, and while I’d never say you shouldn’t trust anyone, or that you should be afraid everywhere you go, I do suggest one rule: Trust your instincts when something feels “off,” and question your instincts when something feels safe.
That’s all I got. What about you guys? Any universal travel tips? Any words of wisdom for people setting out for adventure this year?