It all started with a one-way flight from Miami to Guatemala City, leaping nervously into the unknown and leaving much of my old life behind while embarking on an epic travel adventure around the world.
It is a collection of the best and most useful travel tips to help inspire you to make travel a priority in your life.
1. Patience Is Important
Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control. Life is much too short to be angry & annoyed all the time. Did you miss your bus? No worries, there will be another one. ATMs out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes freakouts happen regardless.
Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.
2. Pack Ear Plugs
This should actually be #1 on the list. I love my earplugs! Muffle the sounds of crying babies, drunk Australians, barking dogs, honking horns, dormitory sex, natural gas salesmen, and more. A traveler’s best friend. These are my favorite earplugs for comfort & effectiveness.
3. Pack Less Stuff
You don’t need 1/2 the gear you think you do to travel anywhere. We’ve all done it. It’s a right of passage for travelers to slowly become better at packing less.
If you’re not sure about packing something, you don’t need it. It’s also possible to buy most things at your destination country if you discover you need them.
4. Stash Extra Cash
Cash is a king around the world. To cover your back in an emergency, make sure to stash some in a few different places. Have at least a couple hundred dollars. If you lose your wallet, your card stops working, or the ATMs run out of money, you’ll be glad you did.
Some of the favorite stash spots include socks, under shoe inserts, a toiletry bag, around the frame of a backpack, even sewn behind a patch on your bag.
5. Meet Local People
Make it a point to avoid other travelers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken widely all over the world, so it’s easier to communicate than you might think, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language.
Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting. People enrich your travels more than sights do.
6. Pack A Scarf
A scarf has come in handy around the world so many times. This simple piece of cotton cloth is one of my most useful travel accessories with many different practical applications. It’s great for sun protection, a makeshift towel, carrying stuff around, an eye mask, and much more.
7. Observe Daily Life
If you really want to get a feel for the pulse of a place, spend a few hours sitting in a park or on a busy street corner by yourself just watching day to day life happen in front of you.
Slow down your train of thought and pay close attention to the details around you. The smells, the colors, human interactions, and sounds. It’s a kind of meditation — and you’ll see stuff you never noticed before.
8. Back Everything Up
Imagine your laptop computer was stolen in Panama, having most of your important documents and photos backed up saved your life. Keep both digital and physical copies of your passport, visas, driver’s license, birth certificate, health insurance card, serial numbers, and important phone numbers ready to go in case of an emergency.
9. Take Lots Of Photos
You may only see these places & meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Don’t worry about looking like a “tourist”. Are you traveling to look cool? No one cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenir.
They don’t cost anything, they’re easy to share with others, and they don’t take up space in your luggage. Just remember once you have your shot to get out from behind the lens and enjoy the view.
10. Volunteer Occasionally
Make it a point to volunteer some of your time for worthwhile projects when traveling. Not only is it a very rewarding experience, but you’ll often learn more about the country and its people while also making new friends
11. Wake Up Early
Rise at sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding crowds. It’s also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and usually easier to interact with locals. Sketchy areas are less dangerous in the morning too. Honest hardworking people wake up early; touts, scammers, and criminals sleep in.
12. Don’t Be Afraid
The world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. Keep an eye out for sketchy situations but don’t let that be the focus of your whole trip. Use common sense and you’ll be ok. Most people are friendly, trustworthy, generous, and willing to help you out.
13. Get Lost On Purpose
If you want to see the parts of town where real people live & work, you need to go visit them. The best way to do this is on foot — without knowing exactly where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel so you can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking.
Don’t worry too much about stumbling into dangerous neighborhoods either, as locals will generally warn you before you get that far.
14. Eat Local Food
Think you already know what Mexican food tastes like? You’re probably wrong. Taste a bit of everything when you travel, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ask local people for recommendations. Eat street food from vendors with big lines out front.
15. Slow Down
Please don’t try to cram 6 countries into 6 weeks of travel. All the good stuff happens when you really take the time to explore. You’ll learn about activities that aren’t in your guidebook and meet people who are eager to show you around.
To be honest NONE of the best travel experiences happened within the first few days of arriving somewhere. Spend more time in fewer places for maximum enjoyment.