From bargaining like a local to making sure you eat your fruits and veggies, here are some tips when you’re traveling the world.
1. Stop speaking English
English is not a universal language. Enunciating words louder and slower does not magically turn it into Spanish or Chinese or German or any other language other than English. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, don’t expect, or hope, that the people you interact with can speak English.
According to National Geographic, “In the mid-20th century, nearly 9 percent of the world’s population grew up speaking English as their first language. In 2050, the number is expected to be 5 percent.” It’s good to be bi-lingual. When you’re traveling the world, it’s certainly handy to know the basics of another language.
2. Bargain like a local
Don’t be an idiot like me and bargain in USD just because your brain is fried from the sweltering 102 degree weather in Honduras. While my friend and I were trying to grab a cab from San Pedro Sula to Lago de Yajoa, we could not calculate how much 600 lempiras was in USD dollars. We asked the driver to quote us in US and he offered $40 USD. We agreed to it and realized later on when we were on the highway that 600 lempiras was only about $33 USD. Because of our laziness and stupidity, we ended up paying 120 lempiras, or about $7 USD, more than we would have if we just did the math.
3. Learn the culture & customs
Ladies, we all like to dress nice and feel pretty but it’s obnoxious to walk into a mosque in a tank top and a skirt. What’s even more obnoxious is if you decide to take off the scarf you are given once you step inside. Many mosques are open to the public and your nonchalance to the religion and custom is disrespectful to worshipers who not only open their homes but also their hearts to you. Be respectful. Put some clothes on.
4. Don’t be a princess
No wi-fi in your room? No hot water in the winter time? No seat cushion on the bus? I know it’s hard but try to suck it up. Whenever I find myself in a challenging situation, I think of the story my dad use to tell me when he was a little boy during Communist China. His family was very poor and so they only ate meat once a year on Chinese New Year.
In those days, a chicken was about the size of a fist. One year, they couldn’t scrounge enough money to buy a chicken. My dad picked up a few rocks, chucked it at his neighbor’s chicken, put the dead chicken in a sack and carried it home. When my grandmother asked him where he got it from, he lied and said he found it on the side of the road. I never had to live the way he did, but it puts things into perspective.
5. Get lost
Really, just get lost. No map? No worries. Why be afraid of getting lost in a foreign country? It’s not like you know where anything is anyway. Toss the map and just go. You’d be surprise to discover some of the more unexpected things along the way. Many of the times, the things I discover when I’m “lost” are the things I remember most about my trip.
6. Don’t forget to look back
We’re always looking forward to our next trip, our next destination, our next adventure. It’s easy to forget to look back and reflect on how much we’ve seen and how much we’ve changed. When it comes to traveling, it’s never about the quantity – it’s the quality. You’ve been to 30 countries? Bravo! Where did you go in those 30 countries? Resorts or villages. What did you do? Lay on the beach or discovering Chinese Jews in Kaifeng?
7. Don’t forget to give back
When we travel, we tend to take in everything around us – the sights, the sound, the food and the culture. But do you ever think about what you give back besides dollar bills? (Don’t say Euros. You know what I mean.) We take away a lot from our travels so it’s only fair that we make time to give back. Spend a few weeks traveling and a few weeks volunteering. It makes the experience so much more rewarding.
8. Don’t forget to exercise
Yes, there is A LOT of walking when we travel. It’s definitely good cardio but there are other parts our bodies we should not forget – like our back and shoulders. It’s hard to establish a routine when every day is different, but I find it helps to work out before I set foot outside of my hotel room. We all have to sleep somewhere and since that’s only the consistent thing in my travels, I always try to do a little bit of stretching or yoga before I leave the room for breakfast.
Working out a few few minutes every day is much better than working out intensively for 2 hour every other week. The most important thing for your body is to be balanced and to progress gradually. If you do it consistently, exercising won’t feel like a chore after a while.
9. Don’t forget about your fruits & veggies
Mom’s not always going to be around to nag us about eating our fruits and veggies. It’s one of the easiest things to forget when you’re busy traveling or if you’re traveling on a budget. However, nutrition is the one thing you shouldn’t skimp out on. Who wants a lack of Vitamin C to hold them down from climbing The Great Wall of China?