Tips to know before you go
Posted on March 3, 2017
“What did you learn while traveling?” Was a question asked on Facebook that took me some time to cultivate. Not because it was difficult to answer, but because there’s so much I had to write it down. First and foremost, I would say that traveling taught me how to adapt. I’m an introvert and usually stay to myself especially when it comes to meeting new people. However, going to a country knowing not a single soul forced me out my comfort zone. Staying at hostels I would meet someone new everyday, go on adventures and eventually we’d go our separate ways. That was so unfamilure to me. Every time I befriended someone I would want to hold onto them and say, “Please don’t go!” But reality eventually sets in and you settle for a Facebook friend request and depart ways.
Of course you learn a lot about different cultures- from South America where things are hot, colorful and sexy to Europe where it’s cold, grey and wet- I’m surprised I didn’t catch pneumonia. I still haven’t received my luggage which was lost at Mexico’s airport and it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting it anytime soon. However, the loss did change me for the better- I realize I’m not as materialistic I thought I was and I learned to push forward despite what obstacles came my way.
Most importantly my experience taught me how to travel. From booking the flight, to getting around and remembering to always going with my gut. While international travel for people of color is on the rise, there’s still a fear especially doing it alone. I want to ease your anxiety with this list of travel things you should know before you go.
- Get a passport. Without one you will not be able to enter any other countries. Apply here to get started. A new passport book will cost you $110, it takes about 2 weeks until your passport arrives in the mail.
- Start saving. Put aside a little each month in a separate account for travel expenses.
- Start planning. Start your search with GoogleFlights.com. If you take anything away from this article, this should be it. It has been a lifesaver and a travel agent. It’ll show you the best time to travel, from different locations at the best price.
- Link up with other travelers. You’ll come in contact with people from places you’ve only read about. Chat with them to learn travel tricks of the trade or their next travel destination. More than likely this isn’t their first rodeo- they want to help.
- As a person of color, my experience traveling abroad in South America was a lot different compared to Europe. In Panama and Colombia I was able to “blend in” and got passed as a local several times. However when I went to Prague my experience was quite different, at one point I was even accused of stealing! So be aware of your surroundings and realize that sometimes you may fit in and sometimes you won’t. Also, Pack light- don’t dress too fancy and if you’re really paranoid keep your mouth shut so no one will pickup on your accent.
- Don’t get wrapped up in he say she say- experience it for yourself. To be honest, I was nervous going to Medellin. It had a bad reputation with the cartels and hadn’t really been exposed to many tourist yet. Surprisingly, I felt the safest in Medellin compared to other cities.
- Register for a free walking tour. It’s a low cost, educational and you get a little workout. Guides work off tips and tours fill- the sooner you sign up the better.
- Currency is confusing. Numbers always gave me anxiety, so dealing with another courntry’s money is just insane to me. From the exchange rate to conversions- it’s all overwhelming. Chances are you’ll get ripped off a few times, take it as a lesson learned and really try to understand the currency or use a converter on your phone.
- Learn the language or at least the basics. Don’t let the lack of a language be the reason you get ripped off or miss out on an experience. Get Google Translate.
- Do public transportation. Foreign countries take pride in their transportation system. It’s easy to just call a cab or Uber, but get on a bus or use the Metro- you’ll have a better knowledge of the city and your whereabouts.
- Eat street food. I had the best steak on a stick in Cartagena. Don’t pass up an opportunity please your palate.
- Stay at a social hostel. Happy Buddha Hostel is a party hostel with a bar in Medellin Colombia. They have events each night of the week- making it easy for travelers to meet and have a good time.
Most importantly keep an open mind. This concept may seem cliche, but it will open more doors than you can imagine. Go places you’ve never been and come back and tell the world its story.