I travel often; I change location like something is chasing me. If everything goes right, at the end of this experience I will be able to cross off 10 countries and 25 cities from my bucket list. Yes, I am only 20.
Like many other people who travel often, I would like to identify myself as a traveller, not a tourist. However, not everyone who claim themselves as “travellers” fit in the criteria. Obviously there is no manual to become one, but still, for all of the tourists out there I put a list together that might be useful for you.
- Leave your high-ankle, white sports socks at home. I want to highlight, underline and write this one in bold. Whenever I see a tour bus, I often wait for people to come out to see if they are wearing the “tourist socks” and usually they are. I guess it is relatively acceptable if you are in Peru and are wondering in the woods but when you are in a city like Paris, Istanbul or even Amsterdam, it is just not something people enjoy seeing.
- North Face jackets are big no-no’s. One winter jacket usually weighs around 6 pounds and that is just too much to carry around, especially if you are backpacking. Puffy jackets are always the best; they are easy to pack and not as heavy.
- If you are not going to Antarctica, avoid really big jackets. You will be walking a lot so the chances that you will feel warm after a while are really great.
- Pastel and neutral colors are your best friends! They are really easy to make combinations with, plus they would fit into any environment.
- Learn how to use a map; a real map, I’m not talking about Google Maps. From my experience, it is hard to find Wi-Fi at cafés in Europe, Middle East and Africa. So if you were to get lost and there are no hotspots around you, then you will have to consult with your good old friend, a paper map.
- Don’t trust the website Trip Advisor; TimeOut is the one that has all the insiders. As much as I think that you should see all of the touristy spots and landmarks, at least have dinner somewhere not popular. Say you are in Italy, go to the restaurant that you hear Italian, not English.
- Learn your words. If you were to go to a suburban area or a French speaking country, you may not be able to find anyone who speaks English. In Brussels, my friends and I got lost and tried to ask for directions to a lady who did not speak any English. With our limited French, (mostly Sarah’s French) we asked her to repeat everything she said. I thought she was going to chase us with a baguette.
- Don’t count on Starbucks for Wi-Fi. I know I just mentioned that but it is often the case people assume (or hope) Starbucks is everywhere. Well technically it is, like I saw maybe six Starbucks shops in Amsterdam Centrum. But for example in Morocco, they have only two shops and both are located in Casablanca. So I sure will miss my chai tea latte.
- The most painful memory of your life is not giving birth, not stitches, not a broken bone nor a break up. The worst is having to test your flexibility of your bladder. So be wise, don’t drink a lot of water unless you have to. In Europe you pay to use the rest room, including the café ones and they are usually around 60 euro cents which is like a dollar. So if you don’t want to drop a dollar each time you need to use the restroom, just don’t drink a lot.
- Luxury is for tourists; don’t use taxis to get around. Public transportation is the cheapest and the safest way. In our orientation for Morocco trip, we’ve been told that Moroccan taxis are 99% safe but there is always 1% chance.
- Do not be cheap about the experience. I have spent so much money on museums and food here that it is not even funny. But I don’t regret it one bit to be honest; because when on the earth will I ever have passion fruit ice cream? However you can always shop for cute skirts or graphic t-shirts in your home country.
- Do not stop in the middle of the way to text, especially if you are in a metropolitan area. I remember people doing that in Istanbul, I would get so mad because that would just interrupt the traffic. So, just don’t.
- Do not let your parents pack for you. When you are traveling you want your bags to be as light as possible and parents won’t make that easy. Parents, I’m sorry, but there is no point of packing a heavy jacket when your daughter or son is backpacking through Europe in July. I mean it may get chilly, but a cardigan will do the trick.
- If you have a smart phone, you don’t need your laptop; simple as that.
- Flight fares are always the cheapest on Tuesday nights, I don’t know why but that is something I have realized over the years.
- Booking a flight ticket from 6 months ahead of time is not smart. If that is not a very popular route, the prices will start going down around a month before the flight date.
- For the love of everything, please don’t make McDonalds your first spot. You may be homesick, but you will later regret that you spent 10 euros a Big Mac menu.
- Decide on one item that you collect or one food that you try everywhere you go. You would be surprised how chain restaurants differ from each other. For me that is Starbucks (of course) and so far I think Italian Starbucks is my favorite.
- Do not and I repeat, do not add random people on your Facebook. I know, like every newbie you are excited to meet all these people at your youth hostel but you really don’t have to become BFF’s with them.
- Do some research before you start your journey. Every country has their “dress code” and you should respect it. It is a free world but you are not proving anything by wearing a tank top to a mosque or ripped jeans to a church. Of course in touristy spots they give you blue nylon bags for you to wear (same stuff you use for trash) so if you don’t want to look like a Smurf in your Vatican pictures, don’t wear a strapless blouse.
- Every traveler’s one golden rule: do not rush anything. Timetables and deadlines will ruin everything. If you spared only 2 hours for Louvre Museum and you just don’t want to leave at the end of those 2 hours, then just don’t. Every trip is a lifetime experience and the chances that you will go back to that very spot and find everything the way you left them is very slim.
- Your best friend or your significant other doesn’t necessarily have to be the best travel buddies. If you think Ganj River in India or Moulay Abdellah Quarter in Morocco would disgust them, just leave them at the hotel and still go see those spots. Lucky for me, I would not have that problem.
And the golden rule of all travelers:
Get lost. I don’t mean get lost in a jungle in Costa Rica or Gabon, but you know, you may accidently find this really local bakery shop that later you fall in love with.
There are many inspirational quotes on traveling, but they often don’t emphasize how important it is for you to know what you are doing. That is the very first step to get ready for your journey, because as much as you will discover new places, you will also discover yourself and your limits so try to make the most out of it.
Now if you will excuse me, I am going to start packing for the Morocco trip…
Have a great day,