After a long flight, you finally arrived at the airport in the country of your destination. You did not sleep very well and you are tired. Back at home it seemed like a great adventure, traveling with just your backpack for a while, only by yourself. Saying goodbye to your family and friends was already emotional and now you are there and what to do? There is no way back, it is hot and you don’t know anything or anyone. Like many things you do for the first time, traveling in a foreign country for the first time can be a bit scary. Everything is overwhelming, you feel insecure and it is easy to make some wrong decisions. It can make the beginning of your travel not as magical as you expected. You might be wasting your first days because of a worried mind what makes it is hard to enjoy things and that is not what you want. Especially not the first few days when you still might be questioning yourself if you have made the right decision by going on this travel.
But traveling should be fun all the time and it is totally possible to feel relaxed and free from day one. You just have to start right.
In order to help you a bit to avoid the stress and the troubles so you can be the ‘free-minded-free-in-being-able-to-move-everywhere-you-want-traveler’ from the first day, I will give you some tips to make the right start and to feel relaxed, safe and secure.
1. Plan your trip
Choose the right country
First of all, you have to plan. Certainly not everything but a bit of planning takes you a long way. I know the big romance with traveling lays in not knowing what is going to happen but not knowing anything at all, can lead to bad surprises. So first, choose your destination wisely. Some countries are much better adapted to travelers than others and as a beginning traveler, you do not want to start hardcore. For example, most South East Asian countries are very easy to travel around while India can be overwhelming and a lot harder.
Know what you can expect
Second, know what you can expect. I’m not telling you to be prepared for all the good things that can happen but be prepared for the bad ones. In a lot of countries, traveling is safe but it is good to take some precautions. There can be diseases for example so always go to a travel doctor to see if you need any vaccines and/or malaria tablets.
Learn about the county
Read a bit about the country where you are going to. Travel guides like the lonely planet often have some helpful background information. You can read about the climate and what is the right season to visit a country. Some countries have the monsoon season for example with a lot of rain. Roads can be closed and things like accommodation can be limited. It is also nice to know the value of the money, what dangers and annoyances there can be, how it is to travel alone and a lot more. Reading a bit about the culture and history of the country can be helpful. It will get you a better understanding about the social differences and learns you how to act in certain situations. Last but not least, it is convenient to have a bit of an understanding about the geography so you do not waste a lot of time by unnecessary long bus rides because you are crisscrossing the country.
2. Pack the right things
You are going to live with only your backpack for a while so what should you take with you and what can you leave behind. You know you should travel light but when you think of it, some things might be handy along the way. I would say, don’t worry about it too much. You are not going to walk hours and hours with your bag unless it is a big hobby of course. Most of the time you walk from a station to a hotel or hostel and eventually back. So just pack what you think you will need within reason and baggage weight limit. If you like to draw, just bring your pencils and paper. It is nice to have things from home on the moments you miss it. Of course you can always buy things in other countries but some things that are very common at home, are hard to find in another country. For example the things you use for your monthly cycle, ladies. Weird tip but good tip.
List of things to pack
Anyways, here is a list of things : backpack, daypack, padlock, emergency kit, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, mosquito net, sleeping bag, disinfecting hand lotion, medicines against stomach problems and aspirins etc., clothes, a knife, IPod with a small music box, cards, pictures of people at home (great for conversations too), camera, small laptop, telephone, chargers, flight bag with zipper so you can lock your backpack, snorkel set, journal, pen, sunglasses and here comes the best tip of all, bring strong plastic bags.
With all your clothes and other stuff, your bag is going to be a mess but if you divide it in plastic bags, it is much more organized. I always divide my pants and shirts in two different bags for example. If you are traveling around you will be packing and unpacking your bag all the time and it saves so much time if you use plastic bags.
3. Take it easy when you arrive
After a long flight and a jetlag you will probably feel tired. It is hard to think straight and actually, you would rather not think at all. The first time I went traveling alone, I arrived in Bangkok. I did not plan anything, did not know anything accept for the fact that Khao San Road was the place for backpackers. From the moment I arrived, I did everything wrong because I was tired and insecure. I stayed in the wrong place, I did not rest and I ended up in a tuk tuk that brought me everywhere, expect for the places I wanted to go. But what does not kill you makes you stronger so I have learned. Now when I go on a travel, I book a room in advanced. Just for the first night and just a single room. I also book a little more upscale so I have a bit more luxury.
I take it very easy the first day. I sleep, eat a bit, if I want I make a short walk to get an impression but not too far. Then when I wake up the next day I feel rested and ready for the rest of my travel. It is such a nice way to start your travel free of worries and stress. You are adapted to the new environment in no time so you are open to enjoy the country, the people and your freedom.
4. Make Social Contacts
It is always nice to meet other travelers along the way so you can have some company and it is great to share travel stories so you can learn and help people. Especially if you just arrived for the first time in a country you do not know, it is nice to talk to some people for some comfort and advise. Most of the times you will arrive in some capital or big city and in bigger places, it is always a bit harder to make social contact. Maybe you are not used to just step up to a person either but there is an easy solution. Stay in a dormitory. It is a room with a couple of beds and you share it with other travelers. It is a great way to make contact and soon you will see that the backpackers society is a very social one and everyone is in for a chat. Most hostels have common areas as well where many travelers hang out.
5. Don’t be afraid to taste food
I love food and I love trying all the different food in other countries. It brings me so much happiness and I’m definitely not the only one. Trying all this food is a great aspect of traveling and you should not be afraid to do it too. Personally, I think that one of the best places to eat is on the street or this dirty local restaurants. Sometimes when I crave something from home I go to some more fancy western places but it is usually disappointing and so much more expensive. I remember I was a bit afraid on my first travel to eat food from street stalls. Everyone back home told me that you could easily get sick from eating there and I am not saying that you cannot but I never got sick. Only one time in a restaurant but never from street food. My advice is to go to the places where the locals eat. If a place is busy, the products must be fresh and there is a reason why the locals eat there. So just let the fear go as soon as possible and try all the delicious local specialties.
While traveling around, it is important to keep a calm mind. Things will not always happen as you like but accept it. In the end, it is part of your travel experience and you are the one who is visiting another county with a different culture. If you are prepared and take it very easy the first few days, you will have an awesome time exploring all new things. You can enjoy and feel free!
More tips are coming up soon.