20 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Traveling

Posted February 12, 2013 by Kenza Moller in Budget Travel

The young ones

With many life lessons, it’s necessary to live through tricky situations to truly learn from them. Traveling is one of the best ways to dive head-first into discovering yourself and the world around you. However, there are a few things that you’re probably better off knowing before you set off on a trip to save yourself the stress later. We’ve put together a few of them below!


Do your research on prices. Looking back, there are many ways I could have saved money as I traveled. Airfare is cheaper during certain times of the year, with a few super-sales every once in a while (Black Friday, anyone?).


Pack less. You probably won’t need that second sweater, and you’ll get tired with all that unnecessary weight – quickly. Bring a few staple objects that you can wash in your hotel sink and enjoy the freedom of not owning anything more than that! Bonus points if you don’t have to check any baggage.


You can sleep when you’re back home, right? Wrong. If you’re tired, take a nap – exploring while cranky from lack of sleep won’t let you savor the sights and sounds. You’re better off skipping an hour outside and being able to take everything in with a refreshed mind.


Budget your money and prioritize. Some people enjoy experiencing local restaurants and buying souvenirs, and both are a good way to delve into the country. But have one night out, buy one souvenir, and spend the rest of your money on experiences (or further traveling!). Besides, hitting up a grocery store in another country can be surprisingly interesting.


The people make the place. Make friends across the world by using CouchSurfing or Meetup – especially if you’re traveling alone. And while you’re out and about, be friendly! Ask people for recommendations, directions, advice – or just say hi. Whether you need actual help or simply a bit of interaction, traveling gives you the perfect excuse to strike up a conversation.


Research body language before you go. Facial expressions might be cross-cultural, but gestures aren’t quite as translatable. You’d think that if you don’t know the language, it’d be hard to offend someone without speaking a single word… but that’s not always the case.


Bring photocopies of your passport – in some countries, you need them for almost anything, from going to the internet café to registering at a hotel.


Eat in restaurants that are filled with locals – you’ll usually get better food at a better price.
Learn a few words of the language used, even if you feel shy when it comes to foreign languages. People will appreciate the effort, especially if you’re willing to laugh about your mistakes.


Try not to criticize the country you’re in, even if locals are doing so. Show curiosity, ask questions, and expand your knowledge, but keep your negative judgments to yourself. Locals are allowed to complain because the country is “theirs” in a way – as a guest, it’s usually considered rude to join in.


Check on the voltage for electric appliances and buy some adapters if necessary. This one is overlooked often and irritates easily.


If you’re traveling, you’ll encounter a few situations that will be embarrassing or stressful, and some might nudge you outside of your comfort zone. It’s okay to acknowledge your emotions – but don’t let this ruin your trip and keep in mind that these little happenings will either teach you something for the future or become a great story.


Look into finances before you go. Aside from exchanging currencies, will you be able to use a debit card abroad? A credit card? It usually changes from country to country, and it’s nice to know in the case of emergencies.


Learn the appropriate terms for your allergies in whatever language necessary. Learning to say “I’m vegetarian” might help you avoid an unpleasant surprise and “I’m allergic to shellfish” might just save your life.


It pays to be well-informed when it comes to a different country’s laws. Just because it’s legal at home doesn’t mean it is everywhere, and “I didn’t know” doesn’t count as an excuse.


You will never regret carrying extra toilet paper with you.


 You don’t want to get sick unnecessarily. Is the water safe to drink? If not, buy it bottled or filter it, and make sure to clean fresh fruits and vegetables.


Stay hydrated and bring snacks, especially if you’re doing tons of walking. Interrupting your adventures due to a rumbling stomach can be easily avoided if you’re well-prepared.


Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket i.e., don’t keep all your valuables in a single backpack. Always keep an emergency stash of money on you, hidden elsewhere.


The world is your oyster. There’s endless options of where you go and how long you can travel for, as long as you set your mind to it, save, plan and do your research.


A simple rule for staying satisfied: keep an open mind. It allows you to enjoy new experiences and grateful for the opportunities you get. After all, you’re traveling. Enjoy it!

What do  you wish you’d known before setting off on your travels? Did you learn anything the hard way?

About the Author

Kenza Moller

Kenza Moller is our magazine editor and also our expert on budget travel. She is originally from the Dominican Republic and currently wrapping up a writing degree in Victoria, BC. She ran a non-profit foundation for animals and also interned at Canadian Geographic, and is happiest when traveling, scuba diving, writing or running. Check out her blog at www.kenzamoller.com.

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