Are you a new traveller who is just beginning to explore this amazing planet? Be warned - travelling is highly addictive! For years, people have spoken about it and many of us have lived it - it is perhaps, the one exhilarating feeling that is unmatched by anything else.
So now you're ready, packed with your bags and you're gripped by mixed feelings of nervousness and excitement. I was 24 when I took my first trip outside my country; I grew up in different cities in India and could only afford to travel to a foreign country once I saved up some money from my job. I didn't know what to expect and I certainly didn't have a clue that I'd one day become so wholly addicted to this feeling of being in an unknown place, exploring, learning, discovering something new every single day. And while there are many things that we must learn on our own as we take the journeys that we are meant to, here are a few tips that'll help you make the most of your trips.
For those of you who have been afflicted by wanderlust and have been following your heart exploring the world for a long time now, I am sure you will relate to these.
#1 Take lots of pictures
When you look back after years, it's these pictures that'll take you down the memory lane and remind you of the amazing moments you spent on your trip. As exciting and fresh as a journey seems today, as time passes, memories fade. It always helps to keep a journal and an album that will transport you right back in time and help you relive your trip, over and over again.
#2 Buy a souvenir (or lots!)
Buy souvenirs from wherever you go. When I walk into my house, I love to see trinkets and accessories that I've picked up from all over the world. Beer mugs from Prague, hand-painted wall hangings from Maldives, hand-crafted ship models from Mauritius, cuckoo-clock from Switzerland, colourful lamps from Turkey and other such wonderful things. Most of all, I love picking up fridge magnets from wherever I travel to.
#3 Stick to your budget but don’t deprive yourself
It is very important to set out with a budget in mind lest we might end up overspending. However, there are certain experiences which might seem expensive but are worth having. Remember, you can always earn that money back one day but you may not get an opportunity to experience something you've missed out on, again. You're in a new country, making sure you experience the very best and unique things is more important than anything else.
#4 Don’t make it about the stamps on your passport
When I began travelling, I wanted to cover as much ground as possible. In a span of 10 days, I went to 6 countries, visiting only the capital cities and spending hardly 1-2 days in each city. However, once I returned, I realised how unsatisfied I was with this manner of travelling! Countries have so much more to offer outside the capital city and most cities deserve more than just 2 days! It cannot just be about stamps on your passport or ticking the boxes; the real satisfaction lies in exploring outside the box.
#5 There may not be a 'next time'
Who knows if you will ever visit this country again - try to make the most of it while you're there. See as much as you can, explore off-the-beaten paths, experience the unique things, try the cuisine, befriend the locals, understand the culture, immerse yourself in their lifestyle and live it while you're there. Take the bullet trains while in Japan, try the street food in Malaysia, jump off the cliffs in Croatia, wear colourful clothes while in India, ride the elephant in Sri Lanka.
#6 …but that doesn’t mean that this is it!
While it is important to make the most of your trip, try not to overdo it and exert yourself, fearing that you might never come back and have the chance to experience things again. Exploring will stop being fun the moment you start feeling exhausted and it's key to find the right balance between doing as much as you can and not tiring yourself out. Give yourself enough time to relax and rejuvenate.
#7 Packing is an art you’ll learn to perfect with time
No amount of tips and hacks will help you come up with the right formula for packing. It is a skill that you'll develop over a period of time. We all want to pack light, but we also want to make sure we don't need to wash our clothes during the trip and still have enough to last the duration of our journey. And many of us even like to change clothes twice or thrice a day! Don't worry, you'll figure it out eventually.
#8 Locals usually know better
Although I do believe in researching and reading up about the place before you travel, so that you at least have a vague plan in place, it is always a great idea to speak to the locals once you're there and get their opinions. Be flexible with your plans and take some suggestions from people who know the place well.
#9 Your accent is NOT weird
English is not the mother tongue for most of us and that's alright! We have grown up speaking different languages and have learned to speak English to be able to interact with people around the globe. This in no way means that our accents will all be alike and there's nothing to be ashamed of in that! The fact that you've learned to speak a language other than your mother tongue is a big deal in itself, do not let anyone ever make you feel like you sound 'weird'.
#10 You can never be fully prepared
But that probably is the best part of it all! Surprises will greet us along the way, some good and some bad. And those are the biggest lesson-teachers. Take it in the stride, try not to panic or get upset and spoil your trip because of unexpected circumstances or occurrences.
If this is the beginning of the journey for you, be assured that there is a lot you'll learn along the way. There will be good experiences as much as there will be bad ones. But once you have begun to enjoy this feeling of being out and about in foreign lands, exploring great places and meeting amazing people, you will never look back.