At 26-years-old I finally had my first experience traveling out of the country. Like most novice travellers, I started with a place that’s bright and shiny: Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. It was beautiful. The resort we stayed in was immaculate, the food was great, the views we’re worth the entire trip, in my opinion. However, all of the planning leading up to the trip was stressful. I’m not surprised that it took me so long to venture out of the country.
I’m sure that many of you are like me. You have an indescribable urge to travel far and wide, but no idea where to start. Don’t worry — that’s what I’m here for! Traveling abroad can be intimidating, but with my tips you can plan your next trip easily.
- Apply for your passport. Sounds obvious, but if you don’t have your passport, you aren’t going anywhere. If you have a passport already, check the expiration date on it. Some countries won’t allow tourists to visit unless they have at least six months left on their passport. This is to ensure that you can still travel if you are delayed in your destination country. Get it sorted out early, to save hassle and stress.
Pro Tip: Take care. While we were in the airport waiting to check our baggage, the man in front of us accidentally put his passport through the wash and it was unable to scan. They were on their way to adopt a baby in another country.
Pro Tip #2: Smile for your photo. The woman taking my photo told me I couldn’t smile. She then proceeded to tell me my photo looked like “an honest to goodness mugshot.” She was right, I did look like I just finished a bid in the state pen.
- Make a list of places you’d like to visit. Where do you want to go? Draw up a list of all possible places that your soul would like to wander. Don’t hesitate to write down even the most lux or dangerous destinations. After that, begin narrowing it down to find a place that fits your current needs and budget. At this point in your life, what do you want from your travels?
- Start saving those doubloons. Even if you’re at the point in your journey where you still have no idea where you want to go or what you want to do, start saving. You know enough about yourself to know that traveling is in your future, so make sure you have the funds to do it! Remember that no amount is too small. Get that $25 a week in the bank before you spend it on wine or two trips to chipotle.
- Back everything up. Once you’ve booked your trip, back up all of the documents you will need. This includes your passport, travel insurance and anything else that may be important for your trip. Keep one set of copies with you, and another with a trusted friend back home.
Speaking of travel insurance, make sure you buy some before you leave the country. Get a policy that will cover a multitude of problems, especially health coverage. You’ll breathe easier knowing you’re covered in the event of an emergency.
- Learn some key phrases in the local language. I was SO grateful for all those years of college-level Spanish when I was in the Dominican. Knowing some conversational Spanish allowed me to always get the correct drink/meal, and the locals were happy that I usually had a general idea of what they were trying to say. Brush up on the basics and you’ll get more out of your experience.
6. What do you want to do? Are you the type of person that reaches the ultimate happiness level by lounging under a cabana at the beach?
Are you all about adventure and need to excursion your butt off to feel fulfilled?
Will romping around with the locals bring you the most joy?
Chances are you probably don’t know yet, but making plans according to the activities that sound most appealing is your best bet.
I knew that when I was in the DR I wanted to experience life while I was there. I didn’t just want to sit at the resort all day guzzling rum drinks. I knew I wanted to get out into the villages to get an intimate look at how people in a developing country live. I got exactly what I wanted and super emotional in the process. The day I spent riding horseback through the streets and villages was the most profound and memorable of the whole trip.
- Stop making excuses. There is always a reason to put off traveling. As a person who will probably procrastinate her way to her own death, I know how easy it is to put things off for tomorrow. The problem is that tomorrow never comes. If traveling is what you want to do today, start planning today. You’ll never get to Pamplona if you don’t buy the red scarf.
Cheers to you and your gypsy soul! I hope your travels lead you down every road you wish to go!