7 travel resolutions all College Tourists should make for the new year
Here’s to living like a local, experiencing a new way of life and making new friends along the way.
Welcome to 2015: a brand new year filled with 365 days for potential new adventures. Maybe you’ve already started planning a specific trip, or maybe you have no idea where your travels will take you this year. Whether you’re headed to the other side of the globe or you plan to fill your year with spontaneous day trips to cities a few hours away, here are seven resolutions to stick to, no matter where 2015 carries you.
1. Keep your feet on the ground when your head’s in the clouds
This resolution is actually a lyric from Paramore’s “Brick by Boring Brick,” but it’s something that all young travelers should keep in mind. It’s easy to get swayed by the romanticism of travel: the ancient architecture, the cobblestone streets worn down through centuries, the idyllic landscapes…just visit the Travel category on Pinterest to get your share of perfectly photographed wanderlust.
What these beautiful photographs and descriptions don’t show is the not-so-pretty logistical side of travel. How are you going to get from the airport to the place where you’re staying once you touch down in your destination? Do you have a place to stay? Who are you going to contact in case of an emergency? Details like this might not be quite as fun to consider, but they’re important in ensuring that your trip runs smoothly. Travel is more than a means to a picturesque end. Stay grounded and consider all the logistics and small details so you can enjoy your dream destination as much as possible.
2. Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s
This is easier said than done in the age of social media. When that girl from your freshman dorm is bombarding your newsfeed with Amaro-filtered European adventures during her semester abroad, it’s hard not to feel jealous. Instead of letting the green-eyed monster eat your wanderlust alive, focus on planning your next exciting trip. Just because you aren’t traveling now doesn’t mean you will never go anywhere else for as long as you live.
Also, don’t forget that – as I touched on in the first point – the stunning travel imagery we see on social media typically only reflects the most photogenic parts of someone’s journey. For every golden foreign sunset, there’s a lost suitcase or an embarrassing miscommunication with a local or any number of minor inconveniences that you’re not seeing. Travel isn’t meant to be perfect – it’s about learning and growing along the way, and everyone experiences this growth differently.
3. Know why you’re going where you’re going
Depending on where you are in the world, it can be incredibly cheap and easy to travel between countries thanks to budget airlines and railway passes. I’ve experienced this firsthand in Europe, but I’ve heard of it in places like Southeast Asia and Central America as well. It’s easier than ever to leave your host city behind for a quick weekend trip to another country, which is an attractive prospect to many study abroad students.
Unfortunately, it seems like some (not all!) young travelers don’t really care about experiencing the places that they’re visiting on these quick trips – they’re just using it as a way to check another country off of their list. Keep in mind that just because you can easily visit a handful of different countries, doesn’t mean you have to. If nothing about the destination appeals to you but you’re going anyway just so you can say “been there, done that,” you should probably reconsider going and instead spend that time doing something you’ll actually enjoy. But if it’s someplace that genuinely interests you or that would mean a lot for you to see, then by all means buy the ticket and take the ride.
4. Figure out which travel styles suit you, and which don’t
Some travelers enjoy seeing as many cities as possible in a short amount of time, gallivanting from place to place at the speed of a flashy new BMW on the Autobahn. Others like to take things at a slower pace and really soak in the experience. There’s no right or wrong way to do it – it’s just a matter of finding what works for you.
Pacing isn’t the only travel element that comes to mind when it comes to figuring out your personal preferences and styles. Do you mind roughing it in a hostel, or would you rather shell out a few extra euros/pounds/pesos/rupees/[insert currency of your destination country here] for the added security and amenities of a hotel? What about transportation – do you prefer flying from place to place, or is train travel more your style? This process can involve a lot of trial-and-error, but once you figure out which travel intricacies you like and which ones you could do without, you’ll be able to plan future trips that suit your personal style.
5. Acknowledge that you are the foreigner and let this keep you humble
I once took a weekend trip with a small group, including a girl who essentially embodied the “rude American” stereotype. Instead of greeting locals in their language before politely asking them (in said language) if they spoke English, her preferred method involved walking up to someone and immediately shouting “ENGLISH?!” She prided herself on being “aggressive” and “getting things done,” but she actually just came off as obnoxious, and I was embarrassed to be seen with her. Whenever our group was hanging out together, she would complain (loudly) about every conceivable aspect of the local environment: from the price of a meal to the size of a cup of coffee to the fact that not everybody spoke English.
As relieved as I felt when our short trip was over and I didn’t have to spend so much time in a small group with this girl, traveling with her taught me a lot about how I don’t want to behave while in another country. Not everybody is going to speak your language and certainly things will be different from what you’re accustomed to. Instead of grumbling and groaning about it, learn to get used to it and embrace a new way of doing things. Thinking about why things are the way they are can also be eye-opening. I was taken aback one evening in Germany when I unsuccessfully tried to go to the store and pick up a few things (most stores close around 6 or 7 p.m.), but I realized that this lets employees go home at night and spend time with their families.
And a bonus point to being the foreigner: if you speak the local language, you are the one with the cool accent.
6. Remember where you came from
Never forget that you have a family and friends at home who love you and miss you. Life will continue to go on and you’ll probably miss out on some things back home, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped thinking about you completely. Calling and texting your loved ones at home might not be possible financially (thanks, expensive international mobile plans), but a quick Skype or Facetime session will mean the world to them (and you). If you have an iPhone, you can send iMessages when you’re connected to wifi, and there are dozens of other apps that enable you to text for free over an internet connection (I used one called TextPlus). And don’t forget to bring a few pictures of your favorite people or other trinkets that remind you of home – it’ll keep you humble and cheer you up on days when you’re feeling down.
7. Get out more
Plan a trip overseas that you’ll look forward to for the next several months, or just hop in the car one weekend and go exploring a few towns over. There’s so much to see out there and life isn’t meant to be lived in one place. Every destination has something new and beautiful to offer – even places that are just a hop, skip and a jump away.
Let 2015 be a year for new adventures, even if those adventures don’t take you overseas. Who knows what the next 365 days have to offer?