Oh the places you’ll go…

 

Whether you are preparing to study abroad, take a backpacking excursion, or temporarily move abroad, I have accumulated a random sampling of helpful hints derived from personal experience…

Netflix now is available many countries abroad so that’s awesome. Be aware that some shows will come out at different times than in the states.

Pack light, but more importantly pack smart. Skimp on what you can, especially items that you most likely won’t wear often (heels, really nice dresses, hard to match pieces, etc.). If you know you’ll be spending time on a beach, definitely pack a beach towel. Though a bulkier item, a beach towel can prove to be quite a multipurpose item doubling as a bath towel or a blanket when necessary. Or be even smarter and get a quick drying, travel towel to take with you!

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Summer 2013 Southern Europe backpacking crew

As far as clothing and footwear are concerned, only pack things that you love to wear. There are few worse feelings than the eventual regret of having packed clothing articles that you actually don’t frequently wear, rather you just had thought to yourself: “well I might want to wear this there someday…” If you don’t like wearing it at home, you probably won’t wear it in wherever you’re traveling to either. If you know you’re going to be visiting a Cathedral, bring a jacket and wear long-enough shorts/skirt/dress, etc., otherwise you will not be allowed inside! Or you’ll have to sport improv outfits such as…

 

Once you get to where you’re going, take time to actually get a feel for the place in which you’ve found yourself. By this I simply mean, attempt to see the place from a local’s perspective. Take the metro, or whatever other kind of public transportation system that exists there. If you get lost, try to enjoy the thrilling ambiguity of an unfamiliar area instead of automatically freaking out.

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If you’re traveling with a smartphone, don’t make the same mistake I did by bringing it out on the town with you when you won’t actually need it. iPhones are a lot more expensive for consumers outside of the U.S. so they are a real hot commodity – aka don’t expect to find it in the Lost & Found Office should you lose your phone or have it seemingly stolen.

Other more general tips are just to try new things and don’t be shy! If you’re in another country where English is not the main language, don’t feel embarrassed to give the native tongue your best effort! Ask for directions when lost. Ask for recommendations at restaurants. Make friends with locals… you’ll feel less like you’re on vacation and more like you belong there. Most importantly, keep an open mind and embrace new experiences and the unexpected – that’s where the most fun usually happens! Oh and needless to say, be respectful. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you should act like a buffoon.

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