We think it’s safe to say that travel is slowly creeping back to the top of everyone’s agendas. We don’t know about you, but our social media feed is full of exciting new travel experiences, bucket list destinations and dream adventures! That being said, we are also aware that after a few years of lockdowns and restrictions, people might be a bit rusty when it comes to going overseas. It’s totally understandable to be a bit hesitant towards travel, especially if you’re planning a solo trip or even your very first trip overseas. Don’t worry though... we’ve got you covered!
These top tips will not only help you to have the unforgettable experience that you’re dreaming of, but they’ll also change your perspective towards travel; helping you dig out that all important Global Citizenship passport and ensuring that you travel with a difference.
Okay, this goes without saying really... but to make sure we’ve covered all ground, we thought we should include it. You’ll obviously want to know about the place that you are visiting, what areas to stay in, things to do, the weather etc., and these are all important details to be aware of, but we also recommend that you research things like: whether there are any particular local customs that you should be aware of, how to greet people appropriately, and what kinds of clothes are going to be suitable in various places.
For example, if travelling to Cambodia, you must pack modest clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. Not only will this ensure that you are respectful when visiting the country, but it will also guarantee your entry to one of the most famous cultural sites, Angkor Wat (they have recently even become strict on visitors covering their shoulders with scarfs and shawls, so a t-shirt is your best bet!).
It is important to be a socially conscious and culturally aware visitor so that you are able to show respect for the local people, customs and practices of the area that you are visiting. Doing some research beforehand will ensure that you have at least a basic level of understanding, and whether practiced perfectly or not, we guarantee that your effort will go a long way in the eyes of the locals as you acknowledge and show consideration for any cultural differences.
As well as doing research prior to your trip, there are also going to be plenty of opportunities to find out more while you’re there. No one will know the place as well as the locals who live there and they’ll be able to give you an insight into the history and culture, as well as give you some amazing recommendations of things to do. So, we recommend putting your phone down for a second, going and sitting in a local bar or restaurant, listening, watching and taking in what’s going on around you. There’s an endless amount to learn, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to interact with the locals will be one of the most rewarding things you will do. You’ll find hidden treasures, listen to unknown tales and stories, and get an insight into the place that you probably would never have gotten from researching it on the internet. Sounds exciting, right?!
Pre-warning: expect to be asked questions in return! In some areas, it’s totally normal to be asked questions about your age, family, work (things that we might consider private), but this is purely out of curiosity. This might be more common in areas that are more untouched by tourism, as the more remote that you go, the less likely the locals are to have interacted with many international visitors.
There’s so much you can do to try and make an impact while you’re travelling, no matter how big or small. You could look for opportunities to do community clean-ups (beaches are always a good place to start), research any sanctuaries or conservation parks where you can participate in activities such as tree-planting, or of course, for a more immersive experience, check out the Challenges Abroad programs on offer. The cool thing is, you could align your passion for travel and adventure with your passion for the environment, for health promotion, or for education, and spend your time overseas impacting the lives of the local community.
It’s good to note here that this is a two-way street! As much as you might be looking into ways to impact those around you, we can assure you that if you are to approach travel in this way, it will definitely leave a lasting impact on you as well. Travel not only provides you with an opportunity to see and experience the world, but it also provides you with an opportunity to leave your mark on it too.
Seeing a place is one thing, but immersing yourself in the culture is something totally different; it is an essential part of travelling as a Global Citizen! This is your chance to engage with the local community and understand how they view and interact with the world. Try and seek out more hands-on activities as these will open the opportunity for you to actually practice the culture.
One great example of what we mean here is looking into doing a local cooking class. Food is a huge part of any culture! Try to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try some things that you wouldn’t normally get to eat at home, but instead of just tasting it, why not learn the process of making it? A cooking class will be an awesome way to get hands-on; learn about the ingredients, the history of the dish and practice making it yourself. You are guaranteed to develop some new skills and knowledge that you can take home with you and continue to use in the future. Don’t forget, all of this is going to add to you travel memories and stories, and sharing your experiences with others is not only going to be a great way to relive your adventures, but it is also an amazing way to use your knowledge and skills to help raise cultural awareness amongst others.
This is your journey to becoming more socially and culturally aware, developing a global mindset, and the opportunity to learn something new... it’s also going to be really fun!
We can tell you now that not everything will go to plan during your travel experience. To be honest though, this all adds to the adventure! It’s those small moments that you’ll remember for a lifetime: a rainstorm that leaves you trapped in a tiny restaurant in a remote village in Cambodia, a wrong turn that takes you on a more scenic route in Peru, or even a last-minute schedule change that leaves you with a spare afternoon to explore some markets in India. These things could happen at any moment on your travel adventure, but just remember... it never helps to get stressed out. So, please, try to stay open-minded, go with the flow and embrace the amazing experience that you’re having!
If you have any travel tips for those who are planning their first solo or overseas adventure, we would love to hear from you! Get in touch via Instagram to share your stories and travel hacks @challengesabroad