I quit my job in 2014 to make money online while I travel the world. During my travels, I have picked up a few habits along the way to make sure I always get the most out of my adventures!
Regardless of whether you decide to travel solo, with a group or as a couple, here are some of the things you absolutely MUST do every time you travel.
Before you go
Sometimes I just want to say “burn the maps and go!” But a little bit of pre-planning and research for your next adventure goes a long way.
Firstly, it can save you money and give you an idea of how much things should cost. Secondly, doing a bit of research will make sure you know what’s going on during your time there and where to be for which days or months of the year.
Here are 4 quick things to do before you go:
1. Check for regional festivals and public holidays
My favourite aspect of travelling is immersing myself in somebody else’s culture. Before I plan any trip, I will always check to see what festivals or events are taking place so I don’t miss out.
When I was in Taiwan for the first time, I was there during Chinese New Year. It was an exciting and cultural experience to see almost every part of Taiwan lit up with lanterns and painted with the colours of red and gold. I was able to experience the true nature of Chinese New Year in Asia. I did the same in Thailand a few years later and celebrated in Bangkok’s Chinatown, Yaowarat Road.
Similarly, when in Barcelona, I was there to witness the 5 day La Mercè festival, dedicated to the Patron Saint of Barcelona. The city was inundated with street music, parades, fire runs (correfoc) and human towers!
La Mercè Castellers in Barcelona! Probably not that safe, but definitely a lot of fun.
Check to make sure you don’t miss any magical moments! Whether that’s a street festival, public holiday, celebration, take advantage of the time you are there.
However, if you are on a budget, you might want to avoid public holidays. Hotels, flights, and transport can cost more than usual due to the high demand.
2. Check the seasonal weather
Seasons vary all around the world. And just like in your own country, the weather can determine what activities are on, how touristy the locations are going to be, whether places will be open or closed and generally how much you will get to see and do when you are out there.
During my stay in Taiwan a few years ago, I went during monsoon season and I was stuck inside for a few days during a super typhoon. Also, pollution can be a factor which can be seasonal as well so if you’re visiting a megacity it might be worth checking.
Google the climate of the country you are visiting and previous year records or download a weather app on your smartphone to get a detailed breakdown near the time of your visit.
3. Read travel blogs!
Travel blogs are a great way to learn from in-depth, personal experiences.
By reading blog posts you can find information on where to go and what to see, tips on the transport available (often down to the local timetables) and even what to eat.
All in one place.
Reading about different perspectives on a country can also help you decide what kind of traveller you are and what you will enjoy when you get there. Of course, travelling is a unique experience for everybody, so just take each story as a guideline and create your own itinerary!
4. Check local currency
Another important thing to do before travelling is making sure you know what the local currency is where you’re visiting. Do you know the exchange rate? Is it cheaper to get some of the currency in your own home country, or pull cash from an ATM when you land? Figuring this out before you travel can save you a headache.
It’s also helpful to get familiar with the local currency before paying for something. In some countries, the bills and coins can look very similar—you want to make sure you’re making and getting the right change back!
While you are there
You have arrived! Now that you are here, you will want to make the most of your journey. A good rule of thumb is to strive for authenticity. Avoid things you could do back home and delve deep into the culture that surrounds you.
Here are 6 things you should do while you are there:
5. Stay in multiple locations
Just think about how different your hometown can be from one end to the other. No two areas are the same. For that reason, you can’t say that you’ve seen a whole country, if you’ve only seen one part of it. Everywhere I have been to so far, travelling an hour in any given direction tells a different story. Different crowd, different architecture, different cultures and so on.
When I was in Thailand, the south held host to beautiful islands and snorkelling opportunities—but the north told a story of jungles and mountains. In Spain I made a point to travel down from the Catalonia region, Barcelona, to the southern, Andalucian region of Spain. The food was different, the climate was different and surprisingly the language was too! The fascinating history and varying landscapes made me realise how important it is to take in as much of the country (or neighbouring countries) as you can. Not only does your money go further, but your experiences do too.
Staying in a beachside bungalow in Koh Tao island, differed greatly from the city streets of Bangkok!
6. Make friends with a local
Talking to the locals is the best way to form a better connection with the country. Learning small phrases such as “thank you” or “good morning” is a polite way of showing the locals you are interested in their culture. I have found that a little effort goes a long way and people generally open up so much more if you are friendly and willing to respect their customs.
There’s a quote I like by James A. Michener, it goes;
Dogs are locals too.
“Things You Should Do Every Time You Travel” 6.a. Pet a cute dog.
Showing my support at Bologna Pride in 2016.
If I remember a word or phrase from my trip, I’ll use it back home when I meet someone from that region. It gets a smile and also makes you sound like a well-rounded person!
7. Take public transportation
I don’t have a driving license so I will usually catch public transport. Even if I could drive, I feel like this is one of the best ways to travel when in a foreign country. Granted, it can be a daunting experience trying to figure out the language, timetables and tickets, but this is essentially the true essence of travelling.
Figuring out where you need to go, then trying to explain this to somebody and realising you have been pronouncing it incorrectly, is a memorable experience! You will most certainly gain knowledge about the area and how to get around as well as encouraging yourself to engage in conversation with the locals. I also find it is a great way to find out how much things cost.
So, my advice would be to glance at Google maps, but don’t rely on it. Ask people for help and see where it takes you!
Catching a coach in Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan.
8. Go on an excursion (holiday within a holiday)
This is my favourite pastime. I am always on the prowl for an opportunity to take a “holiday within a holiday!” This is when you plan a trip to a given country, then leave for a fun weekend or week somewhere else and return back to the same spot.
I usually book long stay accommodation due to the nature of my work. When I want a little adventure I will book something nearby such as visiting an island, going up into the mountains or down into some caves! It definitely injects some excitement back into the trip if you are there for a long period of time, but it also ensures that you make the most of it as much as you can before you leave.
9. Capture your memories
This goes without saying, but ALWAYS capture at least some memories with photos and videos! Especially for you travel bloggers out there, photography and video is becoming just as or if not more important for blogs than the actual writing.
This being said, taking photos and videos is extremely addictive. As a travel blogger, getting a good image is paramount to depict the places I have been as accurately as possible from my perspective. However, try not to spend the entire time looking at life through your lens; take time to experience it with your eyes too!
10. Keep a Trip Journal
While you want to take photos and document your trip with a lens, writing about your experience every day (or every week for longer trips) can help you remember the experience even years later.
Imagine if you could read your journal and remember exactly how you were feeling the moment you saw the Taj Mahal for the first time. Pictures can say a thousand words—but let’s not forget the power of the written word!
After You Go
We can get so wrapped up in the trip and get burnt out from the jet lag on the way home, that we forget one very important thing we should do when we return home.
11. Organise Your Photos
Yep. Something we can easily forget about, but important to do! If you’re not editing or looking back at your photos during the trip, it can be a shock when you run out of storage on your phone upon landing.
Chances are, not every picture you took on your trip is a winner or even worth keeping.Don’t forget to save your favourite photos and delete the rest! Doing this right after your trip will ensure you don’t forget to do this later, and help you save storage to take photos on your next excursion.