So you decided to start traveling or at least to go for a trip? Congratulations! You made one of those few decisions in life which people never regret of. I didn’t meet anybody yet who would complain about traveling too much; on the other hand, too many people kept telling me how envious were they of me having the life full of travels and adventure. While traveling more and more, you will come up with your own observations, rules and tricks. But I thought that maybe I would share with you some simple pieces of advice according to my experience which might be helpful for you.
1) How much luggage to carry
You might be surprised hearing this advice, especially at the very top, from a woman. But I hope this fact may give it more credibility. Travel as light as possible. Otherwise you will turn into a hostage of your own luggage and never enjoy your adventure as much as you could. I would say that things you might consider taking with you can be divided into three categories: 1) would die without it; 2) would be good to have; 3) would not actually need it. Common mistake of many travelers is that they take things from the first two categories whereas I would strongly recommend only the very first one. You’ll be surprised how little stuff you actually need without changing your life radically. And if for any reason something which you mistakenly attributed to the second category belonged to the first one, you can either buy/get it along the way or…learn to live without it, at least temporarily 🙂
2) How to keep your money
Definitely this part of your luggage belongs to the first category and holds one of the first places in it. By no means would you want anything bad, unexpected or undesired happen to it and to you without it. Consider the possibility of having both cash and credit cards (or better couple of them). In the same way consider the possibility of having your cash split into several portions and keeping them in different places. Just in case you would not be able to avoid something unexpected and undesired. For the same reason it is recommended to have a so-called “fake wallet” with some small money and bunch of credit cards with expired validity, and to keep it in some easily reachable place. This trick is especially helpful in some of countries with lower level of security and safety.
3) How to plan your route and schedule
I noticed that many new travelers are so excited to start their adventure and to see the world that they overload themselves with plans on how many places to visit, how many miles to cover per day, etc. Of course, unless you have no obligations back home and unlimited time to travel, you always have to bear in mind time limits. And of course, within certain limits you would want to see, to do, to accomplish as much as possible. But with rush for sightseeing and activities you can lose the sense of pleasure of what you see, hear, smell or taste. In my opinion, it’s better to visit 5 sights instead of 10 but to enjoy them to the fullest and to bring back home the most adorable memories about them.
4) How to cross borders
Crossing borders can be rather stressful experience. But you can facilitate this process by collecting maximum information on specifics of every particular border in advance. You can get this information on official web-sites, from other travelers, forums, local friends, etc. It will save your time, energy and nerves. Once approaching any border, be sure that your face eradiates happiness, positive attitude and smiles. By no means let it change even if something goes wrong or not the way you expected. In this case, like generally in life, human factor prevails. It looks like many officials at the borders suffer either from the sense of self-importance or inferiority complex which are actually two sides of the same coin. Let them feel their importance in your life, let them know that without their kind help and cooperation your life will lose its meaning. And there is a very high chance that they will be happy to assist.
5) How to deal with police stops
Like in medicine, prevention is better than treatment. Try not to bring to the point when police would have to stop you for breaking the rules. Being in another country it’s better to be more careful and even more respectful to local laws. If it still happens and police wants to stop you, either for your obvious fault or for another reason which you don’t know yet, you’d better not escape but stop and try to solve the problem whatever it is by means of negotiation and positive attitude. Much of the previous advice would work here as well. Be sure that you have the whole set of documents necessary for moving around the country on your vehicle. Be right, feel right and behave right. Don’t bully, don’t threaten, don’t get emotional . And just in case…keep at hand your “fake wallet”:) There’s such a general observation though that police tends not to stop travelers because in 90 percent out of 100 their documents are all set, otherwise they would not get into the country. Personally I was stopped by the police of different countries just a few times in 10 years of my traveling experience.
6) How to find best places to eat
Food is one of the main attractions of any country, and of course you would not want to miss an experience of trying local cuisine. But you have to be careful and picky as everything new and unusual may lead to misadventure instead of adventure, especially if you stomach doesn’t agree with you being experimental. I agree with an observation of many travelers that whenever you see many locals in a restaurant, it means that the food is good and you can be safe eating it. But even in this case you have to bear in mind that this kind of food may be good for locals but not for you. Even more cautious you have to be with the street food. Even though in some countries it’s absolutely fine to eat street food in general but you have to know the right places to do it. Advice of local people would be the best guidance.
7) How to find best places to sleep
Well, it directly depends on what is your budget for accommodation. If unlimited and you’re keen on staying in a chain of luxury hotels, you would not need much of advice. If you’re looking for more budget ways, you may consider camping, cheaper hotels/motels or staying with the local people. I have a lot of experience with the last one, and I really enjoy it because I think that this is the best way to learn about the real life of real people in a country of your visit. Moreover, it’s a great opportunity to make international friends. In the century of advanced technology, easy access to information, numerous Internet offers, it’s not that difficult to find a place to stay at the locals’. You can either use such platforms for travelers as Couchsurfing, or thematic forums, or even your own social media. You may bump into some really interesting personalities who may become your friends for life. But at the same time you should be equipped with all your common sense and precautions. You may likewise bump into some weirdoes.
8) How to take good care of your vehicle
If you travel by your own vehicle, either by motorcycle, bicycle or car, you should consider it as the same competent member of your trip as you are, as your companion, and treat it accordingly. It means that you should not start your travel without making sure that its technical health is strong, that life cycle of all its parts will be enough for your whole trip, and you will not need to search for replacement in the middle of nowhere. But even being sure in your vehicle companion before start of the trip, you should check it regularly before you start riding or driving every day. Be sure that you know all weak points of your vehicle, and know how to fix them or where to find proper assistance
9) How to pick companions for your trip
It may sound very easy and not worthy attention but it is not. If you prefer to travel with somebody else, you should take into consideration that it’s one thing to go for a cup of coffee or one-day ride together and be good friends, and it’s another thing to go for more or less long-distance trip. You may discover those sides of your friends’ personalities that you would never want to know. According to many stories I heard and my own experience, some of good friendships were irrevocably ruined as a result of going for a trip together. It’s easier to say than do but try to ask yourself and honestly answer if your potential traveling companions are the ones you can rely on, if you feel comfortable with them and if you all share the same ideas and expectations of your future trip. If one of these questions made you think twice, may be it’s a better idea to go solo? It’s not that difficult, or dangerous, or boring as it may seem. I’ll share with you a secret – it can be even more fun.
10) And the last but not the least – positive attitude and expectations!
Actually I think that this is the most important and most universal advice both for traveling and for living life in general. Be careful, be sometimes suspicious but always expect good things and good people come into your life. I don’t want to sound extra philosophic but I strongly believe that we personally bring into our life most of the things happening to us by our attitude and our expectations. Travel safe, travel positive, travel happy!
Anna Grechishkina, Ukrainian traveler-motorcyclist with over 10 years of traveling experience. Covered countries of Russia, Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Middle East, Australia, United States of America, Central America. Currently she is on her three-years world trip on her KTM Adventure 1190 which she started in July, 2013, being on the road for 21 months by now. Her journey is called “I Have A Dream..” One of her main missions in this trip is to encourage people, especially young people and kids, to follow their dreams. With this purpose she visits orphanages, schools, hospitals, shelters, etc. with the message of the dream becoming reality.