It’s often said that travel broadens the mind and perspective. It’s also an excellent way to round out your education, especially for young people looking to expand their horizons. Being in unfamiliar surroundings forces you to adapt to new situations and people whose values and lifestyles are different than yours. It can be intimidating, but travel can also instill confidence and self-reliance in young people just learning how to take care of themselves.
Ease the Transition
If your intention is to travel abroad, think about visiting a country with a similar culture. For many young American travelers, that means Western Europe. Your chances of being understood in Europe are good when you need to use English. Ideally, you should try to communicate in your host country’s language (at least to some degree), but many Europeans either speak English or understand enough to give directions or advice. That can be a big advantage if you’re just learning to travel and aren’t fluent in another language.
A Touch of Home
It’s understandable to feel a pang of homesickness on your first trip. Anticipate those feelings by taking along a few items that remind you of home. For instance, it could be a book that you find inspirational, a pair of slippers or your most comfortable pajamas, and even your streaming stick. Roku is one example of a highly portable streaming stick; you can easily pack your remote and media streamer in your suitcase so you can still wind down at night with your favorite TV programs. It’s nice to be able to enjoy a program in your comfy pajamas that makes you laugh and puts you at ease after a long day of sightseeing.
Communication and Information
These days, the single most important piece of equipment in your travel arsenal is your smart device. There’s simply no substitute for having an inexhaustible supply of information and the ability to communicate right in your hands. Be sure to take along a portable charger so you never have to worry about running out of juice. For a first-time traveler, a smartphone is a nice security blanket to have for emergencies or when you just need to hear a friendly voice back home.
Make sure you have data roaming on your phone, and bring a plug-in adapter because electricity functions differently in Europe and other parts of the world (you can get a universal European adapter for under $30). If you’re nervous about being out of touch, you can download an app that’ll allow your parents or spouse to track your device.
Be smart when it comes to making accommodations. There’s no need to book rooms in the four-star hotels of Europe — there are plenty of affordable hotels or hostels, but don’t complicate your itinerary with unnecessary commutes to the sites you want to see. You’re not there to hang out in your room, so don’t worry too much about luxury; instead, simply look for the best deal that’s within easy travel distance of your sightseeing objectives.
Hostels have been a popular choice for young travelers in Europe for generations — they’re inexpensive and convenient and great if you want to make new friends. However, they’re not so great if you like your space. If you stay in a hostel, consider booking a private room if available and only socialize with others when you feel like it.
Traveling with a Pal
Traveling can be fun with a friend or family member, but make sure your companion’s likes, dislikes, and plans are compatible with yours. You don’t want to cross the ocean with someone who doesn’t agree with your itinerary. Not surprisingly, an unpleasant argument between good friends can spoil a long-anticipated trip very quickly.
Your first trip abroad or across the country should be memorable and a ton of fun. So, plan ahead and make as many logistical arrangements as possible. Your time should be spent marveling at the beautiful architecture and awe-inspiring artwork, not trying to find an affordable hotel or arranging transportation as you go about your journey.