ADVICE: FINALLY THERE11:03:00
Just like on "The Hitchhiker´s guid to the Galaxy" this is my first and most important advice, when you finally face your destination. You have just arrived, preparations that lasted for months are over. But if you are just a little bit like me then in that moment when all of your worries leave you you will start panicking. And if you ask me that is totally normal.
You are diving head first into a huge adventure and it is absolutely okay if that frightens you. What really helped me was to be open about it. Talk to your good friends and understanding members of your family.
And if anyone makes you feel guilty for being sad, while you are on such a great trip cut them out of your life. You can be sad in any situation and it never helps to supress feelings (except when they are feelings of love towards douchy exboyfriends).
What also is very helpful is to think: Others have been trough this as well. No matter how complicated Rio´s subway system may be, or how completely differen Myanmar´s etiquette is, you are very likely not the first person, who is travelling in this country and facing this challenges. And if others can do it, so can you!
All hail the smart phone! Thanks to this wonderful technological evolution we cannot only post our picture perfect breakfast on instagram, but it is also so much easier to keep in touch with loved ones. First and foremost: turn off your roaming or you will pay billions and rely on Wifi. While Germany acts like Wifi is made of pure gold most other countries are a little more generous with it and most bars, restaurants and basically all hostels offer a quick and cheap connection to the world wide web. If you should be staying in a country for a bit longer it can actually pay off to invest in a local SIM-Card for mobile internet at all times. If you install Whatsapp, Skype or if you have an iPhone use Facetime your contact home is secured without spending big money on it. However you should be most focused on enjoying your trip instead of constantly keeping in touch. Good friendships can deal with a little less contact for a while and what´s the point of missing a great view or new travel companion just to hear those old relationship stories from home you already know by heart? Let your loved ones know you are safe, but make sure to also have some stories left to tell for when you get back.
The worst of all diseases: Homesickness
Homesickness is absolutely horrible. And no matter how pretty the beaches, or how amazing the citys or even how wild the parties are you can still get homesick. Homesickness can rob you of all your energy and it can ruin whole days. There are loads of different cures and you have to find out what helps you best. While I love to have brief contact, like a short call, others acutally feel more homsick after calling their loved ones and like to get their mind of the homesickness by packing their day with activities.
Sometimes it helps to put things into perspective by seeing how long you actually have been on the go and how much time is left and sometimes it is best to just talk about your feelings to other travellers. I have never met anyone who hasn´t been homesick of one point or another while on a big trip. But make sure not to wallow in selfpitty. Yes talk about it, maybe even cry about it, but then make sure to go on and do something nice that day as well. And if it gets too bad, there is no shame in going home. It happens to the best of us and booking a flight home a little earlier, if you are really feeling horrible may be better for your and your soul than to stay in a country just to go through with it. Some countries may just not be for you or maybe you are just not ready yet for such a big adventure. And that is absolutely okay.
My magic ingredient for a wonderful trip. It might feel safer to have everything scheduled and planned out, but in my experience the most wonderful things happen to you when you least expect it. I got invited by a wonderful family to join them on their holiday in Pucon, without ever having thought about going to the soth of Chile and it was one of the most impressive places I have ever been to, I have moved to a friend in Santiago, a city I totally fell in love with, but never had on my agenda and that friend is still one of my favourite people to this day, I explored Ilha Grande without ever having heard about if before: all of these experiences were so so great and I would have missed them if I would not have just been spontaneous. So leave some gaps in your schedule and explore new things, to me that´s what travelling is all about.
Also don´t rush off from somewhere you really like just to fulfill all of your to dos. If you really want to there will always be a chance to come back and explore more. I like to take time for the things I really want to see, instead of seeing a little bit of everything, but really exploring nothing at all.
"Be careful!", "It´s so dangerous there!", "Watch out for yourself!"- generally true and good advice to be kept in the back of your head at all times. But still: This scepticism can also get in your way. Especially in brazil I was so careful during all of my interactions, shut off conversations quickly and was sure that all the street hawker were just trying to rip me off. None of that happened. Of course it is important to have a general level of caution, but this can also ruin your chances of real great conversations and experiences with local people. A lot of them just wanted to help us or talk a little bit, many of the hawkers gave us little discounts and even gifts. So balance out caution and open mindedness and let great possibilities happen if you have a good feeling in your gut. Of course do not run around waving cash or your credit card, but also do not just stick to other travellers and have no interaction at all with people from the country you are visiting.
If you are a student every penny truly counts. The easiest way to save money is to avoid the stream of tourists and follow the locals. If you cannot spot one local person at a train stop, buses are probably a lot cheaper. If there are only tourists at the "great traditional restaurant", it is very likely that this is an expensive tourist trap.
You can also check if the hostel you are staying at has a kitchen where you can make your own food to save some money.
On markets or street stands it is generally okay to bargain a little, usually they try to start with a higher price for tourist anyway. Just make sure to keep the bargaining easy going and fun. A smile can go a long way.
Usually the things you least expect are what are most expensive at the end of the day. For example cosmetic products were incredibly expensive in Brazil and Chile did not offer monthly tickets to public transport and all of the bus and metro tickets got expensive pretty quickly.
Thanks for the memories
Keep a journal. Travelling will teach you so much about yourself, looking at your life from a far, will give you a totally new perspective and facing challenges on your own will show you just how much you are really capable of. Don´t forget this, write it down!
Also take as many pictures as you can, you will probably never regret having too many good puctures of your friends, a nice party or a great sunset. This is generally good life advice if you ask me.
And while you might think of getting all of your friends a present, also think of one for yourself to remember the trip. Something that will make you remember the gorgeous nature, the wonderful people you met and the great partys at the beach even on the greyest of november days.