I really wish I had known most of the travel things I know now.
There is no amount of YouTube videos, Google searches, blog posts you can look up that will ever completely prepare you to travel. And trust me, I’ve done all of the above and still messed up big time.
So I wanted to share 5 amazingly important travel skills (in no specific order) that are a great base for beginners and can even help the seasoned traveler to get a solid foundation for future trips.
Travel is always a learning process, no matter how long it takes.
Let’s start the embarrassing stories!
1. Learn To Read a Map
I have met a few people that have trouble getting around using Google Maps.
Phones can be wonky and GPS can fail a little too often. So I use the app often to find my way around my area for various nannying jobs. And it fails me often. So I end up having to actually talk to people or awkwardly call my current boss for help.
To prevent that disastrous event, I download the offline map of the area I’m going to beforehand.
By doing this you get the map right in your hands without depending on mobile data or WiFi. No need to ask for directions for..the most part. This way you can use landmarks to orient yourself and find your way to your destination. It’s helped me on many a job in my sometimes confusing city. Here’s a guide on how to do it on Android and iOS.
I also use Maps.me as an awesome alternative! It works perfectly fine offline and is frequently updated by the community members.
Now here’s a tip that not many may agree on, but learn how to read a paper map.
It doesn’t matter if it is in a museum or downtown, having the ability to read one helps in case all fails.
Paper maps are like the most underrated basic travel tool I never hear about.
What if your phone doesn’t want to work with your new SIM card in Ireland? Or Google Maps is just adding hassle to your exploring plans?
You can be darn sure that there are paper maps being sold somewhere, just in case.
Here’s a very basic tutorial for how to read one.
2. Flexible Planning
You have to be flexible! Have to!
I struggle with this so much, as Berry can testify.
On our trip to New York City, I knew it would be hot. Really hot. But I was not prepared for what kind of heat we got.
It was the suffocating kind with the wonderful addition of humidity to complement it. We humans couldn’t take it and neither could the horses.
I had planned for us to do an escape room, horse carriage ride in Central Park, then get some authentic Japanese food afterward.
To our surprise, we were exhausted from our trip from home to our hotel. The heat and excitement kinda got to us (read as me).
We ended up doing the escape room, rescheduled the ride to the next day, went to the Nintendo Store, wandered around, and had some nice NYC pizza.
That awesome sounding day was still awesome but quite different than what I had planned. I made the mistake of not having a backup plan in case the heatwave changed everything.
Luckily, I had planned relatively flexible activities that we could figure out what to do in between and still have fun.
So basically, don’t over-plan. But also pick activities that you can either reschedule, skip, or replace with something else.
3. Trusting Your Gut
Just like the previous tip, honing your intuition can be hard for some.
I am not completely in tune with mine yet, but I have enough street smarts to know what to avoid and when to avoid it.
A preliminary check of your destination’s culture is a great way to prep yourself for any sketchy places or local scams that are there. Remember to take this with a grain of salt because these things don’t define a place.
It’s hard to explain what I mean by “gut” feeling. But trust me in saying that you’ve used it at least once.
This was so helpful on my Philly “solo” trip, where I got lost on my way to Penn’s Landing.
I had a few moments where I thought someone was following me, seeing as I had my G7x Mark II out and about.
I could somehow feel like there was a possibility that something may happen if I kept walking under bridges that were far away from the main road with nobody on them. So I booked it.
I ran as if I was trying to get a pic of something in one of the busier streets. I shouted somewhat loudly to voice my actions and to catch attention. I’d rather be the center of attention, embarrassed, and relatively safe than shy and possibly in trouble.
4. Emergency Mode!
It’s SO important to have an emergency plan whenever you travel.
The main emergency things I do to make sure I stay safe are:
Have My Google Timeline Updated and Syncing.
Not everyone likes Big Brother watching them, but I have a strange paranoia involving getting kidnapped. So for my various jobs and occasional travels, I give my mom access to my timeline.
That way she has some idea of where I was. Plus I can retrace my steps on trips in case I lose something.
My strange paranoia has created a weird habit, but it calms my mom’s nerves when I’m out and about!
Memorize Important Phone #’s
I need to work on this since I only know my mom’s, brother’s, my aunt’s, and my own number off the top of my head.
I don’t even know Berry’s number without using her contact on my phone. And I plan to travel with her!
So an alternative would be keeping these numbers written down in a safe place. Keep it in your daypack or pocket and forget about it!
I always seem to find these emergency measures when I need them and only then.
Know Where to Go If In Trouble.
If you are abroad, know where your country’s embassy is. Also, be on the lookout for police boxes/stations/buildings when exploring in case you need help or even directions. They may even know some nice local spots to go to.
Know How You Will React In a Situation
I’m going to be real with you.
I lost the bus tickets for our ride home during the NYC trip. I panicked hardcore. Total meltdown.
Couple that with us being late for the original bus anyway because I decided to leave my totally extra luggage at our hotel, I was going mad with anxiety.
I was sweating bullets, sort of hyperventilating, and confused.
Berry was just super calm about the whole thing.
She grounded me and talked me through my hysteria.
I managed to get us tickets on the next bus home after calming down. It probably would not have ended well if she wasn’t there for me.
My reaction was completely unnecessary as there was a simple fix. Who knows how I would’ve reacted if I was overseas and by myself!
So this is why I advise taking a few practice trips (They can even be in your hometown!) to learn how you deal with certain situations and how to solve them.
5. How To Relax
I’ll keep this short and sweet, but make sure you know to relax!
You decided to travel because you wanted to enjoy your surroundings and take a break from wherever you are from.
So take it all in and relish in your wanderlust!
That’s all of them!
I hope you learn something from this post and it helps spur your future wanderlusts.
Let me know what your tips are! I’m always fascinated to see what other people have learned.