Tips for International Travel
From my month in South Africa, I realized a few things about international travel:
• Bring outlet converters. This has never crossed my mind because I’ve never brought chargeable electronics overseas before, but this month it was definitely a necessity.
• Debit cards work internationally, and come in handy when you *ahem* run out of cash.
• When you’re not doing service, you will often have to choose between education, adventure, and luxury, depending on your time, money, and most importantly, your interests. I’ve seen this from the people who planned our program. The professor wanted museums and history for us. Another person wanted five-star hotels and wine tastings for us, and a third preferred outdoor adventures and nature. In my opinion, being educated about the places you’re seeing is important, but I don’t want to spend all weekend in museums. I also definitely enjoy good food, especially if it’s something I couldn’t get anywhere else/in the U.S., but above all I want to be outside for long periods of time, taking pictures of plants and mountains and beaches. If that’s not enough to choose from, the majority of my fellow students wanted to go to the bowling alley, the ice-skating rink, the karaoke bar. Even though everyone understood there should be a balance of types of activities, these competing interests made it difficult to come to a group consensus.
• Bring dry shampoo. I didn’t because I was afraid the pressurized can would explode in the airplane, but soon I wanted that stuff on hand for when I was really not feeling another cold shower.
• One word: EARPLUGS. You may never know when you will need them, but the fact is that you will need them.
• Carry at least one book with you at all times, whether hard-copy or ebook. You’ll want it when you need alone time, or at least I did––I skimmed a couple of books from my fellow OACS participants before I finally downloaded The Goldfinch, which I highly recommend.
• Travel with people with whom you get along. It’s not what you do, it’s who you do it with, that makes the trip enjoyable. For me, it’s especially great to travel with other photographers, because then we all want to stop for ten minutes getting the right angle.
• I’ve heard this before, but I didn’t take the advice: “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” I could have done with half of the pants I brought, but this is a reaction to previous experiences of not having enough pants/shorts.
• Carry toilet paper with you everywhere. This depends on the country, of course, but in my experience the majority of public restrooms are TP-less.
• Taking care of yourself while traveling abroad is important, but so is gelato.
However, I did bring a few things that I was proud have thought of:
• A sleeping bag and camping pillow, a solar lantern or a flashlight, hiking boots (despite what this article would have you believe), and duct tape. Always, always duct tape.
• Snacks. This is mostly so that you don’t become envious when everyone else in your group is digging into their chocolate protein bars and dried fruit mixes.
• Melatonin, a supplement to your natural sleep hormone.
• Thank-you notes and stationery for every occasion and type of person––kids, peers, older adults.
There you have it! The next time you’re planning and packing for a trip abroad, learn from my mistakes!