Travel to Asia
Traveling is the antidote to ignorance. It makes you realize how insignificant you are. The world does not revolve around you, there are billions of people out there who don’t even speak your language. Leave your bubble and try to truly understand standards of living that differ from your own.
Go to Asia because Asia is incredible. Anywhere you show up, you will find something awesome. Not the same elsewhere. For Central America for example, you need to do a bit more planning ahead of time. Europe is also incredible but substantially more costly than Asia. Africa is phenomenal but expensive to get to and can be challenging to travel around. So if you’re tight on cash and not very experienced at traveling, do South East Asia. You won’t regret it.
- Don’t convert money in the US (or at least in SFO). Also avoid converting in Australia. They charge commission on top of a buy/sell rate that benefits them most. Usually best to convert at the country’s airport or just pull from an ATM. For ATM’s I highly recommend Charles Schwab. Not only is their customer service magical but also because they refund all ATM fees!
- Always look up tips for countries before you go into one. Other people’s blogs are excellent for this. Some examples of things that are good to know:
- Cambodia: Don’t convert any USD into Riel if you’re going to Cambodia. Just use USD. Also in Angkor Wat + Siem Reap temple you must wear pants and at least bring a light scarf to cover your shoulders, otherwise they won’t let you up on the main temples.
- Indonesia: Cabs will rip you off so hard if you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Japan: You really need to know some Japanese to get around. Very very few people that I met spoke English. And this was in Tokyo too. Imagine being somewhere more rural.
- Asia in general: Assume your tea or coffee will come saturated with milk and sugar. You need to very very clearly ask for it black if that’s what you prefer.
- If you have connecting flights/layovers, always ask for both boarding passes when you get to the first flight. This way you won’t have to pick up your luggage and then re-check it to your connecting flight. (This works most of the time).
- Strongly consider long layovers. Free opportunity to see another part of the world!
- If you know your baggage is too heavy, scope out the people manning the check-in booths to find the most lenient one and aim to grab them as your check-in person. I’ve literally let people pass in front of me in line so I would get the person I wanted.
- The only company I’ve ever had issues with overweight luggage (as in, they made me take stuff out) was Jetstar though.
- If you are flying with a suitcase (instead of a backpack) I strongly recommend that 4-wheel ones that rotate 360 degrees. They make flying significantly better.
- Always go to the tourist information booth at the airport and grab a packet/brochure of attractions. They are loaded with discounts and have useful maps and all sorts of things.
- Take hundreds of pictures.
- Blog!! Or write in a journal. Especially if you do a multi-country trip. Looking back through what I’ve written I keep thinking “Oh yeah! I forgot I did that!” Simply because you do so much, that you can’t help but forget some stuff. So write it all down. Take pictures of it all. Here’s my old blog: http://valeriayermakova-asia7.blogspot.com/
- Don’t be an idiot like me and remember to detach your Swiss Army Knives from your keys in your carry-on bag.
- TRY WEIRD FOODS. You’re abroad, so eat weird and strange things. Why do what you can do at home.
- Don’t rush through cities and places that you go to. Don’t be afraid to just take an hour to two to sit somewhere and let it all soak in. Yes there is a ton to see but some things need time to be truly felt and experienced. The smells, the air temperature, the peripheral sights, the sounds, every little nuance adds so much to something that was just “a pretty view” before.
- Go to museum’s. They really make you experience in a country so much more enriching since everything you see carries more meaning and significance. Museums are an awesome and super cheap way to get a far deeper understanding of the land you’re walking though.
- Know self defense so you are prepared to protect yourself in case anything happens. I never had any actually sketchy encounters where I was in any real danger, but it helped knowing that I could defend myself if need be.
- With this being said, explore by yourself. To really find yourself I think it’s best to spend some alone time. Just stroll about some new streets or museums or a local market.
- For the especially frugal-minded like myself, spend money.
- Spend it wisely of course, but spend it. Throw down $50 for the crazy hiking trip, pay that extra bit to go scuba diving instead of just snorkeling. This is your (and I say this with heavy satire) YOLO moment, so embrace it dammit.
- Be kind and courteous to everyone. Yeah this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people I saw being rude to the hotel clerk or their cab driver.
- When you’re nice, even if you’ve had a crappy day, it helps make the day of the other person better. And by making their day better they will be nicer to you therefore making your day better!
- It’s a circle of compassion :)
- Watch out. Be aware of your surroundings.
- Are you in a temple? Should you be laughing boisterously at that hilarious snapchat of your drunk friend? Probably not.
- Are there certain things you have to do (take your shoes off, walk in a certain path, bow) that show respect even if you don’t have the same faith? Probably.
- Are you on the escalator? Stand on the left side. If you’re not moving, then stand to the left to let people walk up on the right side. Don’t be that rude person that takes up the whole escalator step.
- Prepare for the unexpected.
- In places that are new to you, you will see things that are shocking (you have to leave your car engine on when you fill up gas in El Salvador), bizarre (cows literally everywhere in India), hilarious (monkeys playing with the tails of frustrated cats in the Philippines) and even disgusting (dog meat for sale in China).
- So just embrace the unknown and welcome the surprise. Cause it’s going to happen anyways.