Six Commandments for First Time Travelers

By George Matsukani

If wanderlust and the allure of exploring new lands have captured your imagination recently, rest assured that you’re in good company. More than 25.1 million Americans will be headed abroad this summer, according to AAA, reports PR News Wire. Some of these will be seasoned travelers, but for many others, the experience of crossing borders and immersing themselves in a new culture will be a new experience. If the latter category describes you, consider these six suggestions for making your time outside the US fun, safe and memorable.

Remember, You’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Step off the plane in a new country and you’ll quickly find yourself in a completely different way of life than the one you left behind. Dealing with the language barrier can be tough, but even if your destination’s official language is English, you will still have to navigate a whole new set of customs, mores and laws. The more research you do before leaving home, the better prepared you will be to handle this potentially disorienting situation. In any case, be observant and let the actions of the locals serve as a model for your own behavior.

Represent Your Country Well

When you reach your destination, remember that you’re a guest. Be courteous, follow the rules and make sure you leave your hosts with a good impression of Americans. Not only will you make your own journey more enjoyable, you’ll also help maintain good relations for future travelers.

A Single Experience Doesn’t Define Your Host Country

Sometimes, bad things happen. As you travel, remember that just because one cab driver was rude doesn’t mean all locals will be. Similarly, just because one guide proved to be trustworthy doesn’t mean you should abandon all caution as you choose who to follow. You are visiting a land filled with individuals, not stereotypes. Treat people accordingly.

Trying to Learn the Language will Get You Far

According to the British Council, approximately 750 million people speak English as a foreign language, so even in countries that don’t give it special status, you have a good chance of being able to communicate with at least some of the locals. But don’t count on it. A much better approach is to spend some time at home learning the rudiments of the local language. Doing so could save you some serious headaches. If you’re concerned about sounding ridiculous, just remember that if it’s clear you are trying, native speakers will likely be quite forgiving of your lack of language skill.

Be​ Polite, but on Guard

While you never want to seem standoffish, you also want to keep yourself and your personal information safe. As you travel, use common sense and be on the lookout for anything that could lead to identity theft. Before you leave home, spend a few minutes reading a review of LifeLock or a similar company dedicated to monitoring the use of your personal information, and decide if such services might be a good investment in your circumstances.

Pack Lightly and Bring Money

Remember that you can obtain most consumer goods in your host country. That’s great news because taking too much luggage can weigh you down and, at least with some airlines, cost you a service fee. As you pack, focus on bringing essentials and anything you need for recording your memories. Save some space and buy the rest there.


About the Author

George Matsukani is a travel writer and part-time nurse from the Midwest.  When he’s not working or writing, you can find him tending to his hobby farm.