What I learned on my summer vacation:

  • Avoid fixed travel dates.  Of course, arrival and departure dates from home may need to be set in advance, but allow yourself as much flexibility as possibility within those dates.
  • Travel can be affordable. If you’re more about the experience and less about the amenities, then it’s very doable.
  • Your comfort zone is home. If you need to be in it, you need to stay there.
  • Backpacking does not mean lugging a 70 pound pack up a mountain.
  • Don’t be afraid to start a conversation. Don’t be a creeper, but at least test the waters.  You can tell pretty quickly if someone is open to talking or not.  “Where are you from?” is the best conversation starter ever.
  • If you look different people are going to look at you. You do it, too.
  • If people laugh at you it may be because they’re nervous or self-conscious. It could also be because you’re funny to them.  Get over yourself.
  • Speak clearly. If you’re in a place that caters to American or European tourists, then it’s fair to expect English.  Otherwise, remember that it’s NOT everybody’s first language.  And not everybody had the opportunity to go to school.
  • Your social boundaries are based on your culture. Different culture = different boundaries.
  • Trip Advisor is your friend. The locals know best, but the locals may want to help out a cousin who is trying to operate a subpar business.
  • If you’re not sure what to do, wait and see what other people are doing. Or just ask.  (refer to #7 above)
  • If your intuition tells you “no”, listen. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
  • Things are not always going to go as planned. Adopt “it’s all part of the adventure” as your mantra.
  • Stay in touch. You know you’re ok, but people at home still worry.
  • If you go to Asia and don’t like rice, you are a weirdo.
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