Travel expert, Richard Jeong has given you travelers the basic need to know about traveling alone. A Wonderfully Rich World is the blog of Richard Jeong, an IT guy gone abroad. Currently in Eastern Africa, he's a world traveler at home on the move. His blog is a collection of ideas, notes, and projects that have struck him over the last 10 years.

"10 years ago, my brother did a summer program in El Salvador and I came to visit for 10 days. Before taking this trip I had no passport, and in my mind now this trip and the need for a passport was what broke my international travel virginity. Your first trip can be a special one, but after 10 years and several added passport pages, this is the advice I'd offer you for your first trip."

Pack light

Yes, you'll see it, hear it, and learn it in your own way, but what's in your luggage isn't what makes your trip. Your possessions own you as much as you own them. Take only what you can replace. Three things are likely to happen. Once you've stepped into another world, you'll forget about all the items you couldn't decide if you needed. Second, if you find you need it, more than likely it'll be a worthwhile experience trying to find it. Explore the markets of the world, as they aren't like the super-markets at home, but if they are then they likely have what you left behind and now need. Third, you will buy stuff to bring home, so the more space you have the more memorabilia you can take home.

Read about your destination beforehand

Wikipedia is a useful tool in this regard, but not for the reason you think. Learn about where you are going; when you get there and are sitting with the locals at a table, ask about what you read, and let yourself be amazed. I also have to say, guide books are just that: guide books. Just because it's in a guide doesn't mean that's all there is to a country, nor that it's actually stuff you want to see. Use it in a pinch, but learn to live outside the guide.

Don't spend all your time with people from your home country

It's very comforting to have something familiar when you are in a foreign place, but spending all of your time with people from home seriously deprives you of the depth of learning that travel offers with all its oddities, the wonder, and the challenges. After all, travel is not always about being comfortable, it about breaking your bubble and experiencing something new! Otherwise you would stay at home! So find ways to converse with the locals. Learn about where they like to go, what they did as children, what they think of the headlines in today's newspaper, whatever!

Leave your taboos behind

When you get there and are sitting at a table, you'll find out how much Wikipedia didn't tell you. Make observations and follow the questions of those around you to understand socially acceptable ways to interact. Don't expect people to behave as they do back home. Don't expect that it is okay for you to behave the same way that you do back home.

If the language is different, try it out

Nothing engenders more good will, more conversation and more food/drinks than learning the local language. You may be able to get around on English, and many people may even want to practice their English with you, but a little bit of learning goes a long way. Don't be afraid to ask a total stranger how to say something or about a phrase you just heard them say, or a shop owner, or anyone. It takes at least 3 normal repetitions before you are likely to learn, so keep asking and keep trying.

Don't yell at the locals

Yelling doesn't help understanding. Americans (including neutral accented Middle Americans) actually do have an accent, so if English is limited, enunciate, speak simply (as in use vocab you learned in elementary school), and slow down. Let me repeat that, slow down! If that fails, think as if you are playing a board game in which description is key and find other ways to describe your point. If that doesn't work, switch to a gesture-based game! Don't let language be a barrier, think out of the box about how you get your queues and how you can communicate. The experience will build confidence and inevitably produce laughter.

Stress happens

don't forget to breathe! No matter how much you plan, things will go wrong. Roll with the punches; don't plan what you don't have to. Don't limit yourself to guided tours. Allow for the unexpected. And when the unexpected confronts you, and things feel out of control, feel your pulse. If it's pounding (and you aren't running), then breathe deep! And again! And again.... The world's been spinning a very long time, it'll be fine, so will you, just breathe. Often the most stressful experiences become your favorite stories to tell later. They will also probably be the experiences that teach you the most about yourself and about how to maneuver in the world.

Get on the bus!

Wherever you go, there will be a normal cheap method of transport. Often it is buses, sometimes it's subways, trams, tuktuks, bodas, etc. Unless it's totally unsafe, (i.e. motorcycles without helmets, etc.) negotiate your fare and jump on. Not only will it save you money, but it'll give you a perspective on everyday local life and give you the chance to ask advice on what locals do. In turn you will meet interesting people, get ideas on unique things to do, and probably give you a taste of food off the beaten track.

Eat Local

In the years I've spent travelling; it's the local food that has always affixed itself to my memory. Your body will take time to adjust itself to the local micro flora, but that is true if you eat local or imported because it's different from your norm, so spend your time and eat local! And don't let looks fool you, just because it looks disgusting doesn't mean that it isn't the tastiest thing you'll ever have. Avoid seafood until you know it's good, but if it's well cooked then it's worth trying.

Safety first

Your instincts even in a foreign environment are worth listening to. The general rules of "don't go out after dark without a plan, friends, and knowing what to do in an emergency" still apply, but more than that, listen to your gut. If you aren't sure, ask multiple (unrelated) locals, and then listen to what your instincts tell you.

"If you end up in a tight space, never fight back, always give stuff up, back down, and walk away. You won't believe me till later, but everything you owned (including your pride) for any length of time has sentimental value, so you (and I) believe everything we have is worth more than it is. That doesn't mean you should fight for it and I'll say it again, you should only take stuff you can replace on a trip. You will likely loose things, it's possible things will get stolen, and it's part of the experience, but stuff doesn't matter as much as you do."


Find us on Google+