Travel, especially long-term travel, is no joke. Whether you're going to your nearest big city for the day or crossing oceans for a multi-week vacation, you'll need to be prepared. After 25 flights, 56 nights in hotels, 4 road trips, and 3 rental cars, and a trip to Coachella, all in 2015, here are a few tips to help you be a better traveler no matter where you go.
As a self-proclaimed "control enthusiast," whenever and wherever you travel, you'll need to prepare for anything. No matter how many confirmations you print, folders you have, and calendar items scheduled - shit will go wrong. What's the saying - it's not about getting there, but enjoying the journey... That really is what travelling means.
Kindness goes a long way no matter where you are in the world. A smile and pleasant tone of voice, even with a language barrier, will always benefit you. When your flight is delayed or canceled and you want to yell at the airline people, remember: you can be the nice person to brighten their day. You can't control what happens (see #1), but you can control how you react to it. Nine times of ten, you'll end up in a better place if you remain calm & nice - especially in situations of stress.
Travel, Not Trip Advisor
While I'm certainly not a big deal on TripAdvisor, I add my reviews and look to TripAdvisor for the best "thing" in the moment. That being said, when you visit a major tourist city like Rome or Barcelona, you could spend hours looking for the best place to visit or the best restaurant with most authentic paella. Believe me, I've been there. Enjoy the moment... if you're hungry - eat food. If it's awful food, let people know and if it's amazing, let people know. You'll find there are plenty of wonderful and authentic restaurants in every city that don't make it on your TripAdvisor search.
Scammers, pickpockets, and thieves are a very real threat, especially when you are abroad. Depending on where you are, you may stick out like a sore thumb as a tourist. I'm not saying you shouldn't take your DSLR with you, but you need constant vigilance wherever you go. There are pickpockets on every subway and opportunists ready to pick up your bag even though you "just set it down for a second." A second is all it takes. Not to sound like a police department PSA, but it's true. Use the buddy system, make friends, but remain cautious. Use bags with zippers, keep them across your body, and be aware of your surroundings.
Respect the Culture
While you may not visit the far reaches of the Amazon Rainforest, every area has its culture. It may be okay to make out in public and be loud and raucous in Italy, however, Finland and Iceland are much more reserved and quiet cultures. Spend your first day observing people and how they act and react. Then, do your best to respect their culture.
Ease Up on Instagram
Maybe you're taking your dream vacation and you want to share it with the world. Don't. Let your family, your boss, and maybe close friends know where you're going and what you're up to, but please, lay off the Instagram photos. Too much sharing on social media can alert less-than-savory people to the fact that your home is unattended. So, while you're being safe on your travels, wait to post your awesome photos until after you return.