1. In the majority of the world, you will be safe and sound. The media (and your mother) likes to make you think that leaving the country will end in death (or kidnapping). In most places, this is both statistically unlikely and just plain inaccurate. Travel will actually enrich your life instead.
2. Learn how to read train, metro and bus schedules and maps. Much of the world outside the USA has extensive public transportation systems. They’re often reliable and inexpensive – take advantage while you can! (You can learn how in our very own Travel Savvy eCourse, along with 29 other must-knows for new international travelers.)
3. Asking for help, early and often, makes travel easier. You might not speak the language, but if you pick up a Lonely Planet Phrasebook for the country you’re visiting, asking for help becomes as easy as pointing to a phrase on a page.
4. Knowing even 5 words or phrases in the language of each country you travel in basically means that you can get all your major needs met. The most useful ones to look up in advance are: “hello”, “how much?”, “yes/no”, “thank you”, #1-#10, and “good”. Need to order something? Say “hello”, point to the object you want, say the number (or hold up your fingers), ask “how much?” and say “thank you”. Easy peasy.
5. Staying in hostels, though budget-friendly and probably inside your comfort zone, is not the best way to have an authentic travel experience. Alternatives that are friendlier on the wallet, with the added bonus of a local’s perspective? CouchSurfing and Airbnb.
6. 99% of people have good intentions and want to help if you are in trouble, even if they don’t understand what the problem is. People are generally kind, everywhere, especially if you begin the interaction with a smile!
7. You can create a sense of home wherever you are. All you have to do is bring a hobby of yours from the USA with you. For example, dancing salsa: whenever you get to a new city, look up the salsa clubs or find a Meetup.com dance group and head out for a night. You’ll end up meeting local people and evade homesickness too!
8. Street smarts serve you everywhere in the world. You have personal boundaries, and you are allowed to assert them and stand your ground or leave a situation whenever your gut tells you to. (No idea how to set a clear boundary, especially when you don’t speak their language? You can learn this in the Travel Savvy eCourse, too.)
9. You don’t need a TON of money to travel outside the USA and have the time of your life. Google “travel hacking” or “credit card hacking” to learn how to use points and frequent flyer miles to pay for travel. Use a fare alert site like AirfareWatchdog to tell you when prices drop. Join a volunteer organization that covers your travel expenses, apply for grants and scholarships that sponsor you to be in a foreign country, or get a working holiday visa and take your time to explore countries like Australia and New Zealand while earning normal income.
P.S. #6 is my favorite 😉