Aunt Donna’s Top Travel Tips

  • Keep a journal! Learn to write about your experiences with detail and insight.  “We shopped for shoes today” is not as interesting as “The little old man who sold shoes on the sidewalk looked as if he had been living in the streets for decades.  His clothes were worn and wrinkled and he shuffled about as he showed us flip flops that were made of straw or plastic.”
  • Try new foods. Some will be gross, some will be awesome.  Sometimes it’s best not to know what you are trying!  However, if you are considering buying “street food”, try to make sure that the food has not been sitting in the open and/or re-cooked over and over.  Food poisoning is NOT fun.  I have had some extremely yummy street food (as well as food poisoning!).
  • Watch your stuff. Wear a little sack under your shirt with your passport, credit card and cash.  Keep a little pocket change in your pockets for easy access when buying something. 
  • Talk to the locals. Ask them about themselves without being too nosey.  Once you have befriended them, ask to take their picture.  Most will oblige, especially if you are smiling.  Show them their picture if your camera has a viewing screen.
  • We Americans generally come across as very confident, loud and wealthy. We do have more than most in the world, so be selective in sharing your own details (and always be polite) so you won’t be one of those “ugly Americans”.
  • Trust your instinct – if someone is overly friendly or trying to be too familiar with you, and it feels weird, excuse yourself and move on. You can stay relaxed and having a great time, but be on alert.
  • Partner up with a friend and know that it’s ok to break away for some alone time.
  • Take pictures – zoom in, get close ups. See if there is a subject matter that you like to capture in each location – front doors, shoes, lamp posts, poorly translated signs, wrinkled old ladies, etc.
  • Don’t get stuck texting and emailing friends in the US every day. Be present.   Be ON your trip, that’s why you’re traveling.  If you wanted to be back in the States, you would be!
  • Learn at least 10 words in each new foreign language and practice with the locals. They will love it.  It’s amazing how far words such as please, thank-you, and hello go when you look someone in the eye and say it with a smile.
  • Dress conservatively. People in many parts of the world don’t show as much skin as we do.   Wear longer shorts, capris and tops that aren’t revealing.  It will help you blend in and you’ll look better.  Some places, such as churches and mosques, enforce conservative dress codes to gain entrance.
  • Have fun! It’s a big, big world out there, so soak it up.

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