When visiting another country, the possibilities to explore are endless. Whether it be on your own, with a group of friends, or part of a school trip, each adventure will offer an experience like no other. Therefore, make the most of your time in the sun! You only get a week or two, so treat every second like its made of gold. Learn from my mistakes, and check out these things you must do when visiting another country.
1. Avoid “Main Street”
It’s a trap. You’ll find nothing interesting. Unless you like overpriced “I heart (insert city here)” T-shirts when visiting another country, try venturing into the unknown. Sure, it’s scarier, but the tourist center of each city does nothing but cater to the tourist. The real beauty begins where your comfort zone ends.
2. Find a Restaurant with Menus You Can’t Read
When I went to Italy with my friends, a surprising complaint I heard was “The food here is worse than America’s!” Well, we were eating at “La Roma’s Best Pizzeria,” conveniently located on… Main Street. The abundance of pricey fried chicken and fries made it no wonder why we dreaded dinner. It took us a while, but we eventually found some real restaurants, ones without poorly translated and photoshopped menus. It was a struggle to order, but it was worth it.
3. Don’t Rely on Restaurants
Want an authentic experience — try to live authentically! Nobody eats at restaurants all week. Exploring the markets and shops will expose you to a jaw-dropping array of options and alleviate your wallet’s burden. Some of my best memories away include traversing the supermarkets with my friends and buying food based off how delicious it looked. You’d be surprised how accurate that trick was. Besides, dinner that way usually cost me only 3 Euros!
4. Wear Your Bargaining Pants
Traveling equals expensive and there’s no way to avoid that truth. However, ditching the fear of being a tad assertive won’t do you harm. It’s not like you’ll see these people again. Of course, don’t evolve into the obnoxious western tourist that everyone loves to hate. Just remember, there’s a polite way to negotiate.
5. (Try) to Speak the Language
Nine times out of ten, natives are ecstatic to see you try. When I went to Italy, it was years since I spoke a word. I’m sure I mispronounced words and worse, but I couldn’t count how many faces lit up when they saw my friends and I speak. Of course, you’ll encounter some “gems” that roll their eyes and respond condescendingly in English. Just remember that feeling when you're back at home and someone tries to speak English to you. A little encouragement can transform an out-of-country experience.
6. Watch Your Pockets
It doesn’t matter where you’re from, every country you visit will have better pickpockets than yours. A dear friend of mine was pickpocketed while we were crammed on an overstuffed trolley. She was every thief’s nightmare. If you’re lucky enough to catch someone feeling around, don’t be afraid to confront. They’re cowards by nature, and the fool that targeted my friend ended up dashing off the bus the second she took her items right back. She’s awesome.
7. Don’t Confuse Your Eyes for Your Camera
I admit that I don’t take many pictures. What inevitably happens is that I dump them on my computer and never see them again. I don’t regret taking them, and they will pave my memory lane one day. However, try to stay in the moment, too. You want to look at an old photograph and have it trigger a vignette from your past, not a fuzzy image of your Canon’s backside.
The great thing about traveling is that every trip is unique. Go, and avoid doing anything twice. If I missed any tips, let us know what you do when visiting another country!