Very few activities match the thrill of traveling somewhere for the first, or one hundredth, time. Regardless of where your travels take you though, every explorer should be aware of a few basic rules of the road. In this case, we at Paste suggest 10 universal truths, which apply to seasoned veterans and new globetrotters.
1. Be Smart, Be Safe
It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling to an impoverished country or Buckingham Palace—pickpockets and con artists, and heaven forbid the men from Taken, are looking for gullible victims. Don’t be one of them. Be positive and friendly but be smart wherever you go. Keep your valuables locked away or close to you. Always carry a copy of your passport instead of the original. And try to have your route planned before you leave, so you aren’t walking around with a map wide open like a tourist flag.
2. Make an Effort
In general, Americans are thought to be careless or inconsiderate. It helps to shatter that reputation when you try to speak a few words in the local language and are sensitive to the culture. Foster mutual admiration by being respectful of the locale you’ve chosen to visit.
3. Untether Yourself
Sure, phones are great and convenient. But, it’s hard to be in the moment when you’re living virtually. We already spend so much of our lives enslaved to emails and business correspondence. One of the best parts of being on holiday is being unplugged.
4. Don’t Sweat the Petty Stuff
You’ve never seen true discord until you’ve seen a fight break out on an airplane over personal space in coach. There’s no need to passive-aggressively poke each other or territorially claim your armrest from takeoff to landing. Try sharing. One in the front and one in the back. Take it easy, take the high road and ride in armrest harmony.
5. Take Public Transportation
It’s fun to get on the double-decker bus in London, but outside of that, a tour group generally slows you down. Grab a good guidebook and plan ahead. There are maps at the stations so you can confirm you’re heading in the right direction. If you’re still weary, just keep in mind that public transport is meant for public use and is not going to be innately complicated.
6. Try It, You’ll Like It
Tasting the local cuisine is one of the most exciting aspects of travel. While it may be against your instinct to eat “strange” items, give it a shot. You never know what you’ll end up liking.
7. Learn from Locals
If you want to get to know a city, you need to find yourself a local tour guide—especially if you’re working against the clock. If you’ve got eight hours on a cruise stop, hire a taxi driver around the island. You’ll get a much more authentic experience than if you follow the tourist herd.
8. Be Prepared, Avoid the Hassle
Knowing your route ahead of time and minimizing the lost-tourist routine is key. The next level of preparedness is to have a backup plan in case things don’t work out … like extra cash if, say, the train system you were taking closes at midnight you need to find another way back to your hotel.
9. Plans Change
It’s important to go with the flow. Maybe you’re unable to take that intended train home, but you might just meet a group of friendly strangers on the bus instead and have a great evening. The best stories happen when you least expect them.
10. Snap a Memory
Traveling and the memories you make are absolutely priceless. Don’t be cheap. Dish out the dough for that professional photo. Shamelessly snap that koala selfie. A picture is the most lasting way to capture a moment, so don’t ever miss out on the opportunity to take one.
Jen is a Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer and blogger.