Most people overestimate the difficulty of international travel and end up psyching themselves out of stepping on foreign soil. That’s a shame. I’m here to share some good news with you. International travel is actually pretty easy, and generally the less you plan, the better your experience will be.
Assuming you’ve already settled things at home, there’s actually only one big trip-related decision you need to make before you hit the open road, and that is where are you going to start your journey? You don’t need to know where you will be a week after you start your trip, but you need to determine where you’re going to be on Day One.
Narrowing down your Day One travel options is really easy, as some locations offer FAR better jumping off points than others.
Believe it or not, that’s pretty much all the planning you need to perform for your trip.
Yes. If you own:
then you will have all the possessions you need to travel for as long as you want. Of course, also make sure you have:
Beyond these simple material preparations there’s really nothing else you can do to get yourself “ready” for your trip. If this is your first international travel experience then no amount of psychological or emotional weightlifting will prepare you to leave, so don’t even bother trying to “get in the zone.” You’ll reach full metaphysical preparedness for your trip about 2-5 days after you arrive in Europe.
Pretty much every city you should consider visiting as a first-time international traveller will be much safer than any American city. Violent crime is a major American problem but in general much less in Europe, while pick pocketing and other minor crimes are generally more common in Europe. So, don’t take anything for granted and follow these basic rules for urban safety and you will be fine:
Yes, women will need to be more conscientious than men, and it’s a good idea for women to do a little preliminary research to make sure they aren’t planning on landing somewhere with overly specific and retrograde cultural or religious rules about how folks are expected to dress or behave. But as long as you travel to a relatively modern country, then you will find that remaining safe in a foreign city is no harder than remaining safe in New York, Toronto, or San Francisco.
As a quick safety-oriented note- fears about anti-Americanism are often exaggerated. Most people in most countries will assume you’re from Canada (because Canadians travel more than Americans) and when they find out you’re American they’re not going to suddenly react with hostility. Most people around the world abide by reciprocity and will treat you like you treat them, so don’t act in an arrogant manner or be abrasive and you’ll be fine.
The number one secret to not being a jerk while you travel (is also the number one key to opening yourself up to the jewels of travel), is to think about other people before you think about yourself.
This is so important, seriously.
The more you remain caught up in yourself, your carefully made plans, and your imagined expectations, the more everyone around you will avoid you and the less you will get from your trip.
This is why over-planning, over-packing, and over-preparing can be a well-intentioned mistake. Such preparations can create crazy expectations of what your trip should be, how the people you meet are supposed to act, and how you are supposed to grow and change and feel. Very few of your travel experiences will live up to such expectations. If you become too wrapped-up in detail planning, you will lose the ability to enjoy the environment around you and not be open to experiencing the people you meet.
Most travellers start acting like jerks as soon as their trip stops conforming to their expectations. Instead of hoping that the second you land abroad you’re going to transform into a kinder, better loving person, it’s much easier to defeat this sort of entitled thinking by setting out with as few expectations as possible. You can’t find yourself disappointed to the point of abrasive behavior if you start to open yourself up to unexpected experiences and adventures before you even leave your home.