Millions of people love the idea of traveling internationally, but they’re intimidated by the thought. Filing and bringing in the right paperwork, dealing with language barriers, and adjusting to a brand-new culture can all be frightfully challenging. What can you do to make international travel less intimidating and more approachable?
Identify Your Anxieties
First, take a moment to identify your anxieties and try to analyze where they come from. Some anxieties about international travel are legitimate, while others are sometimes exaggerated or unwarranted.
· Money. Some people are reluctant to travel internationally because of money. It’s true that international travel can be expensive, especially if you splurge on luxuries, but you can plan a budget trip for a few thousand dollars, and in some cases, you may even be able to travel for just a few hundred dollars. With adequate preparation, a bit of patience, and a willingness to make compromises, you can travel internationally on almost any budget.
· Logistics. You may also be concerned about the logistics of travel, such as procuring the proper documentation, exchanging your currency, and traveling once you arrive in your destination country. However, international travel in the modern era is relatively straightforward thanks to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Through this program, you can apply for travel authorization online, and in just a few minutes (though approval typically takes longer). There’s also plenty of information available to travelers interested in figuring out the other logistics of their trips.
· Language. Are you concerned about the language barrier? Learning the language of your destination country in advance can help you considerably. But if this isn’t an option, you can probably get by with translation apps which are surprisingly good these days.
· Culture. If you’re immersing yourself in a new culture, it’s easy to breach social norms and accidentally offend the people around you. But it doesn’t take much to practice cultural sensitivity. Even an hour or two of proactive research can help you understand the biggest cultural differences between the people of your country and the people of your destination country.
So what steps can you take to reduce these anxieties?
Start Planning Well in Advance of Your Trip
One of the easiest things you can do is start planning your international trip well in advance of your departure date. The more time you have to plan, the more information you’ll be able to gather and the more confident you’ll feel about your knowledge and abilities. Additionally, if something goes wrong, you’ll have more time to account for this problem.
Warm Up With an “Easy” Travel Destination
If you’re nervous about traveling to a country that speaks a different language and has a very different culture, consider starting with an international trip to a country that’s closer to your home country. For example, if you live in the UK, you might travel to the US. If you live in the US, you might travel to Canada.
Learn and Practice the Language
Take the time to learn and practice the language of your destination country, even if you plan on using translation apps during your trip. If you can feel confident navigating basic introductory conversations, you’ll feel much better about your forthcoming travel. Be sure to practice with native speakers so you have some experience before leaving.
Wikitravel is a community-edited resource like Wikipedia that compiles travel tips and guidance for travelers. It can tell you what to expect in a destination country, teach you about safe and unsafe areas, introduce you to a host of activities to try, and even provide recommendations for making the most of your trip.
Travel With Someone
You can assuage many of your anxieties by traveling with someone, especially if that someone is a significant other, family member, or close friend. This person will be with you throughout your entire journey, aiding you with logistics and providing you with greater safety.
Understand Your Biggest Priorities
Finally, understand your biggest priorities when traveling and account for them. These should be at the top of your list of priorities:
· Safety. Even if you’re traveling to a relatively safe country, personal safety can (and should) be a top concern. Recognize and avoid the most dangerous areas – and act intelligently to minimize risks.
· Communication. Make sure you have access to mobile communication at all times.
· Medical help. Bring any medications you need, and consider getting travel insurance for your medical/healthcare needs.
· Money. Have a plan to obtain and use foreign currency, if necessary.
Traveling internationally isn’t as complicated or as strenuous as many people think. As long as you’re willing to plan proactively and acknowledge the real challenges of international travel, you can craft a plan that works for you.