I’ve been on the road for over a full year and during that time lived in five different Asian countries for a few months each (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, and China). I just spent some time in Florida for a conference after spending two months in Mexico. So if you are going on an overseas teen program this summer or setting off on a gap year, I can help.
I’ve seen a lot, done a lot, and met many, many interesting people I would never run into at home. I’ve also spent a good deal of time on airplanes, busses, boats and motorcycles. I’ve seen a lot in this last year, and I’ve also learned a lot about making the most of teen travel. A few small things make a big difference.
Teen travel abroad might seem a bit scary but here are a few tips that will help you find your way.
1. Pack light.
Especially if it’s your first time traveling overseas, you may be tempted to pack anything and everything that makes a teen feel comfortable. Soon you’ll have a fourth pair of shorts, bandages and your favorite pillow stuffed in your bag and it will weigh a ton!
This isn’t necessary.
Here’s what you should do instead. Pack much less than you’d be inclined to take. To set your mind at rest, take along a few extra bucks instead of all the extra stuff. If you really need something you’ve forgotten, like a phone charger, you can buy it there. (I know people who have traveled for a year with one pair of pants, but you might not want to go that far. )
2. Have an “essentials” bag.
My essentials bag is my small black backpack where I keep my passport, computer, phone, and chargers. I keep this little backpack inside my big bag on top of the rest of my clothes, toiletries, etc.
If something goes wrong, I know that all my really vital stuff is in one place. I can quickly grab it and have everything valuable on my person without needing to dig through my big bag. That said, make sure you have copies of your passport, visas, a bit of cash and any other essential documents in another spot. That will make it easier if, heaven forbid, something happens to your essentials bag.
3. Set a goal to take risks.
Getting to see new places is exciting, but one of the best benefits I’ve had from traveling is getting away from everyone I knew back home. When you’re surrounded by old friends, family, teachers, etc., you tend to act like everyone expects you to act.
Maturing, trying new things, acting differently, wearing new clothes, talking to new people and asking someone on a date when you might get rejected are all really difficult things to do when surrounded by people whose opinion matters to you. You can get stuck in other people’s perception of you.
You may be so used to this fear of judgment that you bring it with you when you start traveling. When I took my first trip abroad I was very worried about how people I had just met (and would never see again) thought of me. After some time, however, I got over it and that allowed me to return home a radically different person.
Before you hit the road, mentally prepare yourself for the adventure ahead. You’ve got a great opportunity for personal growth. Commit to breaking through your fears, immersing yourself in a foreign language, and maybe asking that cute Mexican girl on a date in Spanish. ?