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12 Tips for New Travelers

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Sarah Bennett-O'Brien

Photo by Amanda Lai, China

Traveling abroad for the first time is both exciting and scary. It’s important to not let fear of the unknown make you feel unprepared for the adventure of a lifetime! While there are many tips and tricks for traveling abroad, below are some of our top tips based on our 30 years of travel.

How to Prepare for your Big Adventure

  • Pack Light. Bring clothes specific to the climate and leave your formal clothing at home. Here’s a helpful video on best practices for packing. 
  • Learn basic phrases in the native language of your destination. Not only will you be able to get around easier, but locals will appreciate the effort! Here’s a free app to get you started. It also helps to bring along a small language book with common words and phrases.
  • Learn about the history of your destination before you go. Before leaving for a Dragons course, students are provided with recommended  books, articles, and documentaries to learn more about the history, culture and current issues to read before traveling or bring with them. 


How to Get the Most Out of your Trip 

Photo by Nisha Dhawlikar, Guatemala

  • Bring a journal. A journal is a great way to document everything you experience during your travels. It’s also helpful for processing all the new experiences you’re having. We promise  you’ll appreciate being able to return to it later! 
  • Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Everywhere you visit will be a unique experience. Pushing yourself to get out of your comfort zone will allow you to see, smell, and hear the most your destination has to offer. 
  • Try the local food. Nothing speaks to the essence of a place like the food. Live like a local and explore new flavors—you might discover your new favorite dish. 
  • Be respectful of local customs and cultural norms. Every country has its own unique set of customs and expectations. It is important to learn these before you go, but to stay mindful of these while traveling. 
  • Be patient with yourself, those you’re traveling with, and those you meet along the way. Traveling is challenging for everyone in their own unique ways, being patient will allow you to remain present throughout your trip. 
  • Be spontaneous. While you’re traveling, you’ll meet people who introduce you to new opportunities, celebrations, and places to visit. Leave some room in your itinerary for spur of the moment activities that you discover along the way. 
  • Set expectations. Expect to have a stomach issue while you’re traveling, or some setbacks along the way. It happens to all of us, and all we can do is be prepared to flow with the ups and downs of traveling. 


How to Reflect Back on your Trip

  • Share your stories. Send letters to loved ones and yourself while you’re traveling. 
  • Value experiences over souvenirs. Sure it’s nice to have a memento from a place, but if you have to choose between the sunrise hike and souvenir shopping, we recommend the sunrise hike. You’ll thank yourself later for that decision. 

Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Senegal

Traveling abroad is one of the most life changing experiences you can give yourself. Travel is one of the purest forms of experiential education. It simultaneously inspires a sense of wonder while pushing us to grow into ourselves more than we knew possible. When we travel, we are reminded to never stop learning. 

If you’re ready to explore Summer & Gap Year Programs, click here to see a list of courses. For direct questions, please schedule a call to speak with someone on our admissions team. We look forward to exploring the world with you!

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