Summer is an exciting time for us at Performing Arts Abroad. We have programs running all year, but LOTS of people go in the summer and it’s always thrilling for usto hear from them. Since so many people have already left and even more are getting ready to, I thought I’d share some travel tips for those of you planning to get some stamps in your passport this summer. (I’ll be stealing a bit from PAA’s pre-departure guide.)
Travel Tip #1: Keep a positive attitude and an open mind.
Flights get delayed. Luggage gets sent to the wrong hemisphere. At some point there will be some kind of hassle, and that’s just getting there! Keeping a positive attitude will make all the difference in the world.
Here’s a quote right out of our pre-departure guide: “Unlike tourist travel where resorts are set up to cater to the Westerner, traveling to the real heart of a foreign land often involves making many more adjustments. Meeting new people, eating different foods and managing your own affairs are some of the challenges you will face. Although the adjustments and challenges may seem overwhelming, just remember to be patient with yourself and others.”
Travel Tip #2: Carry your passport, but don’t have it with you.
DON’T LOSE YOUR PASSPORT. If, like a PAA participant you’re not just passing through all “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” style, the best thing to do is to keep your passport in a safe place. It’s not recommended that you carry it around daily, but since it’s the most recognizable form of identification, you may be required to show it. The solution? Make a photocopy of it and carry that around with you at all times.
Travel Tip #3: 100 kilometers per hour isn’t that fast.
Unless you grew up using the metric system, you’re probably going to have to do a lot of quick mental calculations. My advice: find an app or bookmark this link in your web browser, lest you buy the wrong amount of carne and throw off the whole guiso.
Travel Tip #4: We never hear anyone complain about UNDER packing.
Be prepared, yes, but avoid over packing. They have stores there; you’re not going to the moon. If you find there’s something you wish you had, you can probably get it there. If you can’t, the locals somehow live without it, so you probably can too. Learning to pack light is a wonderfully freeing experience!
Travel tip #5: Get to know your local post office.
Social media has revolutionized keeping in touch with friends and family back home, and we should all be grateful that we don’t have to sit through the slide shows our parents had to after their neighbors came home from a trip to Europe. But no amount of Instagramming can take the place of receiving an honest-to-goodness postcard in the mail. Want to really blow someone’s mind? Write a letter and mail it in an envelope. When someone gets a letter in the mail with foreign stamps on, they fell like a million bucks. It’s science.
Travel Tip #6: Being homesick does not mean you’re an uncultured swine.
Even experienced travelers can experience difficult culture shock. It’s natural to feel anxious when you don’t speak the language, know the customs, or understand people’s behavior in daily life. “Culture shock” is sort of a catchall term to help explain the bewilderment and disorientation. What’s more, it’s not unnatural to miss the familiarity of home where at least you know which way is up. Fear not! This is the time to push through and dive in deeper. The more you embrace your new surroundings, the faster you’ll adapt and the more fun you’ll have. Now you just have to brace yourself for the culture shock of coming home, which can sometimes be even more severe.
Well I think six is good for now. Obviously it’s not comprehensive, but hopefully that will get you started. Do you have any great travel tips we missed? Well look at that, there’s a comment section down there.
Ben Abbott is the Outreach Coordinator at Performing Arts Abroad, an actor, playwright, and all around swell guy.