It all started when I took a one-way flight from Miami to Guatemala City, leaping nervously into the unknown and leaving much of my old life behind while embarking on an epic travel adventure around the world.
11. Smile & Say Hello
Having trouble interacting with locals? Do people seem unfriendly? Maybe it’s your body language. One of my best travel tips is to make eye contact and smile as you walk by. If they smile back, say hello in the local language too. This is a fast way to make new friends.
You can’t expect everyone to just walk around with a big stupid grin on their face. That’s your job. Usually all it takes is for you to initiate contact and they’ll open up.
12. Splurge A Bit
I’m a huge fan of budget travel, as it allows you to travel longer and actually experience more of the fascinating world we live in rather than waste your hard-earned money on stuff you don’t need. In fact you can travel many places for $50 a day with no problems.
That said, living on a shoestring gets old after a while. It’s nice (and healthy) to go over your budget occasionally. Book a few days at a nice hotel, eat out at a fancy restaurant, or spend a wild night on the town.
13. Keep An Open Mind
Don’t judge the lifestyles of others if different from your own. Listen to opinions you don’t agree with. It’s arrogant to assume your views are correct and other people are wrong. Practice empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Embrace different possibilities, opportunities, people, suggestions and interests. Ask questions. You don’t have to agree, but you may be surprised what you’ll learn.
14. Try Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing.org is a large online community of travelers who share their spare rooms or couches with strangers for free. If you truly want to experience a country and it’s people, staying with a local is the way to go.
There are millions of couchsurfers around the world willing to host you and provide recommendations. It’s fun and safe too. Expensive hotels are not the only option, there are all kinds of cheap travel accommodation optionsout there.
15. Volunteer Occasionally
Make it a point to volunteer some of your time for worthwhile projects when traveling. Not only is it a very rewarding experience, but you’ll often learn more about the country and its people while also making new friends.
There’s a great site called Grassroots Volunteering where you can search for highly recommended volunteer opportunities around the world.
16. Pack Ear Plugs
This should actually be #1 on the list. I love my earplugs! Muffle the sounds of crying babies, drunk Australians, barking dogs, honking horns, dormitory sex, natural gas salesmen, and more. A traveler’s best friend. These are my favorite earplugs for comfort & effectiveness.
17. Don’t Be Afraid
The world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. Keep an eye out for sketchy situations but don’t let that be the focus of your whole trip. Use common sense and you’ll be ok. Most people are friendly, trustworthy, generous, and willing to help you out.
This goes for women too. I realize I’m not a woman, but I’ve met plenty ofexperienced female travelers who agree.
18. Get Lost On Purpose
If you want to see the parts of town where real people live & work, you need to go visit them. The best way to do this is on foot — without knowing exactly where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel so you can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking.
19. Eat Local Food
Think you already know what Mexican food tastes like? You’re probably wrong. Taste a bit of everything when you travel, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ask local people for recommendations. Eat street food from vendors with big lines out front.
I’ve been very sick only twice in my travels. Don’t be scared of the food.
Read More: The Food Traveler’s Handbook
20. Say Yes Often
Be impulsive and say yes when someone randomly invites you to meet their family, try a new activity, or explore a place you didn’t know existed. It’s these unexpected and unplanned situations that add spice to your travels and always turn into the best stories later.