In preparation for every single one of my trips, I've scoured the internet for tips and advice on how to get ready for a journey to a new place. But if I have to read another article that acts like it's helping you by warning you against the dangers of a major city or tells you something that is very inaccurate, I will personally write the author and tell them how I feel on the subject. These articles tend to give more fear or stress to the reader than help and it's very sad. I want to cover some of these common "tips" posted, and give some advice of my own.
- "Wear a cross-body bag to avoid getting your purse stolen." Besides scaring women into assuming every person they pass on the street is going to steal their purse, this should be advice to anyone who uses a bag to carry their belongings from one place to another. Wearing a cross-body bag in London, New York or Paris is no different than in whatever small town or city you currently live in. Yes, in larger cities, there are more people, and more opportunities to be robbed or pick-pocketed, but you could also be walking down the street in a location with a small population and have the same thing happen. Cross-body bags make it harder for someone to just grab and run, so instead of freaking out and holding your bag to your side or chest like a scared puppy, just always be aware of your belongings and don't let a new location give you the fear that everyone is out to get you and your bag.
- "Pack X shirts, X pants, X shoes for X location." Every article that tells you how much of each piece of clothing you need will lead to more stress in packing than if you just go on your instinct and pack what you think you need. If you go by what a random blogger tells you to do, you'll limit yourself and end up packing to please someone other than yourself. You know your own comfort level and what you want to wear while you're abroad, so go ahead and pack 10 pairs of shoes and only one shirt. It's up to you. If you can survive with the bare minimum, or like the luxury of choices, than it's completely fine. Every trip is different and so is every traveler.
- "The best time to buy plane tickets is at 3pm on a Tuesday." If you rely on this, you will not be getting the best deal, and only because plane ticket prices are always fluctuating, and some days you get lucky with a good deal, and some days you don't. It's really a game of testing out different websites, different flight combinations, different days, different times, etc. You can never 100% sure you're getting the best deal, because you may check back a day later, or even a month later and the price is either way higher or much lower. Don't rely on a formula decoded by a website, or else you'll trust that too much and not search for flights otherwise. Check every day, all the time, and once you see a deal you really like, buy it immediately and then be content with your purchase.
- "Start a blog and take a million photographs." Maybe this is just the pretentious journalism major in me, but if you can't write or are not good at photography, don't feel the need to start some kind of fancy blog to update all your friends on what you're doing. Truthfully, what's going to happen is that you'll write about the first few days of your trip or study abroad program, and then you'll get too busy or forget to do it, and then it'll be time for your return and you'll realize that you only posted five times in three months. If blog upkeep isn't your forte, just share photos and status updates to Twitter or Facebook, and lessen the clutter of travel blogs on the internet that are inanimate.
- "Just be yourself and you'll have fun." Or don't actually. If "yourself" is being an ignorant, selfish or pushy person, then travel probably isn't for you. The most amazing thing about travel is going somewhere else and becoming enlightened and learning how to meld into another culture. The people who give a bad name to Americans or any travelers going abroad, are the ones who refuse to change their outlook or attitude, and don't even try to become a part of the location they're in. On the other side, if you're shy and afraid of trying new things, this is also another time it's better to not be yourself when you travel, because you'll miss out on a lot of stuff if you don't take chances or stay inside your own bubble. Become a new person; a person who travels with an open mind and a global personality.