In this instalment of Don't Be An Egg! (Things You'll Wish You Knew, Later...). JASON KIM has the travel bug, and now he wants to infect you with it...
From Mark Twain to Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson to Ernest Hemingway, English literature is littered with men and women inspired by the simple act of packing a bag and heading somewhere – anywhere – in search of a new adventure, self-discovery, and strange new cultures.
Hopefully, you guys have been heeding my advice from previous Don't Be An Egg! columns (c’mon, just humour me here) and you’ve managed to snag a part-time job and save up a nice little kitty for these summer holidays.
I know that it can be tempting to spend it on a new phone, laptop, or a fresh new pair of kicks, but there are few experiences more fulfilling and potentially life-changing than to go out and discover a new town or country. You’ll meet new friends, become more independent, and learn about different cultures in ways that will make you re-evaluate everything you thought you knew about the world.
Budgeting and planning
As exciting as it can be to fly to exotic countries overseas, travelling doesn’t necessarily require you to save up thousands of dollars for an expensive international airfare. The key is to look at your income, how much of that you can realistically put away every week and the sorts of activities or experiences that interest you. From there, you can draw a rough radius of potential destinations.
For instance, if you want a beach getaway in the summertime, don’t fret if you can’t save thousands of dollars for a tropical island resort. In NZ, we’re so blessed to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world within driving distance. Get a group of four or five mates together, book a bach for a few nights and head out on a roadtrip. From Northland, to Mount Maunganui, the Coromandel, Raglan, and so many other spots across the North and South Island, we’re really spoilt for choice.
If you’re able to set your budget a bit higher, that certainly does open up a few more options. While some people swear by booking flights and holidays online by themselves, it pays to visit a travel agent and have a chat with them before you book anything. Being the experts, they can give you a rundown of the expected total cost of your holiday, any visa issues which may need to be cleared up, and will sometimes have access to cheap deals through their connections with airlines and hotels.
Pre-trip to-do list
The best thing you can do is to make sure you read as much as you can about the place you’re going to. Not only will this get you excited about your trip, but you’ll also be able to sift through and figure out what you want to see and do over there and suss out a brief itinerary.
Wikipedia will be a good starting point for learning about the culture, history and other noteworthy facts about a country. From there, travel websites such as Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor will be able to map out the attractions, accommodation and restaurants in the area.
These web resources are especially handy when you book accommodation, as they come complete with user reviews and photos. What may appear to be a bargain room in the heart of the CBD may in fact be a roach-infested hub of debauchery and filth. User reviews will give you an idea of what the staff there are like, who else tends to stay there (for example, families with young children, or other young travellers like yourself). They also pull the curtain back behind the glossy, scrubbed-up photos they want you to see on their website, and show you what the place really looks like.
It’s also important to make sure you learn about any local customs you should respect. For example, do you need to wear a more conservative outfit where you’re going? How cool are the locals with you speaking English to them? Learning these kinds of things will earn you favour with the locals, and they’ll be more likely to help you out if you get into any kind of sticky situation.
Other important logistical-type things to remember is sorting out how you’re going to pay for things over there (e.g. converting your currencies and sussing a credit card or overseas debit card), as well as travel insurance, emergency phone numbers and contact details, and your plane ticket details. This can be especially important if you’re flying over time zones; make sure you remember exactly what time in local time you have to be at the airport, lest you end up spending your entire shopping fund on a new ticket.
You’re at your destination of choice, and you’ve just had a chance to check in to your accommodation and rest your feet a little bit after a tiring journey. What now?
It’s important to make sure that you get the most out of your trip. What this will entail will be different depending on your interests. But as a general rule of thumb, I think it’s best to make sure you mix in the usual touristy sightseeing activities with just getting lost and exploring your new town or city.
Too much sightseeing will make your trip more stressful than it needs to be, and will give you the feeling that you’re just ticking things off a checklist, as opposed to really experiencing the culture. But not enough sightseeing and you’ll find that you end up regretting not taking advantage of your trip fully.
Travelling with mates can be a really fun experience, and a great way to build lifelong bonds (one of my best friends is my mate who I went to France with when we were teenagers). On the other hand, travelling alone can be a great experience too (although perhaps a better idea when you’re a bit older).
For me, travelling has helped broaden my horizons, make lifelong friends, and even helped me to meet my current girlfriend of two years. As much as I would like to be typing this out on a shiny new Macbook Pro right now, I’m content with my thrifty little Samsung knowing that the experiences and friendships I gained from travelling are far more valuable than any material possession I could have bought with that money.
Again, it doesn’t matter if you decide to roadtrip to the Coromandel or book a three-week trip to South East Asia. I don’t know what it is about putting your feet on a piece of dirt that you’ve never treaded on before, but for me (and many others) it is a special kind of magical experience. Don’t let your summer go to waste. Get planning, and get moving today.
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