You may want to travel to find yourself. You may want to travel to experience new cultures. You may want to travel so you can brag to your friends that you're worldier than they are. Whatever your reason may be, there are some hard truths to face about travel.
We've romanticized the idea that going abroad is a magical experience that will forever change our identities.
While this is totally possible, the reality is that most people don't do their research and spend days, weeks or even months miserably homesick because they weren't fully prepared for the endeavor.
Once you have your passport and plane tickets secured, there are plenty of steps you can take to emotionally, physically and financially prepare yourself for international travel. Here are four:
Combat homesickness before it hits
It doesn't matter if you'll be gone for a week or a year. You'll find yourself excited one minute, then terrified the next; you'll be sad, then really just wishing other countries didn't charge extra for things like ice in your drink.
The best way to prevent all of these emotions from getting the best of you is to realize that while in a foreign place, there is no such thing as a comfort zone. You might not know the language, you may accidentally order really nasty food and you'll probably have to sleep in a not-so-comfortable bed.
The sooner you embrace these realities, the better off you'll be. You wouldn't be traveling if you expected everything to be exactly the same as it is at home. Doing your research before entering a new country really helps, as well, especially if you're going somewhere remote.
Make sure you understand local customs (or at least how to act politely) and learn a few helpful phrases if you'll be immersed in a new language. A little understanding of what you're getting into can be very comforting for the long run.
Don't forget your walking shoes
Every tourist heads into the experience knowing full well they're about to walk for miles and miles. Every tourist also fails to actually grasp the idea of how much walking is about to happen.
From city tours to mountain adventures, you'll be on your feet a lot. Invest in a solid pair of shoes, comfy socks and hit the treadmill a few times a week, about a month before you step foot on a plane.
If you're not feeling that ambitious, pack plenty of Band-Aids and aspirin for your trip. It will take your body some time to adjust to your suddenly active lifestyle.
Snacks are also a great idea to stash in your bag because meal times are almost guaranteed to happen when you don't expect them. Hungry people get sleepy and sleepy people miss out on things. Don't be that person napping through a great day.
Traveling doesn't have to be expensive, but it's more fun with money
The most expensive part of your trip will very possibly be your plane ticket. Once you get to a country, you probably won't spend so much getting from place to place.
And, lodging can be very affordable if you're willing to stay in hostels (which are a great, if slightly uncomfortable, experience — be sure to do your research).
With that being said, you'll have so much more fun if you have some cash in your pockets. Start a travel budget. Save those pennies. Stop drinking $5 coffees.
You'd be amazed by how much money you can save for a trip in a short period of time by being a little tighter on your budget at home. This will be worth it when you get to spend an extra weekend at an exotic locale you've always dreamed of going. It's also fun to have some spending money for tacky souvenirs.
Your traveling experiences are investments for your life, so plan to spend accordingly. It's better to wait than to take a trip where you'll be pinching pennies.
You can never know what to fully expect
This is one of the scariest realities you'll have to face when you leave the comforts of your home country. No matter how much research and planning you do, you'll face speed bumps that, if taken to heart, will make your trip less than enjoyable.
The best thing to do is embrace all fears and unknowns and enjoy your wanderlust.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It