Disproving Four Popular Travel Myths
Generally, travel is something people like to do and, while that may come as no surprise to you, there are some popular myths around travel that may make not quite match up with expectations that come from curated instagram feeds. Furthermore, perceived travel barriers may also not be as they appear. After having been to 12 countries and counting, I have accumulated some experience by living through the good, the bad and the ugly of traveling.
Myth 1: Traveling is TOO expensive for me!!! :(((
Ah, yes. Probably the most used excuse for why we can't travel. I mean I totally get it. As a someone who puts themself through college, money is something I could always use more of. Hell, anyone my age, trying to navigate the seemingly endless intricacies of adulting, knows exactly how tight money can be. BUT, the key to doing anything you want is prioritization. If you can find money for long Saturday nights you barely remember or daily venti chai lattes (guilty as charged), you can find the funds for your dream trip. But like any goal you want to achieve, it takes willpower and discipline. So instead of putting money towards the brand name whatever, invest in memories and experiences that stick with you.
Nonetheless, travel ain't cheap. From flights to accommodation to food, you're going to want to save money where you can. Here are some quick tips to save some extra dollars:
1. Hostels are the way to go for budgets travelers looking to meet other people;
2. Eating near tourists areas in usually a no-go, so for cheaper, more authentic food venture a little off the beaten path;
3. A little pre-planning goes a long way. Tickets for trains, buses and many attractions are usually cheaper when booked in advance;
4. Bring your student ID as many places abroad offer student discounts.
Myth 2: Traveling is always fun!
Only the best pictures and videos make their way to social media; however, what you can't see are the ugly parts of traveling; the parts of traveling no one likes to talk about. The beautiful thing about traveling is that you're getting the chance to discover a new corner of the world and see it through your own eyes, but one of the biggest headaches when it comes to traveling is getting to and around your destination. Case in point is your flight. Despite how hard airports try to get flights out on-time, that is rarely the reality. Malfunctions, maintenance, weather and even delays at other airports all contribute to a sluggish system that will test your patience. Like really test your patience. This often works as a chain of events that may even cause you to miss that tight layover in Miami you booked, just because you wanted to save money. This also applies to transportation around your destination. Things very rarely go to plan, and missing your train, bus, or flight can leave you feeling defeated.
Trust me, I've been there.
I remember a time in Italy, when my friend and I were assigned platform 20B for our train to the airport. We looked around and noticed that we in fact couldn't find any platforms with a letter next to their number. After having been ignored by numerous Rome Termini Station employees, we became desperate and frantic as time inched ever closer and closer to our departure. Eventually, we hopped on a train, after speaking in hand signs and gestures to an Italian conductor, and ended up in the city of the airport we were trying to get to. The only problem with that (because, of course, nothing could have been easy) was that the train station was on the literal opposite side of town from the airport's entrance.
SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, we had enough and called an Uber to drive us to the airport, because we had absolutely no time to figure out where we were supposed to go. And after all that, we were still too late to check into our flight to Madrid. But hey, the good news was that we had to pay 100 euros each (more than we paid for our original flights) to wait SEVEN hours for our next flight. Let's just say that we got acquainted well with the Rome-Ciampino Airport.
Myth 3: I don't need to learn foreign languages to travel as long as I speak English!
Yes, one thing you learn as you travel is that English is truly a global language. It functions as a lingua franca, a meeting place, so to speak, for people from many different linguistic backgrounds to communicate with each other. However, the notion of going to another country and expecting them to cater to you in your language is insane. Imagine someone coming up to in downtown Chicago saying, "Wo kann ich der "Bean" finden? Ich hab' mich irgendwie verloren." Unless you surprisingly have a background in German, you would probably be shocked and confused. Americans have a reputation abroad of being, how do I say, a little uncultured? It's very common in many parts of world to speak two, three or even four languages well, but that is, unfortunately, not the case in the U.S..
I know it's not possible to learn the language of every country you want to visit. While I recommend, if you're serious about traveling, to pick up a language or two that suits you best, you should at least be able to say essential phrases like "Do you speak English?" or "Where can I find [blank]?" in the target language. English is global; however, in certain parts of the world, specifically in rural areas, English speakers are much harder to find. The benefits of language learning increase as you improve more and more in your other languages. Besides solid research, supporting second-language acquisition's role in decreasing the chance to getting Alzheimer's and dementia, traveling just becomes richer when you can see the world through different linguistic lenses. Imagine all the locals you could talk to, even that cutie in the corner of the bar you've been eyeing up all night.
One time as I sat in a Costa Rican hot spring, I laughed and joked with my German friend in German as the current almost pulled her away. Then turned to help my American friend figure out her GoPro in English. After that I turned to ask a Swiss couple near us for the time in French, as we left our phones back at the hostel, and got some tips from them about our next destination. On the way back to our hostel, I had a 25-minute conversation in Spanish with our driver about politics, family, school and everything else you could fit into 25 minutes. I'm not saying this to brag or gloat, I'm just trying to show that I left that experience so much more fulfilled.
Speaking to someone in their language will open them up so much more than forcing them to speak yours.
Myth 4: I can't travel! I might be robbed or even kidnapped! The world is just too scary!!
Anytime I leave for a trip, my mom is CONVINCED that I am going be human trafficked and that she will never see me again.
Don't get me wrong, the world can definitely be a scary place. Being a tourist/traveler makes you a bigger target, especially if you look that part. Yet, one of the biggest lessons I have learned on my travels is that people are generally GOOD. When you're in need of it, there are people out there to help you. I've seen people give up their seats for other people on a bus in Costa Rica. I've seen people go out of there way to make sure I knew exactly where I was going when I was lost. There was even a time when my friend got separated from us in London and she found an extremely nice guy on the street, who let her log into Facebook on his phone, just to send us a message about where she was. As soon as we got off the subway, he was there asking if we were looking for our friend. Or the time when I left my Eurail train pass and laptop on a train and, instead of being stolen, they were returned to a lost and found.
This does not mean that you should be naïve though. While armed robbery or mid-day kidnappings are not norms in most parts of the world, stealing, pickpocketing and general manipulation are common in touristy areas. Always keep an eye on your belongings. Being hyper-aware of people near your space, especially purse and pockets, will make sure people aren't digging around for your valuables. When people approach you offering services or deals that seem too good to be true, always trust your instincts. A healthy dose of skepticism might help you avoid being the next victim of some quick scheme. If persistent, just remember that you always have the right to say no and walk away.