Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Löki's Irrefutable Best Practices on Traveling to Foreign Countries

Peace Corps service offers all sorts of advantages to a potential candidate (see my How To [link] page on tips to making your application POP!), least of which is getting out. Getting out of the continental U.S., getting out of the standard spring break foreign country experience, getting out of the developed world.

With 48 days of annual leave (over a 2 year service), PCVs like to travel. For many, traveling home is too expensive and often not advised (blog on that later), so a week-long jaunt to another country is often the ticket.

Me? I have spent my 71 days (that is 3 years of service, baby) in Thailand, Georgia, Ukraine, and Germany. Prior to these last 3 years, I had hit up just as many countries in my 24 years of living.

Kind of lame, really.

I mean seriously. Backpacking is fantastic. You get to meet all sorts of awesome (and crazy) people, try great food, see interesting things, and really grow. If I can recommend any one thing it is to get out and experience the world (and not just the beach); however, traveling should not be taken too lightly. It can be scary, weird, unexpected. So, for those of you who are Virgos like me, I have made a list to to help you plan for those worst case scenarios. Good luck!
  1. Pre-plan at least your first few nights...if you got a place to stay for the first couple days, you can start your on-the-spot planning with a local present and give yourself time to adjust to the food, time, weather, etc.
  2. Hostel it up (and bring a combination lock). Couchsurfing [link] is also fun and fantastic, but definitely spend a couple of nights in a dorm room. 
  3. Be friendly. That old adage, you attract more flies with honey...if very true. Being aggressive never gets you anywhere. 
  4. Talk to strangers, but don't accept their candy (unless you see the bartender open it up). The whole point is to meet great people and see cool things. Be proactive in the introducing.
  5. Have an emergency debit account and cash back at the ranch. I made the mistake of keeping all my money things together and well, I spent a majority of my first few days in Ukraine canceling stolen cards and crying about my camera. 
  6. Don't make plans while you are imbibing, but when you inevitably do, have a contingency plan on hand. And plan on a hang-over day. 
  7. Budget liberally. You will break any conservative budget you make. 
  8. Bring clothes that repel absorbing spills (and smells). Handwashing clothes suck. Handwashing in a hostel sink is worse.
  9. Carry a copy of your passport and stash your actual passport deep in your bag. You will thank me later.
  10. Don't drink the water. And bring Imodium, Pepto, and Tums. You will need them.