“It’s better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times.” – Asian Proverb
If you’re anything like me, travelling internationally for the first time was a bit overwhelming, confusing and quite honestly frightening. Coming from a very small town, we all knew each other; everyone was either family or friends and the community was a safe one. I remember once during my childhood going to visit family in Southern Ontario and driving by Toronto was sought as being “dangerous”. I still chuckle at the thought today. Of course, danger exists around every corner, but that fearfulness instilled in your mind is the real deal breaker, the one that increases the risk of that unnecessary feeling: anxiety. I still remember my first time out of Canada, which was for my honeymoon in Dominican Republic back in 2000. I was a bit naïve and anxious as I was out of my comfort zone – I was travelling to an unfamiliar place for the first time! I wish I had the information I do today, it would have made my experience a little less frightful and stressful. It’s true what they say: “You learn by experience” and it’s an ongoing process. After having travelled to many countries, I now know much more about preparing myself, and the positive benefits that travelling can bring to oneself, however it is normal to experience that anxious feeling and it can be quite intimidating if it’s your first time.
Here’s my top 10 tips to help ease your travelling anxiety
- Don’t take everyone’s opinions personally or literally!
People have different opinions based on their experiences and personalities. Some even have opinions on areas or places they’ve never visited or experienced yet! Don’t forget, we’re all different in term of what we look for when we travel, so opinions can vary greatly! Food, accommodations, culture, language, activities – those areas can be very subjective in terms of personal preferences. That’s one of many reasons consulting and booking with a Certified Travel Consultant (Rachel’s Travel…wink, wink) can help ease your fear of travelling, giving you professional facts instead of personal opinions!
- Research before you leave!
As much as your neighbour’s negative or positive opinions might instill more fear or hope, research can go a long way. Look for factual websites that can be useful. Learn about the culture, about the language and the food. Having a sense of the other countries’ culture can help you avoid some disappointments or misconceptions about their living lifestyle. Try looking at videos on YouTube or reading some reviews about the place. BUT! Be careful when reading reviews, some can bring more anxiety as so many people feel like it’s a place to rant over and get freebies from the resorts or hotels. I’m not saying to look only for positive reviews – after reading a few, you will start to see and feel a recurrence of certain aspects about the place – that’s where you form your judgement. AND, if you tap in and listen to your gut instinct, you’ll know if it’s the right or wrong place for you. Again, consulting with a professional is always recommended!
- Protect your home while you’re away!
With social media being a huge part of our lives these days, we love to share our experiences and photos on social media platforms with our family and friends while we’re on vacation. However this can trigger some people to become unwelcomed guests into your home. Don’t spend your precious holidays worrying about thieves or nasty weather. With technology at our fingertips, there are a panoply of apps available to monitor your house. Or if you’re anything like me, I prefer having a house sitter while I’m away!
- Organize your papers!
It can happen to the best of us! Losing a passport, a driver’s licence or a credit card. Take some time before you leave to scan or take pictures of your passport and important identification. Send them to your e-mail and leave a copy with someone you trust, you’ll have access to them if ever the need arises. Also make a list of your financial institution and credit card’s contact information. And don’t forget to advise your local financial institution that you’ll be using your bank or credit card abroad! Have a backup credit card in case of emergencies. With today’s technology, you can access your e-mail pretty much anywhere there’s Wi-Fi. In the event you lose your passport or credit card, you can easily get in contact with the correct institution to get your things back in order. Get acquainted with the Embassies & Consulate. Look up the Canadian consular services information in the country where you’ll be visiting in case of an emergency. You’ll have an idea of who and where to reach out to in the event of an emergency.
- Staying Connected!
In today’s modern society, our cell phone is our new BFF (or enemy – depending on how you perceive it). Whether you have a business or family that you need to be connected to back home, using your cell phone abroad can be VERY costly if you didn’t prepare prior to your departure. Check with your wireless carrier to see what roaming plan it offers. If buying a roaming package is not feasible for you, turn on your airplane mode to avoid using data and incurring unwanted charges. Use the Wi-Fi provided at your destination. Here are a few of my favorite App’s for staying connected while using only Wi-Fi: FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype.
- Travel Insurance!
I can’t stress enough on the insurance thing. Yes, it’s expensive! Yes, there are some restrictions! BUT! If the correct policy and coverage are in place and you understand them, you won’t have to stress about it while you’re travelling. The best thing is to consult with your Certified Travel Consultant or your insurance provider to make sure you have the best coverage for your needs. Don’t assume you’re covered for everything, READ your policy. The last thing you want on vacation is finding out you’ll have to pay $5,000 to get a cast on your broken arm when you slipped on that wet tile! That $300 travel insurance policy could’ve saved you $4,700! Again, researching and reading your travel insurance policy is key to knowing exactly what you are or aren’t covered for!
- Talk to your professional health care provider!
Take time to see your health care professional a few months prior to your travel date. Getting professional medical advice (not your neighbour’s – unless he or she’s an M.D…) can save you from getting an unknown virus or disease. Better to take advice from a professional, as they can recommend how to be protected with the proper vaccinations, supplements or medications.
- Money talks!
Look up the currency conversion rates. You might be baffled when you get to Jamaica to have to pay $300J for a cold Red Stripe if you have no idea what $300J is worth in your countries’ currency! Have some local currency, not all places accept $US or $CAN or even credit cards.
- Put your smart hat on!
Don’t do anything that would put yourself or your travel companion in danger. Be street-smart and alert. Don’t flash expensive jewellery (actually, leave them at home), pickpocketing and stealing can and do happen. Bring only a minimal amount of cash (leave the bulk in your hotel safe). Don’t leave your wallet in your back pocket, use a cross body bag, and don’t leave your bags unattended with a stranger! I’ve seen this happen too many times, yikes! If it feels like you’re in the wrong place or if something is off, it probably is, trust your instinct. Those little tips can help reduce the risks. Respect the culture and the people and the same will be shown to you.
- Lastly, HAVE FUN!
Let loose, get out of your comfort zone and savor every second of your well-deserved vacation or travelling adventure! This is YOUR time to experience another destination’s culture. Take it in, have a positive attitude and be grateful for this great adventure! Travelling can be a life changing experience!