For anyone considering traveling abroad, it’s truly an experience you’ll never forget. The things you’ll experience, the hardships you’ll overcome, and the friends you’ll make will last a lifetime. Sure, traveling is not the easiest thing in the world, but if you can manage it, it will change you down to your very core.
My first experience abroad was right out of college. I was young and a bit disillusioned with the prospect of settling into a career, especially since the job market at the time wasn’t so hot. So, I decided to take a year off and head off to Japan.
I spent one year in Osaka, and it was simultaneously the most terrifying and amazing experience of my life. It was my first time ever living away from home (I lived at home while I attended college), so that made it even more of an ordeal. But in a lot of ways struggling through figuring out how to live on my own in a country where I didn’t even really understand the language was the best thing for my confidence and my independence as a person.
For those thinking of spending some time abroad for work, pleasure, or study abroad in the future, here are some things I learned along the way that can help you get the most out of your experience and make sure it’s the best thing you’ll ever do.
Practice the language
If you’re going somewhere where the people don’t speak English, practice the language. One thing that can stress you out is the inability to communicate what you want to people. Even if you’re staying somewhere with English support, the ability to speak a few phrases with locals in their native language will make your trip so much more enjoyable. It helps to get a phrasebook if you want backup!
Go down the road less traveled
Skip the McDonald’s, the Taco Bell, and whatever other fast food places you can eat at back home. Check out the local cuisine. If you’re going to Asia, look for the wet markets and shopping streets and grab yourself some of the amazing street food. Dive into the smallest possible restaurants and have yourself a local meal cooked by someone passionate about food. It can be a bit daunting, but that’s what the phrasebook is for. People are usually way more welcoming than you might think they are. They’re often as interested in you as you are in them. In my experience, people will often try to strike up a conversation just wanting to know where you’re from.
Meet the locals
Find out where the local people hang out and what they do. Chances are it’s not where all the tourists are going. You can make some great friends or at the very least find some people to show you some local specialties.
The best thing you can do for yourself before you’re tied down with responsibility is broaden your horizons with a trip abroad, and you’d be doing yourself a huge disservice if you let your fear and inhibitions hold you back from getting out there and seeing how the people really live. So cast all that doubt aside, muster up some courage, and make your trip the best time of your life.
Contributed by Nick Bartholomew