Novice Mistakes Young Travelers Make

Annika Ehrig
Major: Spanish
Department of Spanish Program in Costa Rica, Spring

I haven’t been around as long as many of my favorite travel-influencers have been but, after traveling to my 10th country I’ve learned a lot and want to share it with anyone who wants to start traveling internationally for the first time or for anyone who just wants to get a different perspective on what I’ve learned since I got my passport back in Fall 2014.

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Photo: Beginning of my second study abroad program in Heredia, Costa Rica

Here Are Some Mistakes I’ve Either Personally Made Or Seen Others Make:

Going To Stay In A Specific Country/City Because It Is Similar To Their Home Country
The countries I have been to that are most similar to the US (my home country) have not challenged me or taught me as much as getting out of my comfort zone and learning new things! Odds are, if there’s a Starbucks on every corner you’re not as far out of your comfort zone as you could be. And trust me- You’ll learn way more staying in that local hostel with a bunch of strangers while traveling Europe than staying on the 17th floor of the Ritz Carlton!

Ordering Something At A Restaurant That Is Not Local Fare
If you’re in Italy, don’t order a hamburger! Trying the local McDonald’s can be a cultural experience because Mickey D’s is different in every country but still, it’s not local food. Often times, they might know how to make spaghetti in Cuba, it’s still not going to be as good as Ropa Vieja or good old rice and beans with a HUGE side of Plantains (My fav)!

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Photo: Local Fare with Chicarron, Beans, Rice, Guac, tortillas, and chips in San José, Costa Rica

Wasting Too Much Time & Money On Alcohol-Related Activities
Now before you call me out as the wet-blanket to your bonfire, hear me out. I’m not talking about enjoying alcohol with the locals and learning about locally-made drinks. I’m talking about binge drinking and running of money, gaining weight, being hungover, and the worst of them all: wasting time sitting at a bar or dancing drunk at a club when you could be exploring a city you’ve never been to, talking to locals/world travelers, eating incredible local food or doing an international photo shoot. It’s just not worth it. I’d hate to spend thousands of dollars traveling not to have seen anything or worse, not remembering anything or anyone from the night before.

Spending Too Much Money On Souvenirs
Buy a few things that you think will help you remember your trip but do not check an extra bag because you bought 1,000 trinkets that weren’t even made in the country. Also, don’t fall into the trap that you need to buy EVERYONE something! People are often more interested in hearing about your travels and seeing pictures, not having another key chain to a place they haven’t visited. If you feel you need to bring something home, buy candy! It’s cheap and everyone likes it!

Doing Anything That’s Outside Their Budget
Everyone should have either a budget or plan of how much they want to spend and on what specifically. There’s almost always a cheaper option to everything as long as your willing to compromise on some things. You don’t need to always fly the most expensive airline, go out to eat for $30+ a meal, or stay in a 5-star hotel. Economy airlines, grocery stores, and Airbnbs are often a better option (especially for 20 something travelers with limited resources).
And last but not least, the most important in my opinion:

Staying In Their Comfort Zone!
People travel to try new things, meet new people and have incredible life-changing adventures. If all someone does is do something that doesn’t challenge them, they will never know how they could change for the better from their travels. I love traveling but I’ve had serious anxiety before moving abroad. It’s all been worth it though! I am a different person than before I started traveling seriously. I hope that everyone challenges themselves to do something out of their norm and see what they might learn about themselves that they didn’t know before!

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