Over the Easter break, I travelled 6,607 miles to the other side of the world on a quest to visit my partner in Malaysia. As a scared 20-year-old who had only been outside of Europe once before, flying for 16 hours was a daunting experience, especially on my own. Here’s my advice for any travellers out there – whether or not you’re thinking about going it alone.
Research the places you’re going to – thoroughly!
This is an obvious one, but often I get so caught up in what I’m going to do and the places I want to see, that I forget to check the climate, temperature and the culture of the country. Malaysia, for example, is an Islamic country where modest clothing is required. Cue me, wearing the same pair of trousers for five days while my short skirts gather dust in the suitcase.
Try and make friends along the way
16 hours of travelling alone is lonely, so making a friend or two along the way is really helpful! On a plane you already have one thing in common with your neighbour: you’re going to the same place. So, get chatting!
Try to maintain a normal sleep pattern
With long-haul journeys, chances are that you’ll have a stopover somewhere. It’s difficult to keep a typical sleep routine when you’re in a different time zone but being able to sleep makes the time go much faster and then you don’t feel like a zombie either.
Learn a bit of the language
Even in Europe, not everyone speaks English. Learning a language is a fun way to pass the time and will undoubtedly come in handy at some point. Bonus points if you’re brave enough to put it on your CV.
Don’t panic and get stressed if things go wrong
Being in a foreign country is in itself a stressful experience, so it’s understandable that obstacles seem a lot bigger. But perspective is everything: as a tourist, people recognise that you’re probably lost and nine times out of ten they want to help, not harm. Unforeseen changes can lead to great adventures, so try to go with the flow instead of letting them ruin your day.
Don’t be embarrassed to take photos
No one wants to be that tourist who’s taking 15 photos a second. But equally, you might only visit the same place once, and you don’t want to forget it just because you wouldn’t take a photo for fear of judgement. Everyone is a tourist at some point. You’re allowed to be excited! Photos are the cheapest souvenir, too.
Explore different cultures
Be open to learning about different ways of life. It’s incredible to see new places, and it’s even more incredible to understand the people behind the places. As long as you’re respectful and interested, most people will take the time to explain their faith or lifestyle to you. Sometimes the best parts about travelling are the people you meet along the way and the eye-opening experiences they want to tell you about.
Try all the food!
Local cuisine is always a new experience. In Malaysia, the food alone is a reason for visiting. Street food is always cheaper and more exciting – just make sure to go somewhere busy so you know it’s going to be nice food that won’t get you ill!
All in all, I’d say if you want to go somewhere, just do it. Life is too short, and being a student presents so many opportunities for travel that it’s definitely worth the money! The world is a big, wonderful place filled with lovely people – get out there and explore it.