Before setting out on a journey, it is always a good idea to take a few steps to prepare yourself for the road ahead. There are many things to do to prepare yourself for a trip, but I’ll spare you the details - hopefully you at least know that comfortable shoes and an extra roll of TP in the backpack are a necessity.
It is always a good idea to grab your travel book of choice, but it doesn’t end there. I like to get all my reading done beforehand, and once I’m on the road I ideally will never have to crack this bad boy for anything but a quick phone number or address. If you’re reading your guide book everyday, you’re not watching the world around you – keep it to a minimum by giving the book a read and getting a checklist going - even if it’s just mental – of the destinations you’d like to see.
The most important things I like to take from a guidebook are the best methods of traveling within your immediate surroundings, and I always take note of the scams that each area specializes in. The scam industry is quite advanced in most of the third world, and each place you go will have its own unique method of relocating those green backs from your wallet to theirs. It won’t take long to develop a 6th sense for scammers, but even then it helps to have an idea of what to expect before running out into the jungle with little more than swiss army knife and a fanny pack.
Also, while we’re on the subject, fanny packs! As most of you probably know, fanny packs are not exactly the trendiest of items. That’s why I recommend going big and getting the brightest, most obnoxious fanny pack you can possibly find. Rock it on the side of your hip, rock it without a shirt on, or even rock it front and center in every photo op, but make sure you rock it with a sense of pride and grandeur that boldly tells the world you know how to travel like you mean business. Secretly give the head nod to all fellow fanny packers you pass. You’re in the club now.
But, you know, in all honesty, fanny packs are the best way to protect yourself against forgetfulness and getting pick pocketed. It’ll make your mom happy! What’s not to like?
Most importantly, especially if you are going somewhere for any sort of extended period of time, brush up on the local lingo. Even simply learning hello and thank you will get you a long way in some places, even if you are butchering the pronunciation like a cranky 3 year old. In most places the natives will appreciate the attempt, so even if it makes you feel awkward just show them you’re trying. You’ll be surprised how easy it is once you get the ball rolling and make it your routine, and you might even find people take a special liking to you.
Once you’ve got this down, you should try asking one of the better English speakers you meet for a few more words or tips. Always a great way to make a new friend and learn a bit more. Offer to teach them some English in exchange – you can use little English lessons as currency if you play your cards right, everyone wants to learn it.
But seriously, most importantly do NOT forget the extra roll of TP.