International Travel 101: The ish no one tells you

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and Travel Noire, the Black Travel Feed and clutch travel deals will definitely have you ready to book the next flight to a far away place. And that’s great. There’s nothing more eye-opening or just plain ol’ awesome, than experiencing new sights, sounds and flavors of different cultures in other countries. Please note, however, that there is likely some fine print that comes along with all the dope IG photos, snaps and lifelong memories you create that no one seems to talk about. So here goes…

The actual “travel” part of traveling can kinda suck.

Whether it’s Customs, airport security, uncomfortable airplane seats, nerve-wrecking shuttle rides, piss-poor airport etiquette, or jacked up cab fare, the process of actually getting to and from where you need to go is not always pleasant.

Tip: Remember, it’s all worth it. Don’t let the person who didn’t cover up her sneeze ruin your trip. If you’ve never travelled internationally, or if it’s your first time visiting a certain place, ask someone who has experience to brief you on what to expect in terms of travel and the airport situation at your final destination (they are not all the same).

Language barriers are real.

It’s a good chance you will find yourself wishing you learned another language–like really learned it. Don’t assume that people will speak English–1) that’s the ignorant stuff people from other countries hate about Americans, and 2) it’s just not always the case, especially if you’re in a non-touristy area.

Tip: Learn common words and phrases beforehand (Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank you, Can you help me?, Bathroom, etc). Also, make sure somebody in your group has data, and download a language translation app, and remember that Google is your friend. Depending on where you’re going, it might not hurt to get a physical translation dictionary.

Get your $$$ in order.

Aside from doing the research to make sure you take enough money for the activities you’ll be doing, you also need to:

  • determine whether or not the US dollar is accepted or if you’ll need to exchange money; if you do have to exchange money, find out what the exchange rate is, meaning how much your money will be worth
  • figure out if you’ll need to plan to have cash handy for most of the trip
  • read up on tipping practices. In some places, workers may rely solely on tips. You need to be prepared to tip those individuals–Point. Blank. Period.

Internet service is not guaranteed.

What? Wait? However will you survive?! (<<that’s sarcasm)

Tip: Don’t waste precious moments hunting down WiFi so you can put on for Snapchat and IG. Take in the sights, create memories. Of course it’s cool to get pics and videos, but don’t obsess on Internet service so much that you miss out on what’s in front of your face.

“Normal” isn’t always the norm in a different country.

Whether it’s all businesses closing down midday, club attire, or a complete absence of regular-size (regular as known in the States) bath cloths, be prepared for some ish to completely throw you off, and perhaps at an inconvenient time.

Tip: Do you research. Google typical/daily customs of people and businesses in the country you’re visiting before you go. Or not–and just show up and be prepared to figure it out as you go. Whatever the case, don’t be disrespectful of the practices of other people just because they’re unfamiliar to you.

Depending on where you travel, there’s a 157% chance that you will get diarrhea.

Tip: Just let it happen. Just kidding. But seriously, if during or after your trip you have a case of the BG’s, and not your average BG’s I might add, save yourself a co-pay or urgent care bill, and give things a couple of days to pass over.

Depending on your travel crew, it’s a pretty good chance that somebody will get on your nerves.

Tip: Avoid the drama. Set expectations upfront for who, what, where, when, and HOW MUCH so everyone is on the same page. Find out what everyone’s priorities for the trip are (be it shopping, partying, seeing a certain sight, etc) and plan accordingly. If your intention is not to plan and to just explore and let the chips fall where they may, make sure everyone is aware of that.

You will find yourself terrified.

Whether it’s getting lost, going somewhere that looks like one of those, “b*tch don’t go in there” scenes from a movie, or stumbling upon the “maybe we came too far out” side of town, at some point, however brief, you may find yourself rethinking your decisions out of fear.

Tip: Go with your gut. Find the balance between not doing anything that’s over-the-top dumb and living a little. Sex trafficking and theft are real, but not everyone you meet in a foreign place is out to get you.

You might get stared at.

Being Black in America is…I’m not quite sure what it is, but it’s something. Being Black in a far away place is also something. Depending on where you go, you may receive stares of awe, or of curiosity. Then there are the stares of disdain. It happens. Don’t let it interfere with your trip. And the stares may not always be because you’re Black. You could receive stares because you’re American, or because of your clothes–again, it depends on where you go. The point is, it happens.

Tip: Don’t make it some huge thing. Just enjoy yourself .

At the end of the day, there’s a big beautiful world that offers a plethora sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feelings that are nothing short of amazing. If you are fortunate enough to do so, go out and experience them! You may encounter some WTF moments along the way, but the exposure to other cultures, and the lessons you learn about yourself and the world are so worth it.

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Southern girl with a soft spot for Harlem. Biggie enthusiast with kindred spirit ties to Beyonce. Martin's Gina. Jerry's Elaine. Too complex for anybody's box.