Traveling outside the US is one of those things that everyone wants to do, but it’s also something that can be quite stressful. Whether you’re going on a trip for business or pleasure, there are always some things that will happen when you travel outside the country and it might not always be what you expect! We know this because we’ve been traveling for years ourselves, but we also spoke with some other people who have traveled abroad about what they wish they had known before their trips started:
Jet lag – the first couple of days are a little rough.
Jet lag is when your body’s internal clock is out of sync with the new time zone. It happens when you travel to a place where your body thinks it should be asleep and it’s not.
This usually requires an adjustment period of several days, depending on how far you’ve traveled and at what time of day you arrived. For example: if you flew east from New York to Paris, the jet lag would be worse than if you flew west from London to New York City—because it takes less time for your body to adjust as it moves westward across more zones (five versus eight).
If possible, avoid traveling east or west over large time differences such as five hours or more (the larger the difference between two cities with different daylight scheduling). For example, Boston-to-London flights often arrive early in the morning because they cross over nine time zones in just under eight hours; that means getting off the plane after landing could feel like being dragged through hell by demons!
If flying on a red-eye flight isn’t an option then try taking melatonin before bedtime so that hopefully will help get some rest while traveling across multiple time zones during daylight hours.
Drinks – you have to get used to how much things cost.
When you travel outside the US, you will have to adjust to how much things cost. Drinks are expensive in other countries but cheap in the US, so you may find yourself spending more than usual on food and drink while abroad. If you’re like me and have a sweet tooth, this can be rough! You will also need to get used to the taste of drinks that aren’t as sugary or sweet as American ones (I miss my Coke!). Lastly, if you’re used to large portions at home then again—you’ll probably need some adjusting because sizes vary from country to country!
Phone calls – you’ll need a new phone calling plan every time you travel outside of your own country.
You may be used to paying $30/month or less for unlimited talk and text, but once you’re outside of the US, that plan won’t work anymore. Calls in other countries are remarkably expensive and can cost as much as $1 per minute. The best solution? Get an international calling plan before leaving home so you don’t get stuck with huge fees while abroad.
Language barriers – sometimes it’s harder to communicate than you’d think.
One of the most frustrating things about traveling is that you cannot always communicate what you need to say. Whether it’s because of language barriers, your pronunciation or speaking skills are not up to par, or perhaps the person you’re speaking with doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say.
- If this happens: It can be frustrating when someone has no idea what they’re doing while on vacation. To avoid this situation happening too often, I recommend asking someone who speaks your native language or at least one other language in which you have some proficiency (Spanish is a great option). They will help translate for you and make sure that everything goes smoothly during your travels!
Food prices – are usually a lot higher than in the states. Americans don’t realize this because food is SO cheap at home.
Most countries have higher food prices than the US. This is because food is often more expensive in touristy areas and countries with a higher cost of living, like Australia and New Zealand. In these places, you might be paying $7 for a burger that would cost only $4 in America. You can also expect to pay more when you’re traveling in developing nations where the cost of living is lower than in the US and people earn less money per month. In some countries (like Costa Rica!), locals eat out all day long so restaurants are incredibly cheap – even if they aren’t exactly what you’re used to!
Stares – other people stare at you more when you’re American, especially if there aren’t very many in the area.
- People will stare at you.
- They will judge you and your appearance, especially if they’re not used to seeing Americans in their area.
- You’ll feel like everyone is watching or talking about you (they might be).
- It can be awkward, embarrassing, and uncomfortable to have people staring at you all the time!
Customs and traditions
Traveling abroad is an amazing experience that can open your mind to new things and make you more flexible. But it’s not always easy for Americans to adjust to the customs of other cultures. So if you’re planning on traveling outside of the United States, here are some things you should know:
- Some cultures consider personal space very important. If someone gets too close to them or touches them, they may feel uncomfortable or even threatened. On the flip side, some American tourists think it’s normal behavior to touch others’ bodies without their consent (like if they’re posing together in a group photo). So be mindful of where your body is at all times when interacting with locals!
- In many countries around the world people generally don’t say “thank you” often enough—and this can sometimes lead American tourists into saying “thank you” inappropriately (e.g., before asking someone for something) because we tend not only to overuse this phrase but also use it when addressing anyone who does us a favor—but that person might not care about being thanked at all! Make sure before using this phrase again that someone did something nice for us so we don’t look rude by saying thank-you when we didn’t need anything from them!
Public transportation is never easy when traveling abroad. You always need to ask which way is north or south, learn new names for bus stops, and so forth. Public transportation can also be really expensive depending on where you’re visiting so it might not even be worth it!
There are so many things to consider when traveling outside of America, but the biggest thing is probably just getting used to the culture. You’ll learn how people behave differently and what they expect from you as a guest in their country. If you’re willing to put in the work then it will be an amazing experience!