Well, it’s official: Lady Red Travel Blog turns 5 today! As a creative outlet during graduate school, I started this blog as a hobby and means to share my adventures through my little slice of the internet. Five years later, I am by no means a “digital nomad” or social media influencer (I’m just happy to finally have about 100 WordPress followers!). But since then, I have traveled to 13 new countries, have had some interesting encounters (and mishaps), and have met some incredible people along the way. Here are five things I have learned while traveling abroad:
1.The ability to travel is a gift (and a privilege)
Growing up, my family did not have the money to travel to exotic destinations. In fact, I didn’t even leave my home country (the United States) until I was 21. Once I had steady income after college, I knew I needed to make saving money for travel a priority. Having the ability to travel is truly a privilege. I’m not rich by any means (my salary is classified under lower middle class). But I budget and choose to spend my money traveling abroad. However, not everyone is able to do this. There are so many people around the world who make under $100 USD a month and can barely afford to feed their families, let alone even think about getting a passport and plane ticket. Some people live in countries that limit their locations they can travel to (for example, Cuba only allows their citizens to travel to a handful of countries such as Russia). The variety of countries I have visited have taught me to not take these experiences for granted (not to mention the pandemic limiting travel these days…).
2. Culture shock is a real thing
There are a few countries I have been to where I felt overwhelmed with its sights, smells, and customs (I’m looking at you, China and Tanzania). But feeling overwhelmed and disoriented can be a great thing! It was a truly amazing experience wandering throughout Beijing and Shanghai, exploring the markets, taking pictures with locals, and seeing another way of life. There are many ways to have the humane experience, which is such a beautiful thing.
3. Being prepared for various scenarios can make all the difference
I cannot stress this enough! Always prepare for a variety of scenarios, including weather, emergency incidences, and spontaneous adventure opportunities. When I first started traveling more frequently, I realize the importance of packing one warm jacket, always having sneakers and an athletic outfit, and at least one nice dress! I’ve also learned the hard way to pack for emergencies, including having a variety of and extra medicine. With that in mind, it can be challenging to pack for various situations while also packing light! Doing your research about your destination in advance will go a long way, trust me!
4. There are many ways to travel abroad (and nothing wrong with traveling your way!)
My travel style varies depending on the destination, if I’m traveling with family, friends, going to visit friends, or solo. There have been some places where I have traveled solo and chose to join a guided tour with everything planned and covered. For example, it was easier as a US citizen to travel to Cuba in an escorted tour that covered the logistics for you. In other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Spain, I preferred to do my own thing and leave some of my days open to spontaneity. In Tanzania, I went on a safari tour for half of my trip, then went to another area of the country to visit a friend. An you know what, there is no “right” way to travel, only what’s right for you! As long as you’re being respectful and responsible, there is nothing wrong with traveling your way or changing it up how you travel.
5. Making new friends (especially with the locals) makes for some of the best adventures!
Some of my happiest travel memories have been making friends with the locals, from my host families in Nicaragua to having drinks with a couple in New Zealand! One of the best ways to get to know a country is to meet the locals and hear their stories as well as sharing your own!