The first time’s always the hardest. This is true of many, many things in life, and also of traveling abroad. If you’ve never had the chance to visit another country, then you might be concerned or anxious about how it will turn out, or not even sure if you actually want to travel.
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Of course, I’m going to tell you that you just have to do it – step outside your comfort zone! I’ve never met anyone who regretted starting to travel and I doubt I ever will.
However, I do hear people tell me, surprisingly often, that they’re unsure about traveling to a foreign country, don’t know where to go or how to start the process. I understand that the first time can be daunting and that’s why I’ve got some tips on how to decide on the best destination for your first trip abroad.
Consider the Language
Communication (and miscommunication) when you’re traveling is something you should consider for your first trip abroad. If you’re really concerned about not being able to make yourself understood, then head somewhere where they speak your language, or where most of the locals working in the tourism industry speak your language.
However, although many people worry about this enormously before they travel, it really is true that you can make yourself understood without any common words at all. And it can be a lot of fun, too!
Take Travel Distance Into Account
If you have only a short time available for your trip, then try not to choose the most far-flung destination for your first time. Long distance travel (anything over twenty-four hours door-to-door, in my book) is exhausting and not really fun – it might be fine if you’re on a train but I don’t think anyone stuck on a plane for more than a few hours is actually really enjoying it. Don’t spoil your trip with an overtired start.
Relate the Trip to Your Hobby or Passion
A great focus for a trip abroad can be tying it in to a hobby or passion you have, as this should guarantee you’ll be interested in what you see and do.
For example, if you’re a motor racing fan, plan a trip to coincide with a Formula 1 race in Spain or Singapore; if history’s your thing, head for a country with fantastic museums like France or England.
Choose a Country You Have a Connection with
Similarly, if there’s an obvious destination that you have some connection with – perhaps one of your parents or grandparents was born there, or you have a friend who’s moved there – then choosing that as a destination for your first trip abroad makes a lot of sense.
If you can travel someplace where you have friends or family to stay with, or at least to give you some tips and show you around, it’ll put a lot of your doubts behind you.
Don’t Go Overboard with a Big Budget
I’m sometimes frightened when I see people who haven’t traveled much planning trips – they seem to think they need to spend a whole lot of money to guarantee a good trip. Not true!
Perhaps your company puts you up in a five-star hotel when you travel to the next city for business, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay those kind of rates when you travel for pleasure. You can get a lot more out of staying at a three-star, locally-run hotel – better value for money, more contact with the local culture and more.
Choose Your Seasons Wisely
If you’re not used to either extremely hot or extremely cold weather, then try to avoid destinations with a really different climate to yours, just for your first trip. You’ll want to feel comfortable to get used to the idea of traveling and having to deal with extreme temperatures just won’t help.
It took me a few years to master the idea of cold winters (having grown up in Australia) and I gradually visited colder and colder climes as I learnt that surviving cold weather is all about having the right clothes.
Don’t Be Overly Ambitious
If you’re not too experienced and are feeling a bit nervous, then deciding on a round-the-world extravaganza for your first trip is probably not a good idea. Test the waters first with a smaller trip and learn more about what you like and dislike about travel, and what your preferences are – this will help you plan a more successful bigger trip later.
Book Ahead If You’re Concerned
While a lot of my travels have been spontaneous, it doesn’t suit everyone to show up somewhere and start looking for somewhere to stay, and it can be a bit stressful at times.
For your first big trip abroad, choose a destination where booking your accommodation ahead of time is both practical and easily done. But leave some free days to be spontaneous, at least with your daily sightseeing.
Don’t Judge All Travel By This Trip
And finally, whether your trip goes perfectly or somewhat haphazardly, don’t expect every future trip you make to turn out the same. Some trips go better than others although in my case I can definitely say that I’ve enjoyed every single one of them – what could be better than having time off work and seeing new and interesting things every day?
For me, nothing! But I understand that not everybody naturally loves traveling as much as I do. All I ask is you give it a try, following these tips if you need, and see how you enjoy it.