First Time Traveler: Things to Consider

Here at Aspiring Backpacker we try to urge you to get out and see the world. That can be scary if its something that you’ve never done before. You may be sitting there wanting to travel but a bit afraid and not sure if you should. Thats ok, I’ve been there. In your shoes and on that couch (figuratively speaking, otherwise that’d be creepy). One of the most burning questions you may have is, where do I go and how? I’m here to help solve that problem for you. Short answer: it doesn’t matter. Go anywhere that sparks your interest and do whatever you can to get there. If that didn’t help you out, keep reading.

I think the best example that I can give on choosing where to go and how for your first trip is by telling you about mine. The first time I went abroad I was 18 years old. I went to Italy with an educational tour group, EF Tours, and it was for eight days. This tour was with a few friends from my high school, a couple of teachers (semi-chaperones), and a tour guide who we met in Europe. This was a good first experience for a few reasons.


Me with some friends and some strangers at the Coliseum in Rome.

First, Italy is what I like to think of as traveler friendly. The truth is that many places are. But here is where I found comfort in Italy as a first time traveler. All of the signs were in Italian but almost all of them had English on them as well. It can be a very daunting task to try and navigate a city when none of the signs are in a language you can read. Also, sticking with language, many of the people in the major cities (I was in Rome and Florence for most of my trip) spoke enough English to have conversations with me. This is more comforting than you could believe. So my advice is pick a destination where you speak a language that is regularly used. Many places use English regularly enough to make them a more comfortable place to travel through.

Second, I went with people that I knew and trusted. Again, extremely comforting. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get uncontrollably homesick or enjoy being in the thick of a foreign land. Being with friends made it all easier, also made it easier on my mother, which in turn made things even easier for me. I had just mentioned getting homesick, this leads into my third point. The trip was only eight days long. Although I now see this as a terribly small number of days to be traveling, back then it was the perfect period to test my tolerance. It was enough to get through the mystique of “everything here is beautiful” but not too long in case I did get homesick. A fourth comfort of this trip was that it was a tour, so most everything was taken care of for me. That includes transportation, sleep accommodations, two meals a day, museum entry and so on and so fourth. I had nothing to worry about, logistically, when I landed. I now realize, the less constraint and planning by others that I have makes for a much better trip.

The down side of tours is that they generally tend to be more expensive than if you travel on your own. Everything included, it cost me a little over $2,000 for the eight days. But like I said, the good thing about tours is that you can go with people you know and they take care of everything for you. Its a hassle free environment, well it should be anyway =) Look into tours if you aren’t comfortable planning the trip yourself. If that isn’t your concern and you aren’t sure where to go, give yourself a goal or destination. If you ski, surf, or climb, thats a good place to start. You can plan a trip around one of those. Its all about the adventure!


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