When traveling the world, there are some things you have just have to experience. Check out our tips for travelers and don't miss out on these awesome experiences.
International Language Programs sends volunteers around the globe to live and make a difference in local communities abroad. If you talk to any of our past volunteers — You can actually schedule a call to talk to a representative and ask questions here), they will all tell you to do as much as you possibly can during your semester abroad. Four months goes by quickly, and the more you take advantage of your free time, the greater your experience living abroad will be.
Here's some ideas of things to do to make sure your semester abroad is complete:
- Try new food
- Order something random
- Make your own meal
- Visit a farm
- Ask a local where to eat
- See the top sites
- Go off the beaten path
- Take the public transportation
- Get out of your comfort zone
- Say hello in the native language
- Keep a journal
- Buy something meaningful
- Take pictures
- Record videos
- Send post cards home
Try new food
Get to know a new culture by eating your way through it! Skip out on familiar meals from McDonalds and really dive right into life in a foreign country. Here are some tips to adjusting to a new culture's food to help you make the jump from Pop Tarts to Pad Thai.
Order something random
It may turn into a laughable experience, but it is so much fun. Instead of trying to read the menu or just pointing at pictures, pick something random and order it. Who knows, you could order something weird like a platter of chicken feet on accident, but you also might order something surprisingly delicious, like these foods in Mexico.
Make your own meal
One of the coolest things about traveling to new countries is going to the grocery store. If you are staying in a hostel or hotel that doesn't have a kitchen for you to cook your own meal, purchase something that you can eat right away — like these 10 favorites for volunteers who live in Eastern Europe.
Visit a farm
If you are going to be spending an extended amount of time there (like you would as an ILP volunteer living abroad for a semester), check out a nearby farm. Many past ILP volunteers have been able to go strawberry picking while abroad — how fun!
Ask a local where to eat
Heading to a new city? Try chatting with some locals and ask them where a good place to eat is located. This may involve some charades if you don't speak the same language but can end with you eating in a super cute restaurant that only the locals know about.
See the top sites
When you're deciding where you want to travel, generally you pick a country based on a specific, and usually famous, place you want to see. For example, I want to travel to Paris so I can see the Eiffel Tower (we love these Eiffel Tower tips) but don't miss out on some other hidden gems. Be sure to do you research so you visit a place and really see it all.
Go off the beaten path
Wander around the city near your hotel or even get off at a random metro stop and explore the nearby area. Don't forget to check out many of the beautiful nature spots right outside the bustling cities, like this national park near Zhongshan, China. We love the top sites, but there is so much more to see on those less wandered pathways.
Take the public transportation
Before traveling abroad, I wasn't so sure about public transportation — I only ever used a car growing up. But, soon, I was in Kiev, Ukraine, facing my fear and using public transportation multiple times a day and guess what? It was awesome!
Get out of your comfort zone
This is a must! Don't be afraid to experience new things and do fun activities. Whenever an opportunity arises, get out of your comfort zone and take it. Hop in the tuk-tuk, eat the bug, and have the time of your life exploring new places. Some chances you only get once.
Say hello in the native language
Learning a few phrases in the language of the places you are traveling to is a huge bonus. Avoid being that "rude American" and try to speak in another language. Even if you aren't pronouncing it perfectly, many times the natives appreciate the small effort. Start by learning how to say hello!
Document It All
Keep a journal
One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't keep a journal while I was living in Ukraine. Thankfully, I learned my lesson and now every time I travel, I make sure I bring a journal. You can even have a journal without writing a thing if you're not much of a writer.
Buy something meaningful
Don't forget to document your adventures with a few pictures (Here are our favorite cameras to pack). Just make sure you don't spend all your time taking pictures and miss out on truly seeing and experiencing a new place, but a year later when you want to reminisce, you'll be really glad you have them.
This goes hand in hand with taking pictures. While you're seeing an incredible mariachi band playing in Mexico or zip-lining through the jungle in the Dominican Republic, take a video and remember those moments forever — this app makes taking videos of your whole semester so easy!
Send post cards home
Another great way to document your trip is with post cards. When I was traveling in Europe, I sent my parents a few postcards about what I was up to — when I got home, they had collected them all and put them in a postcard journal for me.
This cafe in China goes one step further — you can send yourself a postcard and they will mail it to you in the future. Imagine coming home from living in China and getting a postcard from yourself a year later.
Ready to travel abroad and have the time of your life?
ILP can help! International Language Programs has schools in several countries all over the world where you can make a difference by spending time helping in an orphanage or teaching English ... and getting some vacation time to see even more. Come learn more!