Must-Have Travel Skills Worth Learning
Repacking without hating your life
If you’re traveling for more than a few days, you’re probably staying at more than one hotel/hostel/Airbnb. Which means re-packing your suitcase many, many times.
A few tips to make daily re-packing a lot easier:
- Use packing cubes
If you learn nothing else from this blog post, let it be this: OMG BUY PACKING CUBES. Fill each cube with a different type of clothing; one cube for underthings, one cube for tops, one for bottoms, one for dirty clothes, etc. Then just pull out the cube you need and re-packing will be a breeze.
- Pack less
Most of us hate repacking because we have to smash everything down and in and eventually sit on our bags while we tug the zipper closed. And then we’re late for the flight and everything falls apart. Just pack less and give yourself and your belongings some breathing room. If you can’t carry your bag around one city block without getting a blister or breaking a sweat, it’s too big.Here’s how to assemble a stylish travel wardrobe!
- Pack a few items you’ve been meaning to get rid of
Pack that pair of jeans you don’t love any more. Wear them once and then leave them at the hotel. Voila! More space in your suitcase and you don’t hate repacking so much!
Choosing the right souvenirs
How many times have you spent too much money on a souvenir, meticulously and carefully transported it home … only to send it to Goodwill a few years later?
Yeah, me too.
Here are a few tips that have helped me choose better, more loved souvenirs:
- Check if the item is actually made locally
Because who wants a snowglobe from Aspen that’s actually made in China?
- Ask yourself if it would look at home in your home
You’re a lot more likely to use that embroidered pillow sham if it would fit right into the boho vibe of your house. But if you’ve got a spare, minimalist vibe maybe you should find a different souvenir.
- Buy an unexpected souvenir
You don’t have to buy knickknacks, scarves, masks, or tiny spoons (though if you really love those things, you should buy them!) I like buying perfume, jewelry, and cds by local musicians. They’re all small, cheap, portable and easy to use in my daily life back at home.
- Remember, you are not required to buy anything
There are so many other ways to remember your trip! Remember the dishes you ate and learn to cook them at home, take videos and photos, or make a list of 100 memories of your trip on the flight back home.
Communicating in a broken second language/body language
If you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language (or you speak it poorly) it’s very, very tempting to throw up your hands and just go to hotels, restaurants, and tours that feature English.
I know it’s embarrassing and awkward to bumble our way though another language and culture. Believe me, I know. I once swore in Chinese when I was trying to order noodles! But attempting a second language is good for our brains. It shows our host country that we respect them enough to make an effort. It reminds us of what millions of non-native English speakers experience every day.
You can practice speaking your second language awkwardly at home by taking a language class, finding a language exchange partner, or just going to the [insert country here] neighborhood in your city and attempting to order at a restaurant.
It’s also worth remembering that 99% of the time, locals will be able to look at you and realize you’re not a native speaker before you even open your mouth. They’re not expecting you to be fluent in Spanish/French/Russian! But they’ll be glad you tried and you’ll be amazed how far you can get with a few nouns, some present tense verbs, and a smile.
What?! Yes, dudes. I know. But squat peeing isn’t just for camping. Millions of people around the world exclusively use squat toilets and if you´re heading to Asia, India or the Middle East (or even parts of Europe) I´m afraid you´ll have to learn how.
When I was living in Taiwan, using the squat toilet correctly (without taking your pants off or getting anything wet) was a much-lauded right of passage. It seriously took me a good month to master. But I´m sure you´re much smarter than I am! Here´s a tutorial if you are, in fact, as inept as I.
Most Westerners, myself very much included, turn inside out with embarrassment at the thought of haggling over prices. But it’s an unavoidable part of travel in most countries, and you’ll get stuck with crazy inflated prices if you don´t hone your bargaining skills.
To get the best prices shop around a bit (you’ll find heaps of shops selling the same things) and if you see a local buying something you like, eavesdrop to see how much they’re paying. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel you’re being taken, and bring a calculator with you to the shop if you don’t know your numbers in the other language. There’s a good tutorial here.
Sleeping on transportation
Confession: I’m not that great at sleeping on planes or buses, but if you can do it, you’ll exponentially improve your travel experience. Ear plugs will help and I love this eye mask and this dorky-looking but amazing neckpillow.