Chapter 5: How to Stay Safe While Traveling Abroad & Other Tips for Enjoying Your Trip
Traveling abroad can feel scary. You’ll be surrounded by a different culture and unfamiliar faces and places. Although this can feel a little uncomfortable at first, it doesn’t mean traveling is unsafe. Generally, people are friendly and want to lend a helping hand all over the world. You can enjoy exploring both remote and urban locations anywhere by researching your destination beforehand and learning a few safety tips.
When you’re with Rustic Pathways, you’ll always have a travel expert by your side to guide you and make sure you’re safe. Nevertheless, in this chapter, we’ll show you ways to stay safe while abroad.
We’ll also explore the importance of language, how to overcome language barriers, and other ways to make the most of your trip by opening your mind and getting out of your comfort zone.
Jump to Key Section
- Travel Safety Tips
- Safety Tips for the Parents of First-Time Travelers
- What to Do in an Emergency While Traveling
- How to Keep an Open Mind While Traveling
- Tips for Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone While Traveling and Having Fun
- How to Overcome a Language Barrier
- How to Learn Basic Phrases in the Host Country Language
- Why Learning New Languages Is Important
- Tools to Help You Learn a New Language
Travel Safety Tips
It’s critical to review safety information before your journey and how to stay safe in your host country. Preparation is key to enjoying a safe adventure. Here are quick safety tips any traveler can use:
- Always keep identification on you. We suggest carrying a photocopy of your passport and keeping your original passport in a secure place such as a hotel safe.
- Always be aware of your surroundings and never walk with earbuds or headphones that can distract you from hearing others.
- Learn a little about the local customs and language before you depart.
- Be respectful by reviewing cultural norms before your trip.
- Buy travel insurance.
- Don’t wear expensive jewelry or show off other valuable items, and put electronics away when walking down the street.
- Keep an eye on your belongings, and do not leave items unattended or with strangers.
- Carry a small amount of money with you, and keep the rest hidden in your room or a hotel safe. Never pull out a large amount of currency in front of others.
- Only exchange currency through authorized agents and withdraw currency from secures ATM machines.
- Look at maps of the area you’ll be staying in, and become familiar with the layout before you depart.
- Walk with confidence and alertness.
- Dress conservatively and respectfully according to cultural norms.
- Be aware of dress codes.
- Avoid any areas that are known to be unsafe.
- Speak with others who traveled to the same area to learn specific safety tips.
- Try to blend in with the local culture, and avoid wearing clothing that shows you’re a visitor.
- Be cautious of people in tight spaces.
- Avoid speaking too loudly, and use the native language as much as possible.
- Always stay with your group, and do not go out alone at night.
- Make sure to bring a photocopy of important documents like health insurance and medical cards.
- Never carry wallets in back pockets.
- Make sure handbags have zippers.
- Add small locks to backpacks.
- Be aware of current events in the host country.
- Use caution when walking, jogging, and crossing the street as pedestrians may not have the right of way.
- Avoid attracting attention to yourself.
- Only use official taxis.
- Use common sense, and don’t let fear prevent you from traveling.
Safety Tips for the Parents of First-Time Travelers
Parents understandably want to do anything they can to keep their child safe while they travel. Although their child will not be left in the community unsupervised when they travel with Rustic Pathways, here are ways parents can help their child prepare for a safe expedition:
- Research: Spend time researching the country with your child before they go to understand the culture, get an intro to its history and politics, and review where they’ll be going. Learn basic phrases and research etiquette and customs of the local community.
- Get maps: Help your child save photos of maps on their phone or print maps they can keep with them at all times.
- Take a STEP: You and your child can register with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive travel alerts and warnings while your child is abroad, or to contact the United States Embassy in case of an emergency.
- Talk about health: Check if your child needs any vaccinations, and review ways they can stay healthy in their host country. Reinforce hydration, balanced diet, and proper hygiene guidelines.
- Pack together: Help your child pack clothes that will fit in with the local culture and keep them comfortable. Consider using plastic bags or stuff-sacks to help organize items.
- Ask questions: Communicate with your child’s Personal Travel Advisor, express any concerns you have and ask for safety tips.
Students traveling with Rustic Pathways will not be experiencing their adventure alone. A student traveler’s Program Leader is always available to answer questions, provide assistance, and ensure they get the most out of their program.
What to Do in an Emergency While Traveling
Most travelers who need emergency assistance contact the United States Embassy. Students traveling with Rustic Pathways should turn to Program Leaders for assistance when they need help whether it’s a minor situation or an emergency that needs urgent attention. All Program Leaders are trained to respond in emergency situations and will notify International SOS when necessary. With that said, it’s always a good idea for family members to have a copy of the student’s itinerary and important travel documents at home, and for students and parents to keep emergency contact numbers on hand.
If a Rustic Pathways student is separated from their group, they can contact their Program Leaders or any of the local management team listed within their emergency card issued upon arrival. Students can also call the 24-hour emergency number listed on the wristband they were sent before their program start date—students should pack and bring this wristband with them.
How to Keep an Open Mind While Traveling
Travel has the power to expand your mind if you’re open to new ideas and experiences. Here are ways to let go of fear and travel with an open mind:
- Be open to learning rather than judging.
- Don’t expect things to be the same as they are in your home country.
- Learn basic phrases to start a conversation with others and show respect.
- Accept uncomfortable feelings and know you’re growing.
- Be friendly to local people.
- Know that it’s okay to laugh at yourself sometimes.
- Enjoy sharing your experience with other student travelers.
- Celebrate customs and traditions with locals.
- Try not to stress over the small stuff.
- Slow down and savor the sights, smells, and sounds around you.
- Volunteer to help others to learn and grow.
- Listen to ideas and opinions you may not agree with, and try to put yourself in other people’s shoes.
- Ask questions and embrace differences.
Why Is Keeping an Open Mind Important?
Most of us are taught certain beliefs and values from an early age. This makes it challenging to be open-minded sometimes. However, it’s still possible to practice open-mindedness, no matter how strong your beliefs are, and it’s worth the effort. Open-mindedness invites change and makes a traveling experience more rewarding. Here are more reasons to keep an open mind as a student traveler:
- Expands your horizons by challenging your thinking.
- Helps you make better decisions by being able to look at problems from different perspectives.
- Teaches you to be respectful of others despite differences, and promotes teamwork.
- Nurtures independent thinking.
- Being open to feedback encourages personal growth and learning from mistakes.
- Helps you find multiple solutions to a problem.
- Encourages seeking the truth rather than being stuck in a set way of thinking.
- Help you develop patience, empathy and a higher tolerance level.
- Helps free you from limiting and discouraging thoughts.
Lastly, you’ll have more fun because you’ll be willing to have new experiences.
Tips for Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone While Traveling and Having Fun
Getting outside of your comfort zone is part of having an open mind and embracing new experiences. It’s not easy to leave your comfort zone, but it’s very rewarding. It’s okay if you need to take small steps to leave your comfort zone. You’ll feel more confident with every step you take. Here’s how to get out your comfort zone:
- Allow yourself to feel discomfort and recognize that you’re trying to overcome fear.
- Ask yourself what it is you’re afraid of and make it a goal to face your fear.
- Be open to learning from failure rather than avoiding things in fear of failure.
- Take small steps toward the fear you wish to overcome to avoid being overwhelmed.
- Don’t make excuses for yourself and be honest with yourself about the thought or belief that’s holding you back.
- Consider the benefits of stepping outside of your comfort zone, like building confidence and growing as a person.
- Learn to laugh at yourself and not take thing too seriously.
- Stay positive and enjoy the fun of learning about yourself and others.
What Does Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone Do?
You can expect the following benefits when you step out of your comfort zone:
- You’ll be more prepared to cope with inevitable changes in life.
- It encourages introspection and inspires you to live an authentic life.
- You’ll feel less afraid to face new challenges or deal with discomfort to get where you want to be.
- You’ll learn to take risks and grow from failure rather than taking the easy path.
- You’ll experience a confidence boost and sense of accomplishment when you face a fear.
- You’ll start doing rather than wishing.
How to Overcome a Language Barrier
One way to make the most of traveling abroad is to practice the host country language. This way you can communicate with locals and immerse in the culture. You don’t have to learn an entirely new language before you leave. Instead, there are easier ways to overcome language barriers.
Here are easy tips for overcoming a language barrier while traveling abroad:
- Download an app like Duolingo and practice the language as much as possible before you depart.
- Consider bringing a small language dictionary with you and keep it handy for key phrases.
- Immerse yourself and practice the language with locals.
- Find someone who wants to learn your language and teach each other.
- Speak slowly and clearly with words that are easiest to pronounce.
- Avoid using American slang.
- Use simple sentences.
- Be respectful.
- Use visuals to communicate.
How to Learn Basic Phrases in the Host Country Language
You can learn a few basic phrases weeks or even days before you depart. Choose specific phrases you know you’ll use and focus on learning those. For example, you might imagine introducing yourself to a local, or ordering a food item you love. It helps to associate an image with new words you’re learning and will help you learn faster. Just remember—if you make mistakes, don’t sweat it.
Here are the basic phrases you’ll want to learn:
- Thank you
- Excuse me
- May I have…
- How much does it cost…
- Where is…
- I’m allergic to…
- I don’t eat…
- Sorry, I don’t speak…
Why Learning New Languages Is Important
There are tons of benefits of learning new languages, even if only used for traveling. These include:
- Makes travel easier and more fun
- Enables you to interact with locals and build new friendships
- Helps build trust between you and locals and opens doors to new experiences
- Improves mental alertness
- Makes it easier to multitask
- Decision-making in a foreign language is a simplified process
- Decreases risk of developing memory problems
- Increases brain size
Tools to Help You Learn a New Language
Learning a new language or picking up some new phrases don’t have to be expensive. There are tons of free apps, internet videos and articles to help you get started. Here are the best sites and apps for learning foreign languages for free:
- Duolingo: Fun game-like app to take you through different levels from beginner to advanced.
- Open Culture: Offers free language course downloads you can listen to.
- Livemocha: Offers access to free language lessons and connects you to native speakers to practice.
- Babbel: Beginner courses are free, and you learn to speak, write, and read one of the languages they offer.
- Busuu: Allows you to become part of a community where you can learn a language from others.
- Mango Languages: You can learn from the web or app for a monthly fee or for free at a public library.
- Transparent Language: Offers paid courses with a free trial but is good if you’re looking to learn a hard-to-find language.
- Surface languages: Might be an excellent choice for students who want to learn a few basic phrases and use games, flashcards, and audio.
- Anki: A free program that uses a flashcard-style of teaching.
- Memrise: A free web-based program or app that uses flashcards to teach language and other subjects.
- YouTube: There are countless videos available for improving speaking, reading and writing skills for almost any language.