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The First Five Things I Wish I Knew When I Decided To Travel Abroad

Posted by Randy LeGrant | Feb 11, 2013 11:06:00 AM

I took my first trip abroad in 1976. As an American, that was our Bicentennial year and so my passport was in celebration of that fact. I still have it.

Since then, I've traveled abroad almost every year and multiple times in a year. Even as I grow older, I look forward to traveling as a renewal. I'm eager to go, I'm eager to return.

When my father was alive and he would travel to visit me, the first thing he would do was put his small travel bag by the back door. "This way I won't forget it when I leave." That was almost before he hugged me "hello." He was preparing for his departure the moment of his arrival. Now I get it. We all want to enjoy our trip, of course. We all look forward to our "stuff" and getting back into some kind of routine at the end.

All of this made me want to come up with a list of 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Decided To Travel Abroad.  For brevity, I am sharing my top five things in this post, and tomorrow I'll share the next five things.

Teaching English abroad doesn't have to be a lonely adventure.

1. Uncertainty About The Trip Is Certain
Will I make it to the airport on time? Did I pack everything? Will there be a delay, which will cause me to miss a connecting flight? When I land, will anyone speak my language? How much time, really, do I have to make my connection and is it easy? What kind of transport will I use when I get to my final destination? Can I trust the taxis? Do I have enough cash in the local currency?  Will I know how to buy a ticket on the train? What do I do with this luggage while I wait 6 hours to check into my hotel? Will it be safe? If I'm staying with a host family (most GeoVisions' programs) will they like me? Will I like them? Is the house noisy? Will I like the food? Is there ANY privacy? The Internet: Do they have access?

Do you know 100% of our participants go over these questions, and more? It's normal. Nothing about travel and cultural exchange is certain. And, isn't that ONE reason you're traveling? What other uncertainties do you think about? You can write them in the Comments section below.

2. Your Itinerary Is A Circle
Even if you start in one place and end up in quite another…you will come home eventually. But your itinerary is far more than a list of places you will you see and a list of places you will go.

This is how all of my itineraries begin:  If you want to be rich, be generous. If you want to make friends, be friendly. If you want to be understood by others, take the time to truly understand them. If you want to be heard, listen.

If you want to have an interesting life, be interested the happenings around you, no matter where you are.

If you want the world to change, start with the one in the mirror.

I have learned that if I begin any trip with these words written down, it really doesn't matter if my plane is late, my taxi gets lost or if I miss a meal.

TaeKwon-Do tournament in New Jersey.3. Discipline Is The Mother Of All Virtues When You Travel
I am preparing to test for my 3rd Degree Black Belt in TaeKwon-Do. I have five Gold medals in International competition.  (And, I get to train with 3 of my children...)  I lead my entire life by the Five Tenets of TaeKwon-Do. I manage GeoVisions by those same Five Tenets:

Self Control
Indomitable Spirit

You don't have to kick high and break boards to live your life by these five tenets. You just have to live them.  They bring discipline into your life and the space needed to take a breath and "persevere" on.

4. You Have Full Control Of Your Fears
Your fear is 100% dependent on YOU for its survival, and it is the only thing standing between you and your travel goals. Deal with your fears; don’t let them deal with you. And know that 100% of the people who put their butts in an airplane seat are in the midst of controlling their fears about their trip. We're all in various stages, that's all.

In October 2012, I started my 39th year of professional travel. And still, I have fears to deal with when I travel.

5. Good Travel Buddies Are Priceless
Finding someone to travel with is easy. When I announce I'm headed to [blank] for a week to 10-days, I have a line out my office door of people who want to tag along. Especially my kids.

I love to travel with my wife, Rebecca. Other than her disdain for museums (and I love them…) she makes a fantastic travel partner. She doesn't look it, but she is very adventurous when she travels and will hike mountains and volcanoes like a pro.

My 2nd favorite travel buddy is someone I work with and don't see enough. Ray is our station chief in Paris. He travels easy and light. He loves good food and good wine and when he travels he is jolly all the time. I never pass on an opportunity to travel with Ray.

Even if you depart by yourself...keep any eye out for someone to travel with.  Your trip will bloom.


Do you have comments about these five things I wish I'd known when I started traveling?  If so, please use the Comments section right below.

Tomorrow I'm going over the next five:

It's Impossible To Travel Alone

It's Impossible To Make People At Home Understand

Knowing The Purpose Of Your Journey Brings Great Results

A Positive Vision Makes A Big Difference

Your Journey Is Ultimately What You Make Of It

See you back here tomorrow!

Written by Randy LeGrant

Randy is the Executive Director of the GeoVisions Foundation. He has spent the last 44 years managing organizations that send people abroad on cultural and educational exchanges.

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