1. Flight socks. International flights are inexplicably cold. An extra pair of socks, a small blanket from home, a sweatshirt or jacket packed in your carry-on bag will come in handy.
2. Power. Look up your aircraft at seatguru.com to see which seats on your flight come equipped with power outlets…and which kind of outlet it’ll be. The information isn’t always accurate, but an educated guess is better than nothing. Call your airline to change seats in advance or, if you’re a risk taker, check in for your flight at the airport extra early and ask to be moved to a seat with power then.
3. Passport. A couple things here. It sometimes takes longer to get your passport than the gov’ment says it will. Start that process early! Once you have your passport, make two copies: one stays at home, one stays on you at all times when traveling. Your original goes in a hotel safe if that’s allowed.
4. You’re Canadian. If someone asks where you’re from? Tell them Canada. To be convincingly Canadian, end every sentence with an upward lilt as if it’s a question. I’m going to grab a bite to eat? I’ll meet you at the gate? Trust me.
5. Water. Put a washcloth or towel over your hotel faucet so you’re not tempted to use it for anything. Brush your teeth with bottled water. Wash your hands with wipes.
6. Shock. Pay close attention to your attitude. If you find yourself wanting to withdraw, not wanting to try new food or speak the language, even mocking the culture you’re in…you may be experiencing culture shock. Once you diagnose yourself, make yourself stay involved, try something new every day, learn “hello” and “goodbye” in the native tongue (at the very least) and if all else fails and you’ve nothing good to say…say nothing. The best you can do is wait it out and keep yourself from contaminating everyone else with your negative vibes.
7. Magic powder. I’ve eaten goat, dog, grub worms and mystery foods of all kinds in my travels. And I’ve never been sick overseas. I swear by my magic green power. At the end of every day, I mix a packet of Green Vibrance with a glass of fruit juice or bottled water, swig, grimace and let the nutrients replenish my energy and the pro-biotics fight off bad guys in my gut.
8. Photography. Appoint a designated photographer for your group. This frees up the rest of you to be fully present, fully engaged with a new culture you may never get the chance to experience again. Putting a camera to your eye keeps the world at a distance so put it down. Traveling alone? How very sad.
9. Lost. You’re more likely to lose luggage on international flights with multiple connections than you are traveling domestically, so be prepared. Pack one day’s worth of clothes in your carry-on bag and purchase travel insurance if you can afford it. Get a policy that covers rebuying your wardrobe if the worst happens.
10. Fear. The place you’re visiting has been inhabited for a long long time by millions of people who’ve survived just fine. Just like the place you call home: Moms have babies. Parents work hard. Churches worship. Fields are planted and harvested. Families sit together and eat their meals. The sun comes up and goes down every day. We’re a lot more same than we are different. And almost everyone you meet will be glad to meet you. Especially if you tell them you’re from Canada.
Follow our travels to Tanzania May 6-12 at CompassionBloggers.com/tanzania.
Thanks to Keely Scott, my favorite designated photographer, for every pic in this post.