6 Mistakes to Avoid as a First Time Traveler

Bodhi Surf + Yoga / Surf + Yoga Camp Blog / 6 Mistakes to Avoid as a First Time Traveler

You’re setting off on your first journey out of your home country. It’s an exciting time! You’re stoked to discover a new culture, find some awesome souvenirs for your friends and family back home, and discover something within yourself. It’s important, however, to remember a few things before you go. Here are a few mistakes first time travelers make:

  1. Not asking for help
  2. Avoiding the local community
  3. Overpacking
  4. Being attached to an outcome
  5. Not recording the experience
  6. Trying to do all the planning yourself

There’s no arguing with the fact that traveling is an exciting experience. Follow these tips below and your trip will be a breeze. Let’s dive in.

Travis, Pilar, Maya, and Clea of Bodhi Surf + Yoga

1. Ask for help

Contrary to popular belief, it’s okay to ask for help! Even if you know that you’re a strong and independent person, you’re still in a new place, and it’s so helpful to get the advice of a local. Just imagine if someone was visiting your hometown for the first time — you’d know just what to tell them if they wanted something to do or somewhere to eat — and you’d probably even have way more detail than any website or travel forum. You’d know the best restaurants and hikes, the safest neighborhoods, and the easiest ways to get around town.

It’s the job of your hosts to help you have a good experience whether you’re staying at a hotel, Airbnb, hostel, or surf and yoga camp! So ask them the best way to get there, to get around town, and to achieve all you want to achieve! They want you to arrive safe and sound with as little hassle as possible. They have your best interests in mind. If you do not have a host or anyone to ask, the next option alternative would be to look up the information on the internet.

We have so many answers right at our fingertips with the internet, an awesome and amazing tool. However, the internet doesn’t know your travel experience, fitness level, how good of a swimmer you are, or the gear you brought, your dietary restrictions, etc. So if you can, ask your hosts for advice and tell them what you’re comfortable with. They can send you in the direction of the best food in town, places to avoid, and the best way to get around. They are there to help and to serve you. Utilize them!

Costa Rican breakfast

2. Engage with the local community

Wherever you’re visiting has gained its reputation in large part because of the local community. Whether it’s the city of love or a tropical rainforest, the community and its residents are a huge part of the destination, and it’s important to remember that. Becoming immersed in a new community is a great way to learn about both the culture and yourself in the process! Here are a few ways you can get involved:
Go on a guided community walk or city tour lead by a local guide. They are going to have an unique perspective to share with you, whether that’s local flora and fauna, history and culture, or how recent development has impacted the area. The information gathered from actually walking through a community is going to leave you with a rich sense of understanding and involvement.

Go to a local restaurant. Find a restaurant that isn’t a chain and is owned by a local, and one that serves local cuisine. Food is a gateway into culture. It’s a tangible way to learn about which fruits and veggies grow locally, and an opportunity to speak with a community member. Ask them what their favorite menu item is to get an authentic taste of the local culture. For example, in Costa Rica, you have to try the Casado. It features a protein, traditionally made rice and beans, mixed veggies, plantains (for a sweet or salty addition, depending how they are cooked), and a protein. You can get it at any local restaurant (aka soda)!

3. Pack wisely

It’s easy to get excited for your trip and to overpack, thinking you need clothes and shoes for every occasion. Believe me, I’ve done it multiple times. I get home from my trip and realize I didn’t wear half the clothes I’d brought, usually because I end up rewearing items. If you’re going somewhere tropical you’ll likely spend the majority of your time in a swimsuit and cover up. If you’re going somewhere cold, you probably won’t be sweating much and can rewear most items. Here are some things to remember when packing:

  1. THINK about your plans. Can you rewear shorts, dresses, and tops? What activities will you be doing. and what should you pack to make sure you’re dressed appropriately? Are you packing multiples just for added security, or can you filter down a bit more?
  2. ASSESS what you need and prioritize items that serve multiple purposes. You’re probably not climbing Everest, so a solid pair of tennis shoes with good tread can get you pretty far in a day hike. Swimsuits dry fast, especially in hot destinations, so you likely only need one. Just make sure it’s solid and holds everything in place for your chosen activities.
  3. REMEMBER that most places have laundry service. When I went backpacking in Peru, I paid $5 to have all my clothes washed at a local laundromat. I never ran out of the few clean items I did pack and I came home with a bag of clean clothes. Remember if it doesn’t stink — you can re-wear it! As my mom always said, “this isn’t a fashion show”!

If you’re joining us at Bodhi for a surf and yoga camp, refer to our ultimate packing list!

Learning to surf

4. Be open to adventure

Travel is an adventure. The beauty of an adventure is like the beauty of life. The journey is the destination. To thrive as a traveler you must be open new experiences, meeting new people, and potentially changing your plans at the last minute.

If something goes wrong — like you miss a connection, lose your wallet, or get lost — know that you’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last. Remain calm, evaluate your options, and choose the one that makes the most sense. And again, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember, you’re out in the world, traveling! Your blessings start with that fact alone. Laugh through the sticky situations and maintain a good sense of humor. Most importantly, write them down. Which brings me to my next point…

Documenting travel moments

5. Record your experience

Whether you’re carrying a journal for personal memories or you’re into blogging your experiences online, make sure you record what happened! So often, I’ll look back in journals I kept from my previous travels with pleasant surprise. I realize how much I’ve grown through my adventures and am sometimes shocked at the experiences I’ve forgotten.

Recently, I re-read an entry from my trip to Bali in April 2016. I met a fellow traveler who was going through some really tough times. He was closed off to new relationships and even friendships. He was suffering. I purchased a small pendant from a local shop that represented the heart chakra encouraging him to explore inward. I left it for him before leaving town. He later messaged me sharing how positively that impacted him — that an almost stranger would perform such a gesture for another almost stranger.

That was only two years ago and I had completely forgotten about it until I reread my journal. Our brains are bombarded with so much information and stimuli every day, it’s incredibly important to write down your accomplishments, experiences, and realizations while traveling.

Write down how it felt to stand up on a surfboard for the first time or nail that headstand in yoga class. You’re going to want to remember that exact feeling weeks, months, years from now!

Yoga retreat in Costa Rica

6. Use a travel company

Nowadays, there are thousands of companies out there with amazing trip packages available. Trips that are must more unique than your standard all-inclusive resort, tour bus, or cruise. Trips for adventurous people who want to support local and responsible business. Once you start looking, the hard part is actually just to pick one! So narrow it down by finding companies that offer trips that fit your individual needs as a traveler. Some people want to unwind by sitting on a beach sipping a cocktail, some need to de-stress by playing in nature, and some want to learn a new skill or push themselves more than they do on a daily basis. If you have limited time and energy, pick a company with experts who can manage the backend logistics and execute a complete vacation package for you, stress-free.

Taking a vacation with Bodhi Surf + Yoga is a prime example of that. All you have to do is get your flights, and they will get you to where you need to go as all the back end logistics are covered! Enjoy your vacation learning how to surf with expert instructors Gibran or Travis, and getting detailed attention from the yoga teacher/guru, Pilar. Enjoy group meals and see the local community through a walking tour and waterfall excursion. You also get a rest day where you can enjoy the beach, sit by the pool, visit the local wildlife sanctuary, or a take trip to the farmer’s market.

If nature-based adventure tourism with a responsible business sounds up your alley, then Bodhi is a great place for you.

So remember…

Regardless of the kind of experience you’re looking to have, there is surely a company out there to fit your needs. Just make sure you’re investing in the local community, packing only what you need, traveling with an open mind, and writing down your experiences either for yourself or to share with others. If I had to guess, I’d say this is going to be the first of many fantastic experiences wandering this great earth.

Enjoy every minute!

Written by Katie Jones

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About the author

Bodhi Surf + Yoga

A surf and yoga camp providing community-engaged travel experiences in beautiful Uvita, Costa Rica. Learn about what makes Bodhi Surf + Yoga different and don't hesitate to contact us.

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