My 30 Best Travel Tips After 6 Years Traveling The World (PART I)


Written: Matthew Karsten


Travel Tips

ItРІР‚в„ўs now been 6 years since I sold everything and left the United States to travel the world. These are the best travel tips IРІР‚в„ўve discovered along the way.

It all started when I took a one-way flight from Miami to Guatemala City, leaping nervously into the unknown and leaving much of my old life behind whileР’В embarking on an epic travel adventure around the world.

It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve learned a lot since I first left. To celebrate my “travelversary”, I’ve decided to share a collection of my best and most useful travel tips to help inspire you to make travel a priority in your life.

Feel free to share your own best travel tips at the end!

1. Patience Is Important

DonРІР‚в„ўt sweat the stuff you canРІР‚в„ўt control. Life is much too short to be angry & annoyed all the time. Did you miss your bus? No worries, there will be another one. ATMs out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes freakouts happen regardless.

Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.

2. Wake Up Early

Rise at sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding crowds. ItРІР‚в„ўs also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and usually easier to interact with locals. Sketchy areas are less dangerous in the morning too. Honest hardworking people wake up early; touts, scammers, and criminals sleep in.


3. Laugh At Yourself

You willР’В definitely look like a foolР’В many times when traveling to new places. Rather than get embarrassed, laugh at yourself. DonРІР‚в„ўt be afraid to screw up, and donРІР‚в„ўt take life so seriously.

Once a whole bus full of Guatemalans laughed with glee when I forced our driver to stop so I could urgently pee on the side of the road. Returning to the bus and laughing with them gave me new friends for the rest of the journey.

4. Stash Extra Cash

Cash is king around the world. To cover your ass in an emergency, make sure to stash some in a few different places. I recommend at least a couple hundred dollars worth. If you lose your wallet, your card stops working, or the ATMs run out of money, youРІР‚в„ўll be glad you did.

Some of my favorite stash spots include socks, under shoe inserts, a toiletry bag, around the frame of a backpack, even sewn behind a patch on your bag.


5. Meet Local People

Make it a point to avoid other travelers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken widely all over the world, so itРІР‚в„ўs easier to communicate than you might think, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language.

Learn from those who live in the country youРІР‚в„ўre visiting. People enrich your travels more than sights do.

6. Pack A Scarf

I happen to use aР’В shemagh, butР’В sarongsР’В also work great. This simple piece of cotton cloth is one of my most useful travel accessories with many different practical applications. ItРІР‚в„ўs great for sun protection, a makeshift towel, carrying stuff around, an eye mask, and much more.

I canРІР‚в„ўt tell you how many times a scarf has come in handy around the world.


7. Observe Daily Life

If you really want to get a feel for the pulse of a place, I recommend spending a few hours sitting in a park or on a busy street corner by yourself just watching day to day life happen in front of you.

Slow down your train of thought and pay close attention to the details around you. The smells, the colors, human interactions, and sounds. It’s a kind of meditation — and you’ll see stuff you never noticed before.

8. Back Everything Up

When myР’В laptop computer was stolen in Panama, having most of my important documents and photos backed up saved my ass. Keep both digital and physical copies of your passport, visas, driverРІР‚в„ўs license, birth certificate, health insurance card, serial numbers, and important phone numbers ready to go in case of an emergency.

Backup your files & photos on an external hard drive as well as online with software likeР’В Backblaze.


9. Take Lots Of Photos

You may only see these places & meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Don’t worry about looking like a “tourist”. Are you traveling to look cool? No one cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenir.

They donРІР‚в„ўt cost anything, theyРІР‚в„ўre easy to share with others, and they donРІР‚в„ўt take up space in your luggage. Just remember once you have your shot to get out from behind the lens andР’В enjoy the view.

10. ThereРІР‚в„ўs Always A Way

Nothing is impossible. If you are having trouble going somewhere or doing something, donРІР‚в„ўt give up. You just havenРІР‚в„ўt found the best solution or met the right person yet. DonРІР‚в„ўt listen to those who say it canРІР‚в„ўt be done.

Perseverance pays off. I canРІР‚в„ўt tell you how many times IРІР‚в„ўve been told what I want isnРІР‚в„ўt possible, only to prove it wrong later when I donРІР‚в„ўt listen to the advice and try anyway.


11. Smile & Say Hello

Having trouble interacting with locals? Do people seem unfriendly? Maybe itРІР‚в„ўs your body language. One of my best travel tips is to make eye contact and smile as you walk by. If they smile back, say hello in the local language too. This is a fast way to make new friends.

You canРІР‚в„ўt expect everyone to just walk around with a big stupid grin on their face. ThatРІР‚в„ўs your job. Usually all it takes is for you to initiate contact and theyРІР‚в„ўll open up.

12. Splurge A Bit

IРІР‚в„ўm a huge fan of budget travel, as it allows you to travel longer and actually experience more of the fascinating world we live in rather than waste your hard-earned money on stuff you donРІР‚в„ўt need. In fact you canР’В travel many places for $50 a dayР’В with no problems.

That said, living on a shoestring gets old after a while. ItРІР‚в„ўs nice (and healthy) to go over your budget occasionally. Book a few days at a nice hotel, eat out at a fancy restaurant, or spend a wild night on the town.


13. Keep An Open Mind

DonРІР‚в„ўt judge the lifestyles of others ifР’В different from your own. Listen to opinions you donРІР‚в„ўt agree with. ItРІР‚в„ўs arrogant to assume your views are correct and other people are wrong. Practice empathy and put yourself in someone elseРІР‚в„ўs shoes.

Embrace different possibilities, opportunities, people, suggestions and interests. Ask questions. You donРІР‚в„ўt have to agree, but you may be surprised what youРІР‚в„ўll learn.

14. Try Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing.orgР’В is a large online community of travelers who share their spare rooms or couches with strangers for free. If you truly want to experience a country and itРІР‚в„ўs people, staying with a local is the way to go.

There are millions of couchsurfers around the world willing to host you and provide recommendations. Expensive hotels are not the only option, there are all kinds ofР’В cheap travel accommodation optionsР’В out there.


15. Volunteer Occasionally

Make it a point toР’В volunteer some of your timeР’В for worthwhile projects when traveling. Not only is it a very rewarding experience, but youРІР‚в„ўll often learn more about the country and its people while also making new friends.

ThereРІР‚в„ўs a great site calledР’В Grassroots VolunteeringР’В where you can search for highly recommended volunteer opportunities around the world.