When I was growing up I always thought I didn’t have a talent. I loved reading, but unfortunately Oprah’s book club is not exactly an extracurricular. So I spent a lot of time excelling at other things but never really finding my place, until I got to college. It was at Loyola that I found my true gift, my natural talent; I am genetically predisposed to travel.
This sounds a little bizarre and possibly a bit presumptuous, but I have a fair amount of genealogical facts to support my theory. My father is an obsessive compulsive packer. He rolls shirts, he crams shoes, and most importantly he knows the essential from well, the 16 pairs of jeans my mom deems necessary because “you never know!”
Don’t get the wrong idea though, my mother has a few tricks for smooth sailings too. At 5’1 she is hardly imposing and her friendly disposition is always well-received, but that’s exactly where people go wrong. My mother is extremely misunderstood by most salespeople and other corporate drones who believe they can easily rip off this sweet, small lady. My mother’s charm and charisma balanced with her incredible willpower makes her a force to be reckoned with while traveling. Fortunately for me, I have inherited all of these qualities that I consider essential to traveling.
From arguing with a resort owner at 6 am, after 36 hours of travel, demanding a warm shower to meticulously repacking my friends’ suitcases so they can fit 10 more outfits, I have slowly realized that I have a knack for this whole travel thing. Now, I am not in any way shape or form saying I am a world traveler; I am no expert. However, I’m fairly certain I’ve figured out traveling from a college student’s perspective. With that being said, here is my advice for all of you budget-constrained, packing-wary student travelers.
1. Don’t be afraid to travel alone, but take someone with you if you can. You can’t let the lack of a companion thwart your dreams. If you’ve always wanted to go to England and the opportunity arises but your friends are all going to Cancun, BE BRAVE. It may be boring and it may get lonely to travel alone but eventually it will show you how strong, independent, and spontaneous you can be!
2. With number 1 in mind, if you’re going to a country where you don’t speak the language, START LEARNING (or go with a friend who does)! You definitely don’t need to be fluent, but you will most likely feel lost and uncomfortable the moment you step off of the plane even if they do speak English. Not being able to express what you want, hail a cab, or even ask for directions has a way of making you feel incredibly isolated. Bring a translation dictionary!
3. Pack LIGHT. Seriously. I can’t express this enough. If the outrageous airline baggage fees aren’t enough to deter you, then think about pulling your suitcase(s) through sand, mud, up mountains, down hills; it’s not fun. A few outfits are enough, you’ll never see these people again and I highly doubt they’ll mind if you repeat your outfits. Besides you’ll probably go shopping anyway.
4. On that note, do NOT bring anything valuable. Only bring what is absolutely necessary: passport (and extra copies of your identification), sunscreen (trust me on this one), a good book, and tennis shoes.
5. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT travel on school days unless you have discussed this with your professors. Between weather and fickle airlines there are a million reasons why your flight might get delayed and you might miss that midterm that you thought you would be back in time to take. If you are traveling near school days, just send your professors a quick email and let them know your plans and ask for any extensions you might need in advance. (On that note, make sure your parents know your plans too..)
Now with all of that out of the way, comes the fun part: Where to go? Well, I’m glad you asked. Start looking months in advance for most international tickets, those tend to only go up as time passes. Don’t forget about the cheaper airlines if you decide to fly on a whim. If you’re still not convinced you’re ready to travel alone then you should definitely check out Loyola’s Study Abroad Program. Loyola has programs in England, China, India, Latin America, honestly the list goes on for days.
If you’re curious about current student’s travels you should take a look at our Study Abrod Blogger, Bailey Shultz’s blog chronicling her semester in The Netherlands.
Also, be sure to check out the video we just posted about where our students are going for spring break and their suggestions to prospective students about what to see if you find yourself in New Orleans any time soon!