I returned home to Salt Lake City earlier this week after 6 months of traveling overseas. In my travels, I explored India, Nepal, London, and the South of France. I learned what it’s like to live out of a suitcase, and for the most part things went smoothly. Throughout my extended journey overseas, I learned a few lessons about how to travel with less stress and feel more at home in foreign countries.
Packing light allows for easier mobility during travel. I made the mistake of taking a large suitcase to Bangalore, India, population 12.3 million, and struggled to navigate my cumbersome luggage through the city and my other destinations in India and Nepal. Getting through airports, crowded train stations, buses or up stairs is much easier with lighter, smaller bags.
There is a tendency among travelers to pack items that aren’t really necessary, so, get back to the basics and travel with only the essentials. I brought far too many clothes on my trip to India and Nepal and learned that it’s much easier to bring fewer clothes and wash them frequently rather than packing a complete wardrobe in a large clumsy bag and carting it through a sardine-packed train station in a city of 12.3 million people.
Know Passport and Visa Rules
Upon arriving in London two weeks ago, I had the unique experience of being held for almost an entire day in London’s Stansted Airport detention area. I was fingerprinted, my bags were searched and I was interrogated thoroughly by immigration control. I think they even played “good cop, bad cop” interrogation tactics on me! I did not break any rules upon arriving in London, but the immigration officers were suspicious of the amount of time I spent abroad and felt the need to question me.
I now recognize the importance of familiarizing oneself with passport and visa rules. I learned that US passports can grant entry into many countries for several months at a time, but without having specific visas for long stays or work, one may look suspicious to immigration control. For my next extended visit to France I will apply for a long-stay visa!
Make Friends Wherever You Go
Making new friends is one of the best ways to feel more at home in a new place. In the past six months, I’ve made great friends in all the countries in which I’ve traveled. October 2018, I made friends in India and Nepal at The Malnad Ultra and the Annapurna 100 trail running races. November 2018, I made several friends in France by taking a French language class at a school in the city of Toulouse.
This past week in London, I made friends with a trainer at a gym and he offered to teach me several strength training exercises for runners. Connecting with people wherever one travels will help create a sense of community abroad that feels a little more like home.