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I finally took a flight again over Memorial Day. It was only a domestic flight and it got me thinking about my last international trip. Over the past few months the PWaC crew has been sharing their past travel experiences and future travel plans post-Coronavirus. I recently asked the team about some of their past international trips including their first and most surprising. Here is what they said.
What was your first international trip? What did you learn?
Chuck Powell, Author– My first real one was accompanying my now-wife to Seoul, South Korea. I learned how much I love traveling to new, unfamiliar places, and how much I adore Seoul…which is why I live there now part-time!
Dan Miller, PWAC Founder– My first international trip was also one that we had planned without our kids for 9 days in Europe. However, the trip didn’t exactly start out as planned as I wrote about here.
Ross Loehr, Author– As a kid my family would do cross country RV trips every year. We’d go to Maine or out west stopping all along the way. On most of those trips we would cross the border into Mexico to visit some of the border towns. It was such an amazing experience as a youngster to be in the markets, eating street food, listening to the music and hearing a different language. It helped me realize that there is a lot more out there than you initially realize and that it awesome to visit new places.
Cam Hadfield, Author– 18 days in Peru! We toured the whole Southern half of the country, some on our own, some through PeruHop. The hit list in order was Lima > Cusco > Ollantaytambo > Machu Picchu/Aguas Calientes > Arequipa > Huacachina > Paracas > Lima. It was really my first experience internationally traveling, and it left a big impact on me. We volunteered for a week in Cusco with Maximo Nivel, and the whole trip was great! I definitely learned how to think on my feet (when we almost missed a bus, when our luggage was locked up, when my girlfriend got food poisoning.). I know it sounds a bit cliché, but I learned to trust the trip, the world, the people, whatever you want to call it. Note, this trust doesn’t negate common sense!
Dan Kline, Editor– I went on hockey exchanges to Canada a lot as a kid. You learn that language barriers don’t matter when everyone likes hockey.
What was the most surprising destination you have visited and why?
Chuck– Our first trip to Amsterdam, which is now our favorite city-where-we-don’t-live. Spending a day at the Kuekenhof Tulip Festival was pure magic, and the city is filled with amazing museums and parks. Plus, the food and beer were excellent. We also met so many wonderful locals and fellow travelers. We had no idea it would be so great, we just thought it would be a pretty good place to experience Europe for the first time.
Cam– I truly loved Cusco. It’s probably a combination of a few things: first time truly internationally traveling, the volunteer work, the food, the people, the history. Besides, Cusco just had this…feeling to it. I know I have to go back some day!
Ross- China. So many things about the country blew my mind like watching kids in crotchless pants poop in the streets, the Great Wall, the crowds and smog in the cities, animal markets, hutongs, friendliness of the people, difficulty of communicating outside major cities (I don’t speak Chinese), beautiful countryside and countless requests to have our pictures taken. I’m not sure what I expected but it was without a doubt an interesting experience.
Dan K.– I had no idea how green Haiti is. Admittedly, the Royal Caribbean private beach is not a real trip to Haiti, but you can see the countryside from the ship and it’s the most lush, green place I have ever seen.
What would you tell yourself before your first international trip knowing what you know now?
Chuck P.– Always pay for the local internet! 🙂
Ross- Go with the flow, don’t over plan, be open to trying new things, make friends with the locals and prepare to get the travel bug in a bad way.
Cam- Don’t plan everything. I tend to be on the verge of over planning things, and I’ve learned over the subsequent years to leave extra time to get lost, wander, or see what your new hotel/hostel/bar/tour friends suggest doing!
Dan K.- Well, my first real international trip — to London with my wife when we weren’t dating (long story) was hurt by my not preparing all that well. Now, when I go somewhere, I read every book and do some research. In this case, I just assumed it would be like being in New York and I wasted a lot of time figuring out how things work.
Now it’s your turn. What was your first international trip, most surprising destination, and what have you learned along the way? Tell us about it in the comments!
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That’s a great country to start with. Any takeaways from that first trip Byron?
As a former Detroiter, my first country was Canada, of course. The first that I visited with my wife) who was not a global traveler was Portugal.
Lessons learned there: Parking on sidewalks was ok, Nescafe instant espresso is terrible but does the job, Jamon Serrano is awesome!
That’s awesome Vincent! Thanks for sharing!
When I took a boat to Victoria BC, I learned that American teens need to learn geography as some were discussing what language they speak in Victoria. Geography aside, wouldn’t you want to know that before you got on a boat to go there?
Hahaha. That’s pretty funny and I would have to agree with you Dan!
So, my grandparents had a house (a trailer, really) in Mexico when I was a kid, so that was my first country I visited outside the US, but when you grow up in Southern California, I don’t think Mexico really counts.
That brings me to my first “real” trip outside the US. When I was 10, I visited the UK and Italy with my parents (who had both been to Europe about a dozen times).
On that trip, we started with a British package tour of Italy which gave me a unique experience. I’ll never forget visiting Florence and seeing it described by a man who’d been there last as part of the British 8th Army in WW2. I can, even 40 years later, recall standing atop the Forti di Belvedere and looking across the Arno as he described which buildings housed snipers and where the German High Command had been located. Unsurprisingly, it left a lasting impact, although, perhaps, not as lasting as the friendships I was able to forge with a 16 year old Canadian girl and an 18 year old Mexican girl who were on the same tour.
That week in Italy was followed by 10 days in London, the English Midlands, and Wales, where we drove a bright blue Austin Allegro to ruined abbeys, quaint villages, and Roman villas.
40 years later, I’ve been to 26 countries and I’m spending my pandemic husbanding my shekels and making plans for more countries.
Sounds like a great first trip overseas! Obviously it hooked you on a lifetime of travel as well which is awesome. Where’s the next destination?