10 doable foreign travel tips that helped keep me sane throughout the process of adjusting to life in a foreign country.
As many of you know, I have been living in Nässjö, Sweden with my fiancé Devin, for three months now & it’s finally time to go home. I am leaving this Saturday & I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t SO excited to go back to the states LOL! I have experienced living overseas & also vacationing overseas & let me tell you…the two are completely different.
Two summers ago, my basketball team was fortunate enough to have the incredible opportunity to take a trip overseas for 11 days. We traveled around Barcelona & Rome. I also lived overseas when I was growing up with my family while my dad played basketball, so that trip two summers ago was the first time I was abroad in a while. Life is so different overseas & I think everyone should try to experience it at some point, if they are able.
When my team was overseas, my teammate Mimi & I, wrote daily blogs documenting our trip, the things we did, places we saw, what we ate, & the games we played. When I was brainstorming for this post, I remembered right away a quote that our travel guide told us during our first day in Barcelona…
“A foreign country is not made to make you feel comfortable, but to make its people feel comfortable.”
That quote has been MY LIFE for the past three months LOL!
I was inspired to write this post because although traveling abroad seems like some glamorous experience, the reality of it isn’t always sunshine & rainbows. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not horrible by any means…it’s just different from life in America. With that said, I wanted to share 10 tips that helped me through the process of adjusting to life in a foreign country.
10 Tips for Staying Sane While Traveling Abroad
1. Prepare your budget
Preparing a budget can easily become overwhelming because there is so much to think about. Our apartment was completely covered through Devin’s contract, so that cut down on expenses immensely! We also did not have a car so we didn’t have to worry about gas, which was nice…but walking everywhere in 12 degree weather…not so nice.
When setting my budget for this trip, I knew exacting how much I had to spend & how much I wanted to convert into the local currency. There wasn’t an option to convert actual U.S. cash in the city where we lived, so I had to use my best judgement when converting at the train station in Stockholm.
There are a lot of things to take into consideration before traveling abroad, I started mapping my list of things to do & started saving money, months in advance.
Things to think about when preparing your budget:
- How much will tickets cost
- What forms of transportation will you need (train, car, bus, cab, etc.)
- Where will you be staying/living (all living expenses)
- How much you want to spend on food/eating out/groceries
- Basic needs
- Will you be needing a visa…this can be pricey.
- The exchange rate
2. Plan Plan Plan
I am a planner, so I had this part in the bag. I planned until I physically couldn’t plan anymore. Before leaving, I had all my travel plans laid out, screen shotted, written…you name it!
The time change here is 6 hours ahead of U.S. standard time, well now 5 hours because of the time change. Also, I had no idea that the time change doesn’t occur in every country.
They use military time for everything. So if you aren’t familiar with military time, screen shot a guide & keep a close eye, especially when trying to catch connecting flights & trains.
In my opinion, when traveling abroad you can never over-plan, it’s just going to help you feel more prepared & comfortable. Similar to my budget planning, I made a list in the beginning of the summer of everything I had to do before leaving the country. I found this to be incredible helpful & I didn’t feel rushed when it was time to book my tickets.
Smart things to plan for when looking to travel abroad:
- Plane tickets – Plan with enough time ahead because foreign flights tend to be very expensive. I found my flights on British Airways & I was very pleased with the price I got. My flights weren’t direct, but for the price I couldn’t beat it.
- Passport – Is your passport valid or do you even have a passport? If not, you have to renew it or apply for one, & it can take up to 6 months, so don’t wait until last minute. You can also get your passport picture taken at CVS.
- Visa – Will you need a visa? This is different for every country. I did not apply for a Visa. Without a Visa, you can stay in a country for 90 days. My trip will total 89 days, because…better safe than sorry!
- Banks – Notify your banks ahead of time so your card doesn’t get shut off. Let them know of any countries you might use your card in, considering airports as well.
- Will you travel with cash? If so, how are you going to do it discretely.
- Do you need to cancel or freeze a gym membership…this can be tricky based on your gym policies, so plan ahead!
- Will you need a prescription filled? Better take care of that before you leave!
- Cellular plans – I turned my data off as soon as I left the U.S. & haven’t turned it on since. I just use wifi.
- Make sure you have a durable suitcase. I had a good suitcase, but it was old, so I picked up a new one from TJ MAXX & it’s awesome. They have GREAT prices for suitcases as well…no brainer in my opinion.
- Do you have the correct adapter? If you aren’t sure what this means, foreign countries have different electrical outlets. So if you want to plug something in, you are going to need an adapter. I would suggest bringing multiple, because sometimes they stop working. Also, make sure you can use it in the country you are going to, because there are different styles for different countries.
3. Don’t forget to bring your patience
This was something I had to continually remind myself of. Although I would say that I’m an incredibly patient individual, there were definitely some moments that tested my patience.
Laundry. That has been my arch nemesis of this trip. Poor Devin has had to calm me down from almost writing an obscene note & taping it to the laundry room of our building.
Let me set the scene for you.
2 washing machines. 1 dryer. Give or take 40 apartments sharing those three machines. You do the math.
Laundry was difficult. Multiple times I found my load of sopping wet clothes left out in the hallway…locked out of the laundry room located in the basement of our building. The door is usually left open, so the door was locked ON PURPOSE. So there I was, multiple times, with piles of wet clothes. *cue the frustration*
When stuff like that happens, it’s SO easy to feel angry & frustrated. Simple tasks will test your patience & sometimes it will just be unavoidable, so the quicker you get over it, the better.
4. Pack ONLY the essentials
Confession: I overpacked a lot. Ugh. I feel as women we are inclined to over pack.
What if we need this?
What if we need that?
Well I can surely say that I did not need to bring seventeen lip sticks LOL!
Pack the essentials & pack products that you need & actually like using. Although it took up some space, I packed every toiletry I would need for three months because I didn’t know where or if I could find it in Sweden. So if you like a certain shampoo/lotion/conditioner…BRING IT. That was one of the most beneficial & helpful things I did (I also saved myself a lot of money doing this as well).
Also be aware of the styling tools you bring (curling iron, straightener, blow dryer). We were told to only use things that were chargeable, to avoid blowing a fuse with the adapter. About once a week, I quickly styled my hair with my straightener, but I have not blow dried my hair ONCE since being here, so that is another thing I could have left behind.
5. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Refer back to the quote I mentioned in the beginning.
“A foreign country is not made to make you feel comfortable, but to make its people feel comfortable.”
I cannot express how spot on this is. In America, we have access to everything & things are incredibly convenient. We can read the street signs, we can order a meal & actually know what it’s going to be, & we can understand what people are saying around us.
Being in a unknown situation, especially in a FOREIGN COUNTRY is uncomfortable & honestly a little scary at times.
Devin was already in Sweden for about three weeks before I met him here, which meant I traveled by myself. Due to flying SO many times, I have it all down to a science, BUT I had never traveled outside of the country by myself, so that was all new territory for me.
I didn’t even fly into the same airport as Devin, so I literally had no idea where I was even going, what to look for, or how I was going to get to Nässjö, but thanks to the good old Internet…I put my big girl pants on & MADE IT HAPPEN. My travel schedule consisted of a train, a tram, and two flights, it was exhausting & uncomfortable but I made it.
When you are okay with being out of your comfort zone…you will be AMAZED with what you can accomplish.
6. Understand things will be different
The quicker you stop making comparisons the better.
In our apartment we had a standing bath tub with no shower curtain & no option of hanging one. After you showered the floor was literally drenched…like you could splash around. As soon I got over the fact that this was just going to happen, I was able to come up with an efficient solution that took care of the issue.
I could give about 50 other examples LOL, but you get the idea.
You have to adapt or you will be miserable.
7. Make sure you can meet your dietary needs
I have been Gluten Free for years now & I know my stuff. A lot of people like to splurge a little when they travel & forgo their dietary restrictions, but for me, that’s a no-go. This being said, it can be tricky to express your needs in a foreign country, so I’d highly recommend educating yourself on correct terms to say.
Especially if you live with a food allergy, this is a no brainer.
I have included two options for you to use if you plan on traveling overseas with a food allergy.
- Gluten Free Restaurant Card for Celiacs – download is completely free & available in 63 languages!
- Allergy Translation Cards – $8 to make you own custom card based on your needs, they also have some free resources as well
One thing that I wasn’t prepared for was the lack of Vitamin D I was exposed (or not exposed) to over the past three months. Here in Sweden, the sun is VERY limited…most days the sky is just grey.
If you are traveling to a country that doesn’t get much sun, I’d highly recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement to assist your body. This is something that I wish I would have been more aware of.
8. Pick up a new hobby
You are going to have some free time. So take that time & do something beneficial. Learn something, read, write, exercise, whatever it is..do it! This will help create some sort of a schedule for you to follow.
When you are living in a foreign country, your schedule is obviously going to be different. For me, my days slowed down 100% because I didn’t have anywhere I had to be or anything I absolutely had to do except go to Devin’s games. Writing a list & sticking to my own schedule has been really beneficial for me, because it can be really easy to just lay in bed & binge watch show after show.
I love yoga, so I really dedicated a lot of time to practicing yoga & creating a consistent daily practice. It’s all about finding what works for you. It can be a time that you dedicate to practicing self-care, taking long showers, painting your nails, dry brushing, having a cup of tea, reading a good book, or going for a walk…the options are endless.
You’re going to have time so you might as well do something with it!
9. Go with someone you enjoy
I think this might be the most important LOL! Travel with someone you enjoy. Devin & I are obsessed with each other & have lived together for basically all of our relationship so the constant 24/7 time spent together here wasn’t anything new to us.
If you don’t have a really solid foundation, traveling can really test a relationship, especially when you are in a country that BARELY speaks English. You have each other & that’s about it.
10. Appreciate the experience
I always like to remind myself to appreciate each day for what it is & what it brings. This is a really positive way to look at each day. Not everyday is going to be perfect or easy, it really just comes down to what you are able to take away from it.
If you can take away one positive thing from each day, then it was a good day. Be grateful.
Living in Sweden with my best friend during his first professional basketball contract is something I will never forget. It brings me so much happiness that I was able to support Devin through this process & that I was able to physically be here for three months.
I still can’t believe that I am leaving Sweden engaged (if you missed that post, you can read about it here). Life is full of so many incredible adventures. If you ever get a chance to travel outside of your country, I would highly recommend it.
Traveling abroad is such an enriching experience…one that you can learn so much from. I hope you all get to experience it one day or another.
If you have any additional travel tips that have been of benefit to you while traveling abroad, please feel free to share them below in the comments!