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Ask HN: What to know before traveling around the world?
4 points by iM8t on Mar 4, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments
Hey, I'm an 18 year old european programmer that wants to travel round the world for a year as soon as I get out of high school (1.5 yrs).

Currently I'm saving up my money, but still I think I will couchsurf all the way.

What should I get ready for? Are there any materials (books/videos/articles) that I could read that could benefit me? What should I be doing now to be ready for the trip? Is there anything I could learn that could benefit me a lot?

Sorry for my English, I'm not a native speaker. Thanks for the tips!




If you bring an iPod or mp3 player, use the ear phones only in private. The hordes of people I see wandering exotic locales with their earphones in baffles me! They may see the sites, but they totally miss the total experience which includes the sounds of speech, nature, traffic, people, or even local cops trying to stop you.

Also, in SE Asia, for some reason many expats seem to slowly descend into some sort of hippy state of clothing and hair styles, complete with dreds and such. This appearance may signify to like-minded expats how cool or laid back you are, but to the nationals there it is more evidence of how different you are, resulting in less interaction with the real scene. There are always nationals ready to accommodate these types of expats, but overall this scene is a very small part of any country/city/culture.

As someone else here suggested about listening more, then talk; watch more, then do likewise. This goes for physical appearance.


I'm a pretty seasoned traveller and I'll give you one bit of advice if you want to meet people: go to your local bar early when it is pretty much the bartenders and you. Likely they are bored and will have a chat with you. Mention that you are a tourist ask some questions and soon they will be introducing you to the locals.

It is a great way for meeting people and having a great time. I've used it many times. Last week I was in the pacific for work and by night's end was invited to a BBQ for the next day. It turned out to be a great BBQ and a unique insight into the lifestyle of the island.

When I visited Paris I made friends with the local bartender and was receiving free drinks by nights end and invites left, right and centre to join people on little adventures.


Thanks! Only there's a small problem - I'm not a drinker. Perhaps I will try cafes.


Probably doesn't matter too much. I go to bars and read books. I'm sure going to a bar and ordering a coffee is less conspicuous and accepted. In fact last year I contracted an eye disease and was on all sorts of medication. I was out at bars drinking teas while my friends were drinking alcohol. Doing slightly off standard stuff like that tends to draw attention and people spark up conversations with you.

I'm sure the main point is go when the staff have some downtime and the business is a social business. I can't remember where it was but I've gone to a cafe for a tea and ended up playing backgammon with some old guys. Many countries seem to have a strong cafe culture where old men sit around playing board games (Middle East and Central America; chess and backgammon).

Best of luck. If you find it hard to socialise now I am sure after travelling for a while you will be much more comfortable with it.


I traveled Asia during 8 months and I don't think there is anything that prepared me for my trip. I learned through experience and by meeting other world travelers on the road. Reading is an important part of world traveling, since you have lots of down time in trains or hostels, so an e-Reader would be handy to carry lots of books. The backpack weight is an issue as well, so keep you're belongings to a minimum. For me the iPod was a must. A computer is optional, it's an unnecessary valuable item to worry about for me so I don't carry one, there are internet shops everywhere, but I understand some people cannot live without it. Camera is a must, with a few SD cards for backups. Get you're money figured out, how you're going to get your cash. I used to carry a couple of ATM cards, but there are other options you might want to explore. World traveling is the best thing I've done in my life and I'm 33, so I wish you good luck, leave all your fears behind and tackle the world!


oh! and IMHO Malaria pills are a scam, so don't fall for it. I carried a mosquito net in my backpack and slept in it whenever I was in a "high risk" area. Malaria mosquitoes come out at night.


Finding a host on couchsurfing can be difficult in big cities at peak times. I was getting five requests per day at times. Try to bring something to the table where you surf rather than giving a potential host the impression that you're only in it for the free accommodation. One great way to do this is to increase your commuity value by hosting some people before you leave.

also check out WOOFing. You can stay for free on farms and such in return for some work, not necessarily farming, sure there would be plenty of opportunities for web design or SEO work


I'm not really a fan of Reddit, but the local area subreddits would likely be an invaluable resource for quick-time networking and intelligence information.


Learn about a few common scams. Just to stay safe. It's obviously better to be aware of these things than to fall prey to them.

Have a key ring with a small powerful torch and a bottle opener. A smart phone with two batteries would be convenient. Make sure you have an app that can locate and remotely disable your phone in case you lose it. A kindle would be great too.

And finally.. a good pair of shoes.


This is really good: http://tynan.com/lifenomadic


The best advice I can offer you is this: No matter where you go in your travels always observe and listen before ever opening your mouth. Wherever you are you will be new there and will not know the customs, mores, or etiquette.


Don't take the above reply lightly. It's probably one of the hardest to get it right :)


Be sure to get appropriate visas for each country ahead of time. For certain countries it can take a while


I think backpacking is overrated... working and living somewhere is a much more genuine experience IMO.




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