Charles reminds me of that Johnny Cash song, "I've Been Everywhere." He's served in the military, studied abroad, and has a natural curiosity about him that has brought him to countries I've never even heard of. The first time I ever hung out with Charles I tried five new foods in one day. He is always down for a new experience, and encourages those around him to come along. I was able to track him down in Indonesia for his top ten travel tips! -Derek-

1.  Plan. Ahead.  "Playing it by ear" may sound fun and romantic but unless you're super broke or super rich, your lack of agenda will leave you with a hard time finding much to do and a place at the back of all the lines.  You'll over pay for transportation (or walk an inordinate amount) and under-enjoy your time.  

2.  Ignore number 1 (sometimes).  If you have the time, and the patience, and aren't traveling to "do" a bunch of common excursions, hang out.  Drink coffee in a cafe with a book.  Listen to locals and learn about the culture through immersion.  

3.  Try everything (once).  It always makes me laugh when people question the food that is being eaten and enjoyed by a litany of locals.  People don't eat disgusting things... people (usually) eat delicious things.  Give everything a try and if you don't like it, cross it off the list.  

4.  (Continuing from #3) Culinary tourism is one of the best ways to experience culture first-hand as much of the world's culture and society is food-centric.  Eat at local places...see #1 and plan ahead.  Restaurants are one of the key reasons to do so.  If not, you'll definitely be caught in a tourist trap restaurant with food that appears local but is seriously not.  1 hour of food research can change the game for a whole trip.  As well, don't try to save all your money on food.  Food is the one thing you can spend a little bit more on that will exponentially increase cultural interaction and local experience and flavor.

5.  Rather, save money on accommodations.  Unless you're an all-inclusive traveler like my folks, your hotel or bnb is where you spend the least amount of time.  Check travel websites like trip advisor and see what others are saying about cleanliness and accessibility and then pick a place that fits toward the bottom of the budget...Then go out and eat well :-)

It can be a tight fit sometimes!

It can be a tight fit sometimes!

6.  Pack light.  Then look in your suitcase and remove one more outfit.  Whether you're going to Italy or the Congo, there will be plenty of ways to wash your clothes and clothes that you are probably going to buy anyways (see #10).  You absolutely do not need options, you need to not be naked. 

7.  This does not mean look like a scrub...especially you, gentlemen.   Crocs and cargo shorts will exude buffoonery (thanks, J. Motes) in a nice establishment and a lack of class can and will perpetuate whatever crass tourist stereotype you've walked into.  Packing a jacket and a nice pair of shoes will not exceed the weight limit.  

8.  Unlock your smartphone before your travel and purchase a local sim card upon arrival (preferably somewhere other than the airport).  It surprises me how few people know this can be done.  This is cell and data service that is usually pay as you go in many countries at a normal, local rate.  "International plans" back home are absolute scam-y rubbish...bonus:  do NOT change money at the airports, do it in town, you will usually save 10-30% depending on the country.

 

9.  Download maps.me onto your smartphone. This app uses GPS and can be used to not only locate yourself but also find a route to your desired location literally anywhere in the world, with or without data coverage (see also: Venice).  I have literally been on a motorcycle path in the Eastern D.R. Congo and this app not only knew where I was, but told me how to get where I was going.  

10.  Finally, buy a suit overseas.  They're either cheaper or better (or both) pretty much everywhere else in the world and will be cut to fit your body for a fraction of the cost...this is a bit of a nuanced suggestion, but trust me, it's always worth it.