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7 Things You Must Do Before Traveling to a Foreign Country

7 Things You Must Do Before Traveling to a Foreign Country

Traveling to a foreign country is one of the most exciting adventures you can experience. You’ll experience a completely different culture from your own, break out of your comfort zone, and learn more about who you are in two weeks than you would in six months.

After traveling around countries in Asia, Europe, and South America in the past 12 months, I’ve learned (often the hard way) what to do and what not to do if you want to maximize your travel experience.

With that said, if you’re about to travel to a foreign country, here are the 7 things you must do before your departure.

1. Visa & Passport Check

This is the most critical thing you must check off your list before you travel.

Certain countries will require you to have a Passport that will not expire for at least 6 months from the date you enter. If you’re a digital nomad without a set return date, it’s better to be safe and have a buffer time of at least two years.

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    You’ll also need to make sure you have the required visas for not just the countries you know you’re traveling to, but also potential countries you may be visiting. For example, Canadians don’t need a visa to visit any of the countries in South America, but it is required for Brazil.

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    VisaHQ is a great place to start checking for visa requirements, depending on your current citizenship.

    * One last tip: Make sure you scan and have a copy of all your important documents including your visa and passport files. This will help expedite the process of retrieving another hard copy if you end up losing your original.

    2. Pack appropriately

    This may depend on where you are traveling to, and what season you are traveling in. The general advice is: pack light.

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      Despite what your friends, family, and the media tells you, it’s most likely that you can buy nearly anything you need when you’re there. Carrying around a bulky luggage may be the biggest obstacle from being spontaneous during your travels.

      It may even be better to leave some extra room in your backpack, in order to bring back any tourist gifts to your friends or family.

      Here’s a great article to help you start packing light.

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      3. Call your bank

      Whether you want to use your credit card, debit card, or cash, you’ll be making a foreign transaction. Since your bank is on high alert for your security, it’s likely they will freeze your account if they see a transaction that is out of the ordinary – such as a $400 withdrawal in Argentina when you live in the United States!

      Make sure you call not only your local bank, but also your credit card company as well to notify them you’ll be making international transactions.

      In fact, if you plan to be living in a foreign country for a period of time, you can sign up with companies like Charles Schawb, where you can make unlimited ATM transactions without fees.

      4. Get informed

      A few months ago, when I tried to enter Colombia, I had to miss my flight because I needed a return ticket out of Colombia. I was already late, and by the time I purchased my return ticket, it was way too late.

      Now I know that there are certain airlines that allow you to cancel your flight within 24 hours of purchase. If you are ever asked for a return ticket, purchase a temporary ticket from any of the following airlines:

      • Delta
      • United
      • US Airways
      • JetBlue
      • Southwest
      • Spirit
      • Frontier
      • American

      You should also be informed about potential dangers or events occurring in the country, potential vaccinations you may need beforehand, and where your country’s embassy office is located.

      Use this website to learn more.

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      5. Learn conversation skills

      You don’t need to be fluent before you arrive, but you certainly should learn the basics in order to have a simple conversation with a local person.

      There are still places around the world, where a majority of the people don’t speak a word of English. Being able to understand and respond at the basic level will not only help you connect better with locals, but it will also prevent you from being taken advantage of.

      If you’re a beginner, it’s unlikely you can reach that level at the speed you want by learning yourself or through using a free mobile app.

      You can use Rype to work with a one-on-one language coach, who will help you learn faster and keep you accountable before or during your travels. I recommend checking out Rype Club, which will pair you up with a coach from the country you’re traveling to, and provide conversation lessons tailored to your needs. It also includes a 14-day free trial.

      rype club

        6. Get involved in the community!

        You can find almost any community online for the country and city you’re traveling to, even ones specific for expats.

        Look on Facebook Groups, Couchsurfing, or Meetup, to connect with current locals, finding accommodation, or simply asking for advice about the city.

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          7. Create an adventure list

          One of the best things about traveling is breaking out of your comfort zone, and trying out new experiences you’ve never tried before. Do some research before you travel and make a list of everything you want to try for the first time. This can be an event/festival, food you’ve never tried, or an activity that’s popular in the country you’re going to.

          Make the list as long as you’d like, but since you may not have time to do all of them, prioritize the top 5 or top 10 that you want to try in your limited time.

          Conclusion

          Once you’ve gone through these 7 must do’s, embrace yourself in the culture you’re traveling to and prepare yourself mentally.

          More importantly, open up your mind to prepare for the new adventure ahead of you.

          More by this author

          Sean Kim

          Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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          Published on May 18, 2021

          How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

          How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

          We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

          The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

          Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

          Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

          Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

          There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

          Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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          Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

          We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

          Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

          A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

          The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

          Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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          Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

          Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

          Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

          While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

          Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

          These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

          Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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          Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

          Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

          Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

          Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

          Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

          Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

          As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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          This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

          Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

          Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

          These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

          Actions Speak Louder Than Words

          Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

          Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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          Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

          More Tips Improving Listening Skills

          Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

          Reference

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