The #1 Thing You Can’t Travel to a New Country Without

Sydney harbor and city skyline. Find out the one thing that is most valuable to take with you as a guide during your travels.

When you’re embarking on any kind of travel, (not to mention international travel) it can be SO hard to figure out what is most important and valuable to take with you as a guide for your trip. We need ALL THE THINGS, am I right??

In May 2017 I traveled to Australia for the first time. This was exciting in and of itself, but even more exciting given the fact that it was my first time off the North American continent! I’d been to British Columbia, the Bahamas, and coastal Mexico on a cruise, but nothing further than that. So of course traveling to literally the other side of the world was an amazing opportunity! However, I didn’t have access to my phone’s data, since I have a USA-only SIM card, and would only have limited access to WIFI — mainly at the AirBnBs I stayed at, and the occasional coffee shop.

I say all this, because I (as I’m sure you do) constantly rely on my phone’s network connection for directions, to Google things to do, and things like that. So it was a little daunting to realize I would have to travel old school for ten days without my phone!

My goal was to create an “offline” travel guide, that I could carry with me and that would have all the information I use my phone for at home: local coffee shops, the best places to grab lunch, maybe a cool new spot for drinks. I’m naturally a super crafty person, so I went really hardcore on this project and insanely in-depth with details I thought could be useful while off the grid. BUT if I had to choose only one thing out of that entire book to use if I were to do that trip over again? Are you ready for this? Here it is:

A map.

So simple but so incredibly undervalued! One of the features in my book was a huge two-page-spread city map of Sydney, and although I marked it up with tons of notes beforehand, its use would have been priceless even if I hadn’t done so. I studied that map literally every day for over a week leading up to my trip; memorizing routes from my AirBnB, the different neighborhood names, and the crosshatched grid of the CBD. I wasn’t kidding when I said I went hardcore! 🙂

This studying, paired with having the map with me at all times, proved 100% invaluable. Because I had studied the map so much, once I arrived in Sydney it was easy for me to distinguish where in the city I was, and effortlessly navigate because I knew which streets connected to which. Even if you don’t spend as much time as I did studying, simply bringing a real, paper, hold-in-your-hands map to a new country is the best tool you can arm yourself with.

And for those of you thinking that you could take a screenshot of a map on your phone or tablet: it’s really not the same. You don’t need to worry about a paper map’s battery dying, you can hold the whole thing up close to your face for a better look, and best of all: you can scribble, highlight, draw on it, and have it for next time.

Girl standing and looking out at a canyon during travels. Find out the one thing that is most valuable to take with you as a guide during your travels.

PRO TIP: find a map or travel guide you like BEFORE leaving on your trip. Whether one you buy in a store or one you download from the internet. You never know where or when you’ll be able to find one in your new country, and even if you do, you may not like them! When I travelled to Sydney, literally my first stop straight from the airport was an information centre so I could buy local’s maps (I wasn’t able to find them at home in the States); while the maps available were diverse and had lots of great information, there wasn’t a map that had the exact city layout I was looking for it to cover. Luckily the map I printed from home did and that was all I needed!

And you want to know the kicker about this whole story? By the time I came home, I realized that I knew the streets of Sydney better than my own city, which by then I’d lived in for three years. I realized I needed to work on studying a map of my own home. Ha!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out my other posts about life tips + tricks here!

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