I have been traveling a lot this year – more than I ever have before and more than I will probably ever do so in the future.
Some of the trips have been for work (medical school interviews!), and a lot fewer have been for play (see here), but it’s been a great learning and growing experience throughout.
In any case, here are some things I wish somebody had told me before I started adventuring!
1 – There are good seats on the subway, and there are bad seats. Good seats are the ones where you don’t have to sit next to a lot of people and where you have something to lean on. Bad seats are squished between masses of humanity or so purchase-less that you have to grab someone next to you to make sure you don’t go sliding off the bench. Get a good seat.
2 – Similarly, check in as early as possible on flights (you can usually do it online now) so you can get a good seat. I prefer the aisle seat, because you can go use the lavatory without having to climb over anyone. But the window seat is okay too.
3 – Grab a drink before you board! Even though it’s expensive to buy them in the terminal, I think it’s worth it – drink service takes a while to start and get to you. And trust me, being dehydrated on a sardine-packed plane is one of the most unpleasant experiences I can think of.
4 – Get on the plane as soon as possible. Nowadays, as airlines charge for checked baggage, people have begun to shove more and more junk into their already bloated carry-ons, meaning that overhead storage space runs out on almost every flight. You don’t want to be the guy who has to gate-check their laptop bag because you thought it wasn’t cool to line up early. You have to hustle!
5 – As a corollary to the previous tip, pack light. In my opinion, having just a personal item and not having to wrestle larger baggage in and out of the overhead bins is very much worth it. If you’re traveling domestically or to a developed country, count on the fact that you can buy pretty much whatever you might need there, even clothes! Translation: there’s no real need to schlep most of your junk across the world.
Lastly, as an overall travel and life tip, don’t be afraid to explore. I have traveled with people who are unwilling to try local cuisine or otherwise push themselves out of their comfort zones – how sad that is! One of my most random and now-favorite memories in my recent travels was taking the hours between the end of my interview day and my flight and essentially walking down the length of Manhattan – eating, taking pictures, and just observing life in the city. I got a taste of New York City that could not be obtained any other way, and had a blast while doing it.
Got any additional tips or stories? Please leave them in the comments section below!