This spring break was my first time traveling internationally! I went to Colombia on a trekking trip through G-Adventure and stayed in various campsites in the mountains: Vista Hermosa, Wiwa Camp, and Paraiso.
I don’t have a single word to simplify my experiences of the people I met and places I was at because of the richness there. One of the many moments that stuck with me was when I was in Wiwa Camp and one of the native woman pulled me towards her chest and wrapped her arms around me with her hands gently against my head. I met this woman while hiking to Vista Hermosa Camp, but never exchanged words with her because of language barrier. At first, I was confused as to why such a stranger would wrap their arms around me. However, I gave in and reciprocated her hug. While in her arms, I thought to myself how much this woman reminded me of my aunt. We finally let go of each other and exchanged a smile. This was her way of communicating to me.
This was such a successful trip because the group that I was traveling with, Colorado College Outdoor Education, the Butler Center, and Bridge Scholar Program prepared for this trip way ahead of time. However, there were steps that I took that prepared me for this trips. There were also steps I wished I had done to contribute to it too.
How to prepare yourself for International Travel (This is not an exhaustive list)
Get your passport or renew your passport. Passport expiration date should be set at least 6 months after your last day of travel, and make at least a paper copy of it
Thankfully, in the passport process, I went to the Post Office with my group that I would be traveling with, which made it less intimidating. I got the passport forms online and filled it out before I went to the Post Office. I also had a valid photo and the original birth certificate with me.
Get the vaccinations required or suggested for preventative measures
They hurt, but do it. I got my shots three months in advance so that I did not have to worry about squeezing them during the last month before spring break.
Research about the country/places/culture you are traveling to
Since I was going to Colombia on a trip through G-Adventure, I did a google searched about the trek that I would be a part of and found a blog about it! From that blog, I was able to prepare myself mentally to what I was getting myself into.
Get the basic communication nailed down
This was what I didn’t do; I did not learn more Spanish besides banos, hola, and bueno. Our guide and some of the people in the villages only spoke Spanish, so it was difficult to understand and communicate. I finally decided to learn how to say “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.” and ask “How much?” so that I could buy souvenirs gifts
Let me know if you plan to study abroad and where!