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Tip #2: Seek Out Traditional Festivals
Tip #3: Learn to Say 30 Key Words in the Local Language
Tip #4: Meet Strangers
Tip #5: Get off the Beaten Path

Tips for Independent Travelers

Tip #9 Write a Trip Summary

You return from your big trip, and everyone wants to hear about it. Just like the locals abroad who had engaged you for weeks, your friends and family ask the same questions: "Was the food in India like it is in Indian restaurants here?" "What was your favorite place in Europe?" "Were the people in Vietnam really as nice as I’ve heard they are?"

If you write up a trip summary, you can personalize answers to the first few questions and then share your written story. After your friends and family have read the 1- to 2-page overview of your experience, seeing photos and talking about more in-depth stories will mean a lot more to them.

After three months riding in the back of open-bay trucks with me in southern Africa, my friend Micha was ready to rest in Harare for two days before our flight home. Between spending our last Zimbabwean dollars on handicrafts to take back for loved ones and saying goodbye to our local friends, I challenged him to draw some conclusions about our once-in-a-lifetime experience. Teasing me about our independent and bare-bones travel style, he chided "Sure, I’ll write a list of all the absurdities that happened to us." As an aspiring actor, job trainer, and voice-over artist living in New York, he was fixated on entertaining all of the city’s inhabitants. So, while Micha spent many hours mining our diaries and photos for the most fascinating people, dirtiest hotels, and most dangerous animals, I made an outline.

I evaluated how successfully we had achieved our main trip goals. I listed exactly where we went and what we saw. I tallied the total miles we had traveled and the amount of money we had spent. I analyzed how Mozambique offered a rare glimpse into the consequences of a 17-year civil war. I concluded that the region was generally more similar to other less industrialized countries I had visited in Latin America and Asia.

Two weeks later, in our apartment at a university in New York City, we hosted a post-Africa trip party and handed out copies of our summaries to 40 intrigued friends. Some of them shared the documents with their friends and family. Micha and I posted and emailed them to our friends in other cities and to our new friends in Africa. Students planning travels for the following year asked me for copies to glean tips and insights.

I was pleasantly surprised at how useful the summaries turned out to be even a year later. Micha was feeling the creative urge to write an entire book about grilled rats on a stick, villagers dressed like Uncle Sam, and camping on the idyllic Arabian Sea next to a pet monkey. "Your summary might be a good memoir for some major themes I’d like to weave into my text," he said.

Returning his praise, I asked him if I could carry his list of superlatives on my next trip. I joked, "Maybe travelers in India won’t take the frustrations personally when they read about our absurdities in Africa."

JEFF GOLDMAN has tested many tips while visiting 47 countries and leading community service trips to South Africa and Asia. He shares travel and work aborad ideas in adult education seminars.

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