These United States are a wonderful place to call home.
We have it all here: mountains, desserts, forests, natural wonders ... and Lady Gaga. What more could we want?!
Well, believe it or not, there is much to been seen in the lands abroad.
I have been to Italy twice and can tell you that the difference in culture and customs is something that can only be truly appreciated on a first-hand basis.
If you are ever given the chance to travel internationally, there are a few things you should know which are summed up in this handy list from ehow.com:
Step 1 - Get a passport
The first step is to obtain a passport. You can't enter another country without it, and you can't come back to the USA without one either. You can apply for a passport at the post office (only certain branches offer this service). Be aware that it can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks to get your passport once your application has been accepted. For more information on passports, visit: www.travel.state.gov.
Step 2 - Familiarize the language
Familiarize yourself with the language. It isn't necessary to take a complete course in the language spoken in your host country, but it is courteous and polite to be able to communicate with the citizens in their language. Don't expect them to speak your native language. You can find all kinds of crash courses on the internet to help you learn basic phrases like greetings, how to order food, asking for help, etc. You may also want to carry a pocket dictionary with you. If you get stuck then you can at least try to communicate with someone using the dictionary. If anything, you can point to the word in the dictionary even if you can't pronounce it.
Step 3 - Understand the currency
Understand the currency and exchange rate in your host country. Some establishments will gladly accept the US dollar. Others won't. Understand what the currency is (such as the Euro, GBP, or Peso), and understand the exchange rate both to and from this currency in relation to US dollars.
Step 4 - Have a credit card
Credit cards are the best way to go when making purchases in another country. You don't have to worry about the exchange rate - the credit card company does the currency conversion for you. Most establishments will accept Visa or Mastercard. American Express and Discover Card are not as readily accepted.
Step 5 - Check electrical outlets
Determine if the electrical outlets are the same or if you need a voltage adapter. You will probably be traveling with items like an electric razor, hair dryer, or curling iron. If you can't find this information on the internet, a travel agent will know.
Step 6 - Check the weather
Study the weather and climate of the country you plan to visit. Pack accordingly.
Step 7 - Determine time difference
Determine the time difference in the host country. This will aid you in planning your airline flight times. Knowing the time difference will also help you prepare for dealing with jet lag.
Step 8 - Learn the diet
Understand the traditional foods that are part of the host country's daily diet. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, you want to be prepared and understand the ingredients in the dishes. When you travel abroad, you are introduced to bacteria and foods that your system has never processed before, which may cause diarrhea.
Step 9 - Get a calling card
Purchase an international calling card to carry with you. Using a calling card is the least expensive way to call home. You can call home without one, but you will pay dearly.
Step 10 - Pack a carry-on
Pack a small carry-on bag with the essentials such as your medicine, a change of clothes, eyeglasses or contacts, or anything else you can't live without. If your luggage is lost or delayed, or your flight is canceled or rerouted, at least you will have the essentials with you.
Step 11 - Do your homework and learn what is offensive in your host country. Some hand gestures and phrases we use here take on a whole new meaning in another country. You don't want to embarrass yourself, or insult anyone by doing something socially unacceptable.
Step 12 - Carry your passport on your person everywhere you go when you travel abroad. Also, when you pass through immigration in the host country, you will be given a white card they have stamped. Keep this in a safe place as you will need it to leave the country to go home.
Now that you have been officially prepared for international travel, it's time to get packing!
The world awaits you.
Dominici may be reached at email@example.com