A blog for aspiring travelers

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♥ W E L C O M E  2 Y O U ♥

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Almost everyone dreams about travelling around the world and discovering new places. After all, it is human nature to be adventurous. This “universal wanderlust” is really not surprising considering all the benefits and good memories tourists get from a journey. As Saint Augustine so splendidly put it, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

However, going overseas is not accessible to everybody. Often, the cost of flight tickets would discourage the most ambitious vacationer. Furthermore, going into the unknown might seem exciting but also scary. Only a few people are brave enough to leave only with a backpack, a pair of sneakers and a map. Yes, good travelling requires lots of preparation.

This blog is a guide for aspiring globetrotters, in particular students as myself, who want to travel better (with a deep focus on South African students according to my location). All the necessary information will be dealt with in details, including what to pack, budget, visas, alternative lifestyles and much more. Relevant news reports concerning tourism will also be add if needed, in order to keep the readers informed.

All relevant questions and comments which would help me improve my journalistic style of writing or my content are welcome. All the pictures posted on this blog are personal. They must not be used as someone else’s own. Thanks for understanding. All the small GIFs come from this free source and I found the background here.

On this note, good lecture, in the hope that it will help each traveler enjoy his time away to the fullest.

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♥ W A N D E R L U S T 4 E V E R Y O N E ♥

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Culture shock: 2 words, a vast concept.

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson.

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Anyone who has travelled in foreign countries has to face it. Culture shock is a universal phenomenon which is intense, and often unpleasant. It does not matter where you are from or how open-minded you are, it can be difficult to be far from home.

Indeed, this experience is sometimes reduced to homesickness, but it is way more complex than that. This article will help people to have a better understanding of the culture shock in general. Therefore, dealing with it will be easier.

Culture shock is about a complete change of scenery and disorientation. It is about being part of a new unknown environment which is completely different from what we are used to. It is about experiencing a new way of life and culture, and the mixed feelings that come with this experience.

Logically, Culture shock occurs when one immigrates or just visit a foreign country. We all respond differently, but four recurrent phases can be discerned: the honeymoon, the negotiation, the improvement and the adaptation.

The honeymoon phase is all about excitement and fascination. Discovering new food, new people and a new way of life is just amazing. Those first days or weeks are the greatest. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm is often short-lived.

When the excitement is gone, you start to realize the annoying differences between home and the new place. The language barrier is a good example. Therefore, this period of negotiation brings stress and other unpleasant feelings such as loneliness and homesickness. This period is tough because you need to be strong in order to overcome this phase.

In the best case scenario, after some time, a personal routine is built gradually and the environment becomes more ordinary. You learn to live in this new city with its own customs and characteristics. Slowly, hope comes back. This transition is called the period of “improvement”.

Finally, the host country becomes a second home. This adaptation might not be total for everybody, but it finally seems like you found your place in this secondary culture. Your comfort zone just became wider. Of course, most people keep characteristics from their native country such as accents or tastes.

Unfortunately, in some cases, the integration is too difficult. The phase of negotiation did not go well and the new culture is perceived as scary. The rejection is so strong that often, those people would decide to isolate themselves before returning home.

Surprisingly, going home after an adaptation can also become a challenge. Some people struggle to feel “at home” again after spending some time away. Often, it is due to our idealization of our native country. We miss it so much, but when we return, things have changed. This is called the reverse culture shock.

Surely, the culture shock is a complex phenomenon, experienced by people differently. When things do not go well, a various range of feelings and reactions can be experienced: anger, compulsive drinking, excessive sleep, suicidal tendencies and many others. Many people are also unaware that the culture shock is responsible for their unhappiness.

Several precautions can be taken in order to overcome this ordeal. First, learn as much as you can about the country before your departure. It will help avoiding bad surprises. Once you arrive, you will discover even more. Take the new information with open-mindedness and humour. During the honeymoon phase, it is easy but keep on being approachable afterwards.

Forget the stereotypes and build your own knowledge of the country. To do so, ask questions and be curious. Visiting museums or historical sites and participating in local events are important. Make effort to speak the foreign language even if you are not good at it. Just try to blend into the masses.

To make it easier, find good friends who will make you feel comfortable in this new environment. Go out with them, eat healthy, sleep well, do sports and enjoy your new life. At the same time, do not be hard on yourself, transitions always take time.

If your homesickness becomes unbearable, put pictures of your family and your native country in your new home. Nowadays, it is easy to contact people despite the long distance. Make sure to stay in touch with your loved ones via the internet or phone calls.

To complete my article, I had an interview with three international students who came to Cape Town for their studies. Just like me, they experienced the culture shock, but after some time, they also managed to deal with it.

I hope that their experiences will help the people who are currently facing this stage in life. Yes, those changes can be tough, but as you can read in my article about the benefits of studying abroad, they are completely worth it in the end.

How to obtain a visa

This world has frontiers. Anyone who wants to travel around the globe have to apply for a visa at one point. This article gathers all the information you need to get one as well.

VISAVISA

A visa in an authorization for a foreign traveller to visit or stay in a country. This authorization is required in many countries all over the world. There are different types of visa such as tourist visa, work visa or study permit.

Even if you want to stay in a country just for a few days, you might need a visa. It depends on the visa agreement between your native country and the foreign place you want to visit. Do not just assume that you can just go anywhere you want, you might be very disappointed.

The duration of your stay is also determinant in your obtainment of a visa. For example, as a French citizen, I did not need a visa when I was coming to South Africa for my holidays since I never stayed longer than three months. Now, I became a full-time student here so obviously, I have a study permit.

On the other hand, a South African citizen absolutely needs a Schengen Visa to come to Europe, even just for one day. Consequently, before making any plans for the holidays, you need to check if you need  a visa for the chosen destination. Where to start?

First, go to your government’s website. South Africans should click here. This website will tell you about all you need to know before planning a travel, including whether or not you will need a visa.

If you do need one, look for information about the application for a visa on the embassy/consulate website of the country you wish to visit. You will find out about the different options of visas, the papers that are required and how to book an appointment for the application.

Once you are prepared, you can try going to different offices to maximise your chances. Indeed, some of them are very strict or even slow in the process. This is why you need to start applying long before your planned date of departure.

It is not a secret that getting a visa can be a mission sometimes, especially for a long-term stay. But do not despair, all things come to those who wait. However, you also need to verify other details such as your passport.

Make sure that your passport is still valid six months beyond the date of your stay. This is required in many countries and you won’t be able to travel because of this, even if you obtained a visa. I recently renew my passport (which was expiring only in January 2017) to be able to travel in December 2016 to Thailand.

To obtain a visa, often you will be asked to send your passport for them to stick the document in it. But with the technological progress, more and more countries turn towards electronic visa, also called e-visa.

Visas on arrival also exist but are less common. At your arrival, it will be decided if you are granted a visa or not. You apply and pay for it on site. Some countries proceed like this but most of the time, this type of visa is usually given in unusual circumstances.

No matter what type of visa you apply for, it is never free so this should be taken into consideration if you travel with the whole family. Indeed, each person, even little kids, needs one. I recommend Visa Services and Agencies to facilitate the task. Yes, it is more expensive but it is money well spent.

How to be a serene vagabond

While travelling is supposed to be pleasant, being in unknown territory can be stressful and scary sometimes. Consequently, some might feel that they did not enjoy their holidays fully. The following tips will help you avoid those kinds of regrets.

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Human beings like to control everything all the time. At home, in our comfort zone, it is not too challenging. But overseas, in a place you have never visited before, it is obviously impossible to plan everything. This is why patience is primordial.

There is no need to freak out for a setback. The key is to breathe and to remember that you traveled for pleasure above all. Then, thinking about an alternative plan will be easier. Who knows? An impediment might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. So, leave the stress at home, you will need it for work.

Furthermore, do not be afraid to look like an idiot, because you certainly will. Ignorance is not a crime, and travelling is a learning experience. If some mistakes are made, do not be too hard on yourself. If people laugh at you, laugh with them instead of being embarrassed. Once more, do not take everything too seriously and just relax!

In order to make the most of your holidays, wake up early. Often, your time away is limited so you do not want to lose it by sleeping late. In the morning, the streets are also less busy and safer. After all, it is well known that the early bird catches the worm.

Touristic activities are great and diverse from country to country. But observing the daily routine will also give you a broader perception of a place. Do not rush and only visit monuments and historical sites. Take also the time to analyze the environment from a different angle. Sit at the terrace of a restaurant to watch and listen, or wander

Similarly, being curious and open-minded is crucial. Keep in mind that you are the one who decided to visit a foreign country. Being judgmental about other people’s traditions and values is simply not right. So talk to locals and ask questions, but always remain polite and friendly. Eat their food and accept unplanned excursions or invitations. You won’t regret it.

Pictures, souvenirs, and notes must not be neglected. Who knows when you will come back to this place? Maybe it is a once in a lifetime experience, so you want to remember it for the rest of your life. Obviously, after some great photos, put the camera down and just enjoy the present moment

Finally, a serene vagabond is easygoing and adventurous but not reckless. Taking care of yourself is a priority. Stay as healthy as possible, and do not take big risks like going to dangerous places for example. Yes, exploring is great but your well-being is most important. You did not travel to get hurt or robbed!

This is why precautions must be taken in case of emergency. Keep copies of important documents and pictures in case of robbery or loss. Hiding extra cash in a safe place is also very important. Money is powerful everywhere!

These are just safety measures and if you have the opportunity, do not be afraid of travelling. This world is truly amazing and full of adventures so it would be a pity to miss all that. A bit of prudence and a lot of adventurousness is all you need to make amazing memories. So what are you waiting for?

Interview with a “wanderluster”

Europe, USA, Africa… where should I go? Let’s ask an expert.

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Whether you are looking for a sympathetic town for holidays or a good country to study, the choice can be complicated. Indeed, there are so many amazing places on this planet. But how are you supposed to choose if you know nothing about the living standards or the cultures? This is why we have travel guides and blogs. As an aspiring tourist or international student, you need the wisdom of accomplished globetrotters.

Honorat Mbemba is one of them. This student had already travelled a lot for his young age. As a wanderlust victim, I am fortunate to be friend with such an inspiring sightseer. He accepted to meet me for an interview to talk about the places he visited.

Honorat Mbemba is a young Congolese man from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is currently living in Cape Town for his studies. “I am studying at CTI Education group,” he says. “I am currently in my second year for my Bachelor of Commerce.”

However, he explains that Cape Town was not his first choice. When he finished high school, he applied for a visa to go to the UK. “I wanted to study in London. Unfortunately, I did not get the visa,” he admits. “It was quite disappointing for me since I have already been to England twice before. I also have two siblings who are already studying there as well.”

As he talks, I notice a glimmer of sadness in his eyes.

Then, he tells me that he went to Belgium for three months in order to study English. “I was actually prepared to go the United States afterwards,” he says. “At the same time, I was coming to Cape Town for my holidays. It was also my first time visiting this country.” The young man smiles as he says how much he loved his stay, to the extent that he decided to study in this city.

Having triggered my curiosity, I ask him his opinion about the South African education. He replies that he likes the fact that South African universities offer a wide range of courses. In his opinion, the quality of education is correct. “Personally, I am still doing fine in commerce,” he laughs.

Like many international student, Honorat Mbemba got used to the pleasant Capetonian lifestyle. He believes the living standard is reasonable. “I also had the chance to travel a lot, especially in Europe and America as well,” he adds. “There, the infrastructure in general is just amazing and much more developed.”

But my friend does not regret coming to South Africa at all. “The country is amazing and Cape Town is just so beautiful,” he says. “I love this city, and right now, I am not even thinking about going back to DRC.” He also confesses not having too much trouble with money “I receive my income in dollars so the exchange rate is very beneficial to me.”

Nevertheless, as a black foreign man, Honorat Mbemba insists on the fact that some people can be really racist or xenophobic here. This makes it very difficult to have lasting relationships with some locals. “Most of my friends are either from Europe, America or other African Countries,” he says. “I wonder why?”

As mentioned before, Honorat Mbemba had travelled a lot and like me, he is a “wanderluster”. “I love travelling,” he explains. “The airports, the planes, the different people and cultures, seeing something different… I actually believe that my numerous travels made me who I am today. It clearly opened my mind.”

Besides, his list of adventures is already long. “I have been to South Africa, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and Germany,” he says proudly. “In the United States, I have been to Virginia, Washington DC, Philadelphia, South Carolina, New Jersey and Atlantic City.”

A bit jealous, I ask him about his favourite travels. As for him, Luxembourg was particularly welcoming and clean. He thinks that Switzerland is also nice. “Its inhabitants was a mixture of people from all over Europe,” he says. “I enjoyed this mix.”

However, it is The Vatican City which made the biggest impression on him. “The city was just fantastic to see, especially for its architecture,” he explains. “When I went there, some Swiss guards were the official protection of the Vatican. I also had the opportunity to see the Sistine Chapel decorated by Michelangelo.  I will remember this for the rest of my life.”

Despite those memories, Honorat Mbemba would not like to live permanently in Europe. “It is just too expensive there,” he says. “South Africa’s lifestyle is as good and less pricey.” But in his opinion, going to Europe or the USA to study is an opportunity to cease for the students who have the means to afford it. “I actually hope to finish my studies there,” he adds.

He tells me that all the places that he visited are worth seeing, at least for holidays. But now he would like to discover Asia. He cites countries like Thailand, China and Japan. “But my biggest dream is to go to the Bahamas,” he admits.

I ask him to conclude on a small anecdote on the USA, an unknown territory to me. Surprisingly, his story is not as exciting as I was expecting. “My family decided to travel from Philadelphia to South Carolina by car,” he says. “The car was overload with people and luggage and we got stopped by the police. The American police is very strict. They often categorize people as criminals. We waited for an hour and ended up with a fine.”

Advice from people like Honorat Mbemba is important before embarking on a new adventure. These personal experiences, together with some more objective travel sources, will certainly widen your perspective. Surely, the decision on where to go will seem simpler, but you will also be fully prepared for the chosen destination.

So I insist: READ MORE to travel better.

Travel: How to pack smart

Tired of always forgetting something while traveling? The following tips will help you pack perfectly with no more hassle. It’s time to pack smart!

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The first advice seems obvious but many people struggle with it: pack light. In fact, the lighter, the better. No matter where you are going or how long you are staying, a light suitcase will make everything easier. Even better, it leaves more space to bring souvenirs.

So for each item you want to bring, ask yourself: Do I really need this? Am I going to use it several times or just once? Can I replace it with something less cumbersome? You will be surprised how much things you will take out of your suitcase. But of course, some things remain essential!

Speaking of “the essentials”, they can be divided in two sub-categories: the ones which go in your hand luggage and the others in checked luggage. The hand luggage or backpack should contain important travel papers and all the items necessary for your well-being and comfort during the flight.

The checked luggage contains your clothes, your toiletry bag and your health items. But if you have prescribed medicine and glasses/contact lenses, it is obviously better to carry them on yourself in case the suitcase gets lost. The same rule applies to expensive items such as jewelry. But once more, do you really need to bring them?

For your backpack, start with the most important papers: flight ticket, passport with visa if needed, ID, your money (cash and card) and both travel and health insurance documents. You also need your proofs of reservation for hotels and transportation. Finally write down emergency numbers, including the hotel/tour guide contacts.

Those are just non bulky papers. You still have plenty of space in your hand luggage. Now you can add your electronic devices: phone, camera, tablet and chargers. Think also about books, magazines, travel guides and maps. Furthermore, do not forget a travel pillow, ear plugs and an eye mask to make you feel more comfortable during the flight.

Here are two more tips for a perfect hand luggage. Add tissues but also pens, in case you need to fill in paperwork. Moreover, if you are bored during the flight, you will be able to solve crossword puzzles or to write about your upcoming adventure. If you are a lady, always think about the worst case scenario and brings pads and tampons. A lipstick and a comb are also recommended.

In the checked luggage, start putting your clothing by making sure it is various. You’ll need different types of clothing for different occasions. But again, do not overload your luggage. You do not need ten pants or five pairs of high heels. Make choices and bring only your favorites items or the most practical/lightweight ones.

Pack some shirts, pants, shorts, sweaters, jackets and underwears. You will also need socks and at least one pyjama, one belt, one pair of sunglasses and one swimsuit. At least one pair of comfortable shoes is obligatory. Ladies can obviously add dresses, skirts and one pair of high heels.

The toiletery bag must contains at least a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, perfume, sunscreen, body lotion and a perfume. You can also had your personal hygiene products or items like razor blades. Women must not forget their make-up and make-up remover. Nearsighted people should also prepare additional contacts.

Finally, a first aid kit with medicines for all kind of minor sicknesses (flu, fever, pain, allergy, etc.) and prescriptions are essential. Your health is important so do not neglect this part of packing. If you consider you need eye drops or multivitamins, bring them.

For your travels, always use this checklist to make sure you have everything you need but not too much. From now on, packing will no longer be a nightmare but a piece of cake!

The benefits of studying abroad

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I strongly believe that studying overseas is very important for the well-being and psychological development of a young adult. Admittedly, it is expensive but if the opportunity arises, one must not hesitate to take the plunge. Indeed, this experience is a chance to see another facet of the world. It is the occasion to be part of a different education and culture. Studying abroad is also reputed for opening one’s mind on various level. Finally, this adventure can offer various opportunities for the future, such as job offers or new relationships.

The first reason that shows the advantageous aspect of studying overseas is the opportunity to explore new horizons. There is nothing more exciting than discovering a new country with its local traditions and activities. It is the occasion to appreciate new landscapes and to adopt a lifestyle completely different from what you had in your hometown. The best memories will be made from this unique experience. It is not a simple trip but a real departure for a new life. Furthermore, it is also the chance to see neighboring cities or even countries. Studying abroad will make you realize that the world is a lot bigger than you imagined.

Breaking up with the routine and learning about a new culture is the best feeling ever. It is quite scary as well, but totally worth it. You will eat food you did not even know existed and meet people with completely different values. You will learn to enjoy new traditions and customs. Often, it is also the chance to learn a new language. Most importantly, studying abroad is also about adopting a new education system. Learning about the education of a country is the best way to learn about the nation itself. It takes time for the homesickness to vanish, but when it does, this time away becomes amazing. In the future, you will certainly remember it as one of your best life experience.

Studying overseas is also beneficial on a psychological level. In this adventure, one may find new interests he would have never experienced at home. Indeed, this unique occasion will make you more open-minded. You have to be. Indeed, in an unknown country, you will often encounter practices or beliefs in disaccord with you traditional values. Therefore, tolerance and openness are highly recommended. Furthermore, this kind of opportunity forges one’s character, especially in becoming independent. It is the occasion to learn about yourself and all the great things you can accomplish on your own.

In terms of relationships, you will become friends with great people from various countries. They will teach you things you did not know and vice versa. In the best case scenario, those friendships will last after college despite the distance. In the future, they can also turn out to be friends in high places who can lend you a helping hand if needed. Finally, a degree and experience in a foreign country can open doors in terms of job opportunities.

In brief, for various reasons, studying abroad is an incredible and profitable experience. The choice to leave home and go to college overseas is not given to everybody. This is why those who have this opportunity must make the most of it. You are young, but it might be your one and only chance to travel with that much freedom. Two years ago, I made the decision to leave my beloved island and to study in South Africa. It was not easy. But so far, I believe it is the best decision I ever made for myself.