February 20, 2024

Happy Travel & Tour

Specialists Travel & Tours

I’m a New Yorker who traveled to all seven continents before I was 25 – there’s four big mistakes American tourists make

I’m a New Yorker who traveled to all seven continents before I was 25 – there’s four big mistakes American tourists make

TRAVELING to all seven continents wasn’t ever on my radar growing up but somehow, I stepped foot on each one before I turned 25.

While there are countless unexpected benefits of traveling to places unknown, it’s important to understand some of the basics to avoid making big mistakes during your trip.

I'm a New Yorker and traveled to all seven continents before I turned 25

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I’m a New Yorker and traveled to all seven continents before I turned 25Credit: Caitlin Hornik
Riding a camel in Morocco during a sightseeing trip was a memorable moment

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Riding a camel in Morocco during a sightseeing trip was a memorable momentCredit: Caitlin Hornik
I spent New Year's Eve 2016 in Antarctica while working on a cruise ship

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I spent New Year’s Eve 2016 in Antarctica while working on a cruise shipCredit: Caitlin Hornik
No trip to Paris is complete without a picnic at the Eiffel Tower

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No trip to Paris is complete without a picnic at the Eiffel TowerCredit: Caitlin Hornik

Pre-pandemic, I was a musical theater performer and had been working steadily on cruise ships and in theaters around the country.

But never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d wind up traveling so extensively while getting paid to sing 1980s tunes and jazz standards and wear gorgeous ballgowns.

I now belong to one of the most elite clubs in the world as part of the estimated 0.02 percent of people who have been to all seven continents.

My experiences on each continent have enriched my life for the better while teaching me more about the world around me.

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I went kayaking in Antarctica, caiman spotting in Brazil, sightseeing on a camel in Morocco, and hiking in Japan – to name a few incredible memories.

Some of the travel happened by luck, some serendipitously, and maybe even a bit by fate.

Along the way, I’ve witnessed countless trials and tribulations of fellow travelers – and learned from my own mistakes, too.

As a born-and-raised New Yorker and American citizen, there are some aspects of our culture that are so vastly different from other parts of the world – and it’s important to be prepared.

DON’T ASSUME

There may come a time when you find yourself alone in a foreign country where the dominant language is one you cannot comprehend without help.

Don’t assume that everyone speaks English.

Depending on the country, this isn’t always well received.

It’s helpful to learn some keywords and phrases so that you can navigate while at your destination with greater ease.

I’ve found that meeting someone halfway by offering greetings in their language goes a long way, especially in France.

Some of the words and phrases I’ve relied on in my travels – aside from the obvious “hello” and “goodbye” – are “bathroom,” “help,” and “Do you speak English?”

Holding a koala at the Australia Zoo was a bucket list moment

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Holding a koala at the Australia Zoo was a bucket list momentCredit: Caitlin Hornik
My friends and I fed kangaroos at an animal sanctuary in Brisbane, Australia

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My friends and I fed kangaroos at an animal sanctuary in Brisbane, AustraliaCredit: Caitlin Hornik
Visiting the Sydney Opera House and seeing a musical there was a highlight of the trip

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Visiting the Sydney Opera House and seeing a musical there was a highlight of the tripCredit: Caitlin Hornik

PLAN AHEAD

Planning isn’t for everyone – especially when it comes to vacations.

Often, people vacation to escape the rigors of daily life, including meticulously planned work days and schedules.

But there’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination and realizing you don’t know how to get to your hotel – especially if the dominant language is one with which you’re unfamiliar.

It can be very intimidating to arrive in a place like Morocco where all of the signs are in languages you don’t understand and, on top of that, to not have a plan for navigating the city.

Even minimal planning can help ensure that you have the basics covered and avoid stress-induced headaches during your travels.

PAY ATTENTION

Being aware of your surroundings is important anywhere you go.

But when traveling abroad, it’s easy to get swept up in the “vacation mode” mindset.

You may want a carefree vacation, but it’s important to pay attention everywhere you go, especially in high-traffic areas and tourist spots.

In my travels, I’ve observed many instances where tourists were pick-pocketed in public.

Some places, like Gibraltar, even have wildlife (monkeys, in this case) that can steal your belongings if you’re not paying attention.

The last thing you want is to lose something valuable because you were distracted and not paying attention to your surroundings.

BE RESPECTFUL

Every country has its own set of customs.

In many places outside of the US, cultures are drastically different.

Doing some research ahead of time can save you from the embarrassment of disobeying the spoken (and unspoken) rules of foreign culture.

For example, some countries find it disrespectful to eat on the go.

While it may not be a big deal to sip coffee and eat a snack on public transit, this is a huge no-no in places like Japan.

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Some countries also require women to wear head coverings and have more strict wardrobe requirements than you may be used to.

Elements of other cultures may require you to step outside of your comfort zone, but that’s the beauty and magic of world travel.

I went hiking in Japan with crystal clear views of Mount Fuji

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I went hiking in Japan with crystal clear views of Mount FujiCredit: Caitlin Hornik
It was exciting to learn more about Buddhism and to visit the various statues around Japan

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It was exciting to learn more about Buddhism and to visit the various statues around JapanCredit: Caitlin Hornik
Ushuaia is located on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the southern-most tip of South America

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Ushuaia is located on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the southern-most tip of South AmericaCredit: Caitlin Hornik
Meeting the local wildlife has always been a big part of my travel experience, including in Colombia

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Meeting the local wildlife has always been a big part of my travel experience, including in ColombiaCredit: Caitlin Hornik
I went midnight caiman spotting in Manaus, Brazil

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I went midnight caiman spotting in Manaus, BrazilCredit: Caitlin Hornik
My travels have also included trips to four Disney parks around the world, including Disney World in Orlando, Florida

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My travels have also included trips to four Disney parks around the world, including Disney World in Orlando, FloridaCredit: Caitlin Hornik