The worlds of social media didn't interest me much until, one cold autumn day back in 2015, I hastily decided to share my passion for exploring. An Instagram account and a website seemed like a great start. Fast forward to today, my full-time job is now made up of travel blogging, freelance photographing and freelance writing.
Taking no for an answer has never been one of my strengths and it is only due to such high levels of stubbornness that I made the leap from a passion project to a career.
The act of travelling is one very personal and meaningful to me. Getting lost - both figuratively and literally - is part of what helps me stay grounded. My journeys across the globe have taught and still teach me many lessons. Nevertheless, I feel it is crucial to point out that not long ago - five years to be precise - travel wasn't particularly my thing.
Adventure sounded stressful and the idea of sitting on an aeroplane for hours on end left me even more comfortable in my world at home. Five years on, it is my job to inspire people to explore and I feel a duty to pass on the tips and tricks I have picked up along the way. Travel is not just about plunging yourself in the deep end. It's also about preparing yourself, your mindset and your suitcase.
1. Use a private or incognito window on your browser. This has to do with the website algorithms and your search browser history. If you search flights without a private window, the prices will jump according to how many times you look for flights, hotels, etc. Regularly delete your cookies and your search history. Websites such as Skyscanner, Kayak and google.com/flights are a go-to.
2. Consider setting price alerts, and look to fly mid-week for lower airfares and shorter queues when travelling.
3. Bear in mind that local travel agents will often match or beat the price you find online.
4. Frequent flyer points are always a good idea, no matter how often or far you travel.
Before you leave:
5. Call your bank to let them know where you're travelling to avoid being stuck cashless with blocked cards. That is no fun, believe me. Pack a reasonable amount of US dollars to help you out in cases of emergency or severe peer pressure (i.e. you can't not go diving/flying/bungee jumping when in x, y and z).
6. Make paper copies of your passport, other forms of identification and your credit card and carry two forms of money separate from each other (in case one gets lost, stolen, or - as in my case - blown away).
7. Travel insurance is essential.
8. An unlocked phone happily accepts foreign SIM cards with cheap data plans.
Less is more. Pack what you think you need, then halve it.
Embrace the rainbow when it comes to luggage. Black suitcases are prone to theft, confusion among owners and airport staff. Also, four wheels beat two wheels on so many levels.
A luggage tracker can help settle paranoia.
Precious items are best in your carry-on.
In efforts to prevent wrinkles and save space, rolling clothing does wonders.
When it comes to clothing - as with most other things in life - go natural. Breathable fibres such as cotton, merino, and linen last longer and wrinkle and smell less.
An empty water bottle will assist in hydration efforts and minimise plastic use: win-win.
Eye shades and noise cancelling headphones make many hours on a plane, bus or train go by in a heartbeat (ish).
Remember to pre-download podcasts, music and eBooks. Airline-specific apps (i.e. Virgin Australia) sometimes offer in-flight internet access.
A mobile battery pack keeps you snapping.
19. Before you step on the plane, rest well, drink up (don't get too excited, I'm talking about H20) and adjust your time to that of your destination.
20. When checking in, ask politely for any extra seats up front or in an emergency row for less noise and more comfort.
21. Dress in layers and carry all the essentials to arrive fresh and hit the ground running.
When you get there:
Say yes more. Yes to adventure. Yes to la dolce vita; yes to memorable escapades in the jungle; yes to a new pace of life; yes to living out your heart's most vivacious, wildest desires.
Never look like a tourist. Act like you belong.
It seems that many travellers take both a vacation from work and their sense of style when overseas. Don't be one of them. Dress the part.
When it comes to eating out, dine where the locals do. TripAdvisor can be helpful, although local blogs and sites such as New Zealand's Neat Places (neatplaces.co.nz) are better.
Endeavour to have a plethora of local experiences by staying in homestays, Airbnbs, and going off the tourist trail.
Personal contribution to a humanitarian volunteering or a science-based project in wildlife conservation or anything else with an ethical non-profit or charity operator can create memories for a lifetime.
Ask your hotel staff about local tipping etiquette and always carry small change.
To get around, Uber is handy. Many metropolitan areas offer excellent public transport (download the corresponding app), car-sharing concepts (BlaBla Car, Your Drive, ZipCar) and bicycle hire. If you're unfamiliar with local rates and do find yourself in a taxi, watch the meter. Tourist meters are a thing.
While common sense and a healthy portion of good luck can help prevent most things, I do recommend a personal safety alarm and a door stop for solo (female) travellers.
Above all, a little bit of kindness goes a long way. Locals are a lot more helpful than a quick Google search, and a simple "Hello" can invite genuine friendship. Ultimately, travel consists of trial and error. We are all born with an innate sense of curiosity. Use it and enjoy it.
Austrian-born, New Zealand-based Carmen Huter launched her travel and lifestyle blog in March 2015. She now travels full-time and has more than 51,000 Instagram followers.