This series of posts documents two ordinary folks attempting to get out there and do good. Over the next few months, we’ll follow them through the setbacks and triumphs of their endeavor to take the inspiration of Mountainfilm and turn it into something tangible. (To catch up. start here.)

Having navigated our way through another ex-pat experience, we thought we’d share our pearls of wisdom we know our readers are eager to hear. Spending time overseas can be an enjoyable and meaningful experience, but it takes a little finesse. A lot of things will be fun and different right off the bat, but others will be extremely difficult and require some adaptation. Here are a few tips to enjoy your time abroad.

Weekends: One of the sweetest side benefits of volunteering in a foreign and exotic place is getting to explore said foreign and exotic place. As with any job, your weekends are your time to unwind. Typically, traveling in the countries you would volunteer in will be less expensive than traveling in the US. Jenny and I have enjoyed several great weekend getaways with all the bells and whistles at about a fifth of the cost a similar vacation in the States.

Transportation: You can be as obruni as you want and take private transportation, but you’re going to pay for it. Learning to use the local mode of transport will save you lots of cash and will leave you with a disproportionate sense of accomplishment for mastering what every child in the country can do before they turn five. Sure, you’ll be accosted by the occasional drunk guy, but you’ll also get to interact with locals.

Food: Don’t be a McDonald’s hopper. Eat the food. If you’re craving more familiar fare, every now and then you will undoubtedly stumble across a place that will serve you a burger. Plus, many cultural exchanges take place around the dinner table, and gastronomically speaking, there are few better ways to experience a culture. If you insist on being picky, consider looking into domestic volunteer opportunities.

Local custom: Keep your head on a swivel. Don’t wear tiny clothes if people aren’t wearing tiny clothes. Pay attention to whether or not people are eating with their left hand (AHEM Jenny…). Don’t pick up any bad habits (e.g. littering), but don’t be a jerk about it either.

Language: No one expects you to speak like a native, but, at the very least, learning a few words in the local language shows respect towards your host country, and people will take note and treat you accordingly.

Diarrhea: You’re going to get diarrhea. Stop smirking – you’re going to get diarrhea. Pack Ciproflaxin for traveler’s diarrhea and Imodium for your run-of-the-mill diarrhea. After all that, you’ll probably be constipated.

Health (other than diarrhea): Advil for aches and pains, Tylenol for fever, maybe a Z-Pack for anything more serious. Oh, and if you’ll be in a part of the world where malaria is a problem, take your anti-malarials. You WILL get bitten by mosquitoes no matter how careful you are, and malaria can stick with you for the rest of your life.