The first few times I traveled, I made sure to plot out exactly what I wanted to do, how to get there and what restaurants to eat at, as recommended by Trip Advisor. I didn't want to risk getting lost in a place where I didn't speak the language or know how to take the public transportation. Now, I do the exact opposite. No matter what country you're traveling to, make sure to do these five things in order to have the best experience possible.
1. Don't be afraid to get lost
Leave your phone at home and walk around with a paper map the old-fashioned way. Start walking in the direction of a monument, church or other historical point you want to see, and stop to discover other things along the way.
2. Learn the language
While learning fluent Chinese or German two weeks before your trip might not be attainable, you should at least try to learn the most common key phrases. Learn how to say "hello," "thank you" and "goodbye." You can rely on Google Translate to ask for directions or order something specific at a restaurant, but knowing how to greet someone without looking at a phone for translation will go a long way.
3. Learn the history
Don't travel to a country without knowing a single thing about it. Learn what wars the country fought in; the name of the president or prime minister or queen; when it was founded and by whom; what landmarks it's famous for. Knowing at least some of the history behind a country makes it all the more interesting when touring the famous landmarks.
4. Meet new people
Meeting new people in a foreign country is a lot easier than you'd think. If you're staying in a hostel, hang out in the lobby or at the bar and socialize with a group of people. Go to a local pub and watch a sports game with the locals. Go on a walking tour or a pub crawl. Chances are you'll not only meet some really cool locals, but also some other tourists or study abroad students. Making those connections and friendships can be the best part of the trip.
5. Eat the food
Research comes in handy here -- know what food the country specializes in and make sure to try it at least once. Berlin specializes in currywurst and bratwurst. Spain is famous for paella. The French love their cheeses and croissants. Trying the most famous foods in each country helps you to understand the culture better and guarantees a great meal.