Over the last three years I’ve made plenty of mistakes and errors in judgement as I’ve travelled around the world – I’ve stayed in yucky hostels, been scammed out of money at border crossings, packed too much in my backpack, stayed too long in some places and not stayed long enough in others. But through all these mistakes (or rather, adventures), I’ve learnt so much about who I am as a person and what sort of traveller I want to be. As I always say, the bad times make the best stories. But it’s not just the mistakes that teach you, you learnt a lot from just the actual act of travelling… the good and the bad all encompassed. So here it is, my own personal list of all the things I’ve learnt from 3 years of travel.
1. Never trust every review you read, and don’t obsess over reviews either. For every 50 positive ones, there will always be 1 that completely changes your mind about a place. Just visit/stay/eat at that place and form your own opinion!
2. You can travel comfortably for a very long time with very few possessions. Don’t pack your whole life into your bag…you’re the one who has to carry it!
3. Backpack or suitcase? It really doesn’t matter! It’s totally down to personal preference and what sort of trip you’re going on. I started with a backpack but now travel with a wheelie split luggage bag which I love so much more than lugging my life around on my back!
4. You don’t need 1000 photos of everything single thing you see. Sure, it’s nice to have a few photos to remember your trip by, or make a scrapbook, or whatever you like to do, but sometimes your brain will make a better memory than your camera ever will.
5. On that thought, make sure you get some photos of yourself. On my first solo trip around the USA, I took a gazillion photos in 3 months, and only about 3 had me in them!
6. The people you meet on the road could become the most important people in your life.
7. Your money goes a lot further in Cambodia than it does in Australia. If you’re going to visit western countries like Oz, NZ or the USA, try to get some sort of working visa so you can earn while you travel.
8. The world is not as scary as it might seem…
9. …And it is definitely not as scary as everyone at home tells you to try to dissuade you from travelling.
10. If you carry a camera around your neck, a fanny pack around your waist and hold a map in your hand, you WILL look like a tourist. Everyone will know you have no idea where you’re going and that you don’t really belong. But if you’re ok with that, no one actually cares.
11. If you DON’T want to look like a tourist, put all your gear away, walk around like you know where you’re going and soak up every moment with your eyes and ears instead of through a camera lens.
12. Hostels are awesome places to meet like-minded travellers, especially if you’re travelling solo.
13. Hostels are terrible places to get a solid night’s sleep. Just fork out the extra money and get a private room.
14. Night buses in Asia really aren’t that bad. Just keep all your valuables on your person and leave nothing of value in your bag in the hold of the bus.
15. Drivers in Vietnam use their horn instead of their brakes.
16. Speaking of Vietnam… the only way to actually get across a road is to just go for it. Keep an eye out for cars and the moped will all just swerve around you.
17. Before you agree to a taxi/tuk tuk ride, settle on a price first.
18. It’s ok to barter over prices in certain countries, just try to catch yourself when you get down to the pennies that don’t make a difference to you but could make a huge difference to the seller.
19. Skydiving if the GREATEST feeling in the world. There is nothing else like it and the only way to experience that freedom is to literally jump out of a plane and soar like a bird.
21. New Zealand makes a great place for a road trip. Just keep track of your fuel consumption. Getting stuck in the middle of nowhere when you run out of gas is only funny in reflection.
22. I know I’ve mentioned before, but don’t stay in 10-bed hostel dorms. People will keep you up all night. Either that or they’ll pee on your bed.
23. Travel is about more than how much alcohol you can consume in each place.
24. If you get travel sick, ALWAYS carry some ginger tablets with you. Also NEVER sit on the top bunk of a bus in SE Asia.
25. Wherever you go, you will always miss home and everyone there. There will be moments when you are totally consumed with homesickness. But that doesn’t mean you don’t love your what you’re doing and where you are. And it doesn’t necessarily mean you want to go home.
26. New places and new people make pretty much every experience feel meaningful.
27. A rainy day will always dampen your spirits and a sunny day makes everything better. Every time.
28. Sometimes it’s ok to lie on a beach all day or stay in bed watching movies. Doing nothing can be just what you need. Not every day has to be filled with sightseeing and culture.
29. You are allowed to change your mind. About the food your ordered, the hostel you’re staying in, the date of your flight, the countries you want to visit, or even about travelling at all.
30. Travel is much more fulfilling when you feel like you are doing it for a reason, rather than just aimlessly wandering for the sake of it. Whatever you do and however you travel, do it because you are excited about and it makes you happy.
31. Living and working in another country gives you an entirely different perspective than just travelling through it does.
32. Secret money belts of pouches that you wear under your clothes are totally ridiculous. You don’t need them. Just keep your wits about you the same way you would in your own country and you’ll be perfectly safe.
33. If you want to travel and that’s your dream, then travel… just get out there and do the things you want to do. Work hard, save hard, plan hard and go. The world is waiting for you.
These are only a few of the many, many, many things I think I’ve learnt over the last few years… I could probably go on and on for ever. But I won’t.
What are some other things that YOU’VE learnt from your own travels?