11 Lessons Learned While Travelling

Whether it’s being sick in Thailand, New York or South America, or nearly missing flights due to unexpected celebrations, or realising this is your one chance to do something in a particular place, there are so many lessons learned while travelling!

Umbelle, Leopard

Umbelle, Leopard, Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary

I could almost write a book on the topic! I won’t though, instead I’ll keep my lessons short and snappy for any traveller to learn from!

1. Travel with travel insurance

Just do it. Whether you are going for a short or long trip, you’ll get sick when you don’t expect it, loose or break something when you don’t expect it or have to cancel plans — you got it — when you don’t expect it!

2. When you feel unwell see a doctor sooner rather than later

Don’t put off the enviable and have to deal with ongoing sickness through various countries. If your insured (see point 1) whether it is a small or big issue you’ll generally be covered at no permanent cost to you. I learned this the hard way. Do as I say, not do as I do.

monkey chichico, volunteering in Ecuador

monkey chichico, volunteering in Ecuador

3. Always bring tissues or toilet paper and hand sanitizer

Especially if you’re camping in Africa. Or travelling through South America. Or going to a military hospital on the edge of the Amazon. In fact, next time I go to Africa I’m even going to look into the female device to go toilet while standing!

Sea lion on the pier at San Cristobal

Sea lion on the pier at San Cristobal, Galapagos

My Dutch friend Eveline and I in Patagonia

My new Dutch friend Eveline and I in Patagonia

4. Be flexible on longer trips

I used to plan down to the tiny details of how to get from the train station to the hostel, granted on shorter trips planning can help optimise your time. However, on longer trips — say backpacking around South America, one of the best things I did was keep myself open for meeting people and changing plans based on recommendations. Next time I do a long trip I think I’ll also consider paying extra for flexible flights — you never know when things will come up or become too much and you’ll want to change your plans.

5. Time vs Money

Option 1: Pay the most amount of most and get somewhere quickly to appreciate the time you have there.
Option 2: Pay as little as possible, deal with out-of-the-way airports, arrive at stupid times that you can’t check in and be exhausted at a destination
Option 3: Somewhere in-between. This is what I’ve grown to do more and more. I realise cheap travel is great, but only if you are not too tired to enjoy it and sometimes spending a bit more can help the process a bit more seamless.

Me with Bobby

Me with Bobby, the baby baboon in Namibia

6. Be a responsible traveller

It’s easy to do things that you’ve never experienced before without thinking of the implications, but I urge you to think carefully sometimes. When it comes to animals consider what they have gone through to allow you to be there with them. Riding elephants and touching drugged tigers is not something to be proud of. Those poor animals have gone through hell to be there for your enjoyment – don’t encourage it! Sometimes there is a fine line when it comes to voluntourism, with this one it’s important to do your research and speak to people who have been there before if possible! With animals, consider why they can’t go back into the wild and if places are doing anything to assist those that can return to the wild. Are the animals even really endangered that they need a breeding program? Are those orphans really orphans?

Leopards

Leopards, Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary

 

Atlanta Couple, San Fran

Atlanta Couple, San Fran

7. People aren’t as scary as you think

When it comes to solo travel it’s easy to avoid talking to people for fear that they could be creeps and hurt you. Pick and choose those that you talk to but learn to be friendly and open, some of the best chats I’ve had are with complete strangers over breakfast or a rainy afternoon in a hostel.

8. Take a spare set of clothes in your carry on

You never know when your luggage will go missing! Always consider one night/day without your luggage, what do you most need.

9. Doing things because you’re there, not worrying too much about money

Bungee Jumping

Bungee Jumping, Jinja, Uganda. Definitely outside of my comfort zone.

I’m a budget solo traveller, but there is always somewhere new to visit and I may never return to experience a place in the same way as I did the first time. I’ve learnt to appreciate opportunities as they arise, take the bull by the horns and jump straight into it… literally.

Imagine someone saying ‘But this is your one chance you bungee jump over the Nile!’ Well, it had to be done then didn’t it?

At the top of Machu Picchu Mountain

At the top of Machu Picchu Mountain

Imagine the incredible view over the ancient Machu Picchu City from the highest mountain in the valley — yet the fear of heights and falling crawls up your feet to your brain and tells you it’s dangerous… you may never return… do it!

10. Don’t not go somewhere because you’re alone or scared

This is one in particular for the solo travellers. I was nervous as hell the first time I went to Africa and South America. I’d read so many horror stories in blogs, so much so, that I got out of Brazil as soon as I arrived, because I was scared I’d be mugged or get hurt as a skinny white chick travelling alone.

Iguaçu Falls, Brazil

Iguaçu Falls, Brazil

Some of the best experiences I have ever had were in places I was afraid to go. I won’t readily admit to being afraid of these places, but as long as you have your wits about you, make friends with genuine people, you’ll be as safe as you can be. Things will happen wherever you travel. You could get hit by a car tomorrow, you’re never 100% safe, it’s better to make the most of life than live in fear of what could be!

11. Avoid expectations

Do guidebook reading, research and plan, but limit how many photos you look at and stories you hear. Everyone has different expectations and experiences, just because I was sick as a dog in Ecuador doesn’t mean it’s a bad place to visit. Venice isn’t stunning, clean and white, but it’s incredible with all it’s canals and unique architecture and bridges. Bosnia and Herzegovina aren’t filled with land mines, in fact it’s one of the greenest lovely non-touristy countries I’ve been to!

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzgovina

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzgovina

This extends not only to travelling to places you’ve never been, but also to returning to places, whether it be travelling, visiting friends or moving home. Nothing is ever the same twice over, people and places change, you change. Sometimes it can be best to marvel at the time you had and be open to something completely different the next time.

Sheep on Papamoa Hills

Sheep on Papamoa Hills, New Zealand

This was part of a monthly travel linkup, so I hope it’s helped you all as much as it’s made me remember a thing or two!

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