Travel has been one of my most valuable teachers. Rather than sit in a classroom and learn about the world through a someone else’s eyes, I did it through adventures and misadventures, tears and laughter. I know I still have so much to discover, but here are some lessons that sometimes I had to learn the hard way. Some of them I already kinda knew, some I are silly, some are serious, some are obvious, and some are embarrassing. Maybe this collection will help open up new doors in your own life and own travels, and although we will all learn our own lessons, I hope maybe I will help someone avoid some of my mistakes (example: #14). Happy travels!
1. Travel is about the journey, not the destination. The destination is only the means for the journey to begin.
2. Laws prohibiting durian on public transportation are there for a reason.
3. Walking is the best way to explore a new city, and to burn off the calories from those cocktails last night.
4. There are some tourist destinations that are “must-do’s” but they rarely really show you what a place is about.
5. What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.
6. If you can’t pick up your bag, you probably packed too much shit.
7. Mango sticky rice is a wonderful breakfast, dessert and/or midnight snack. The same goes for banana pancakes.
8. Lonely Planet doesn’t know everything.
9. Learn how to bargain.
10. Your whole life can change in a month, but your hometown will be just as you left it.
11. Buying imported booze instead of drinking the local stuff is a fast way to blow your budget.
12. Your friends are as inspired by your travels as they are envious of them. I promise.
13. No matter how many you see, never stop appreciating sunsets.
14. “Embarazado” DOES NOT mean “embarrassed.”
15. Sleep with your valuables as a pillow on overnight Eurorail trips, and in stations. Even then keep on guard.
16. Postcards and tacky heartfelt souvenirs are the cheapest and greatest gift you can give.
17. You can’t get contraceptives, tampons, etc. over the counter in all countries. Plan accordingly.
18. At least attempt to learn the local language. “Hello!” and “Thank you!” will get you farther than you think.
19. Learn how to wash your own clothes.
20. Tattoos are great souvenirs that will last a lifetime.
21. Carabineers are not just for rockclimbing.
22. It’s fun to have a gimmick to make new friends. For example: playing an ukulele, fire dancing, perfecting a card trick, etc. You have the time, learn how to do something!
23. Beware of monkeys. They are absolutely not to be trusted at all.
24. Big or small, boats are fun! (Unless you get seasick, in which case I apologize for being the happy hyper blonde girl talking about how much fun boats are while you were vomiting.)
25. Working on farms is an awesome way to live cheap or free and see a different part of culture.
26. There is something delicious about having sex in foreign countries. Double delicious with a foreigner. Triple if they don’t speak your language very well (or at all).
27. Chronicle your journey: years from now you will be so happy you blogged or journaled.
28. Invest in a comfortable pair of sandals.
29. Bored? People watch. Make up stories about strangers.
30. The world is smaller than you think.
31. Learn the tipping policies of whatever country you are in and adhere to them.
32. More smiling. Less bitching. No matter how miserable you feel, your friends back at home would still trade places with you in a heartbeat.
33. Be wary of accepting tea from merchants, especially in Islam countries, it is how they trap you long enough to hear their full sales pitch.
34. Always have spare toilet paper with you.
35. The famous Koh Phangan Full Moon parties are overrated. There are smaller more intimate parties all over Thailand without thousands of puking, littering, stumbling eighteen year olds. No offense, I was the same way when I was eighteen. But I’m not anymore and have higher party standards.
36. Don’t be a chump, but generosity is a good trait.
37. Wading through crocodile swamps is rarely a good idea.
38. Quitting smoking while on the road is damn near impossible.
39. Don’t touch the dogs in Bali. Don’t go near them. Please.
40. Spending the day looking at street art can be just as rewarding as paying to visit a museum. And will be much cheaper.=
41. “Spicy” has different meanings in different countries. And different chilis can be spicier than nearly identical ones.
42. Deep fried bugs aren’t as gross as you would think, especially after a night of drinking in Phnom Penh.
43. Food poisoning sucks, but is a rite of passage.
44. Sometime you have to embrace clichés.
45. No one wants to buy your friendship bracelets. But they will wear them as anklets for free!
46. Just because you’re on the road does not give you the excuse to slack on hygiene.
47. It does however mean you don’t have to shave. As often anyways.
48. Latino lover stereotypes are basically true. The good ones and the bad ones.
49. Don’t touch Asian people on the head. No matter how cute they are. It’s rude.
50. Respect the elderly wherever you are.
51. Life is a celebration.
52. Bring snacks for airplane, bus, and train rides.
53. The easiest way to adjust to time changes is to make yourself go to sleep at whatever time you would at home in your new zone, whether it means staying up for twenty-four hours, or dosing yourself with a Tylenol PM early.
54. It’s nothing personal babe, but snuggling just doesn’t work in tropical countries with no AC.
55. Pack one little black dress that is wrinkle-proof.
56. Sarongs have a plethora of uses.
57. Please stop littering. This isn’t a travel lesson, this is a life lesson.
58. Not all who wander are lost.
59. Coconuts are full of electrolytes and will make you feel better after a long night of drinking, food poisoning, travel, etc.
60. It’s nice to have a fake wedding ring handy.
61. Drinking with locals is the best way to learn a new language.
63. Read books that take place in the location you are visiting for plenty of daydream material.
64. Make a Couch Surfer account
65. Call your parents just enough so they don’t worry, no matter how old you are, they are still your parents.
66. Trust your instincts.
67. Buy travel insurance.
68. You can wear the smallest bikini in the world in Brazil, but for some reason you can’t sunbathe topless.
69. You actually can’t sunbathe topless in a lot of countries, research before you strip.
70. Good luck finding a burger in India.
71. A deck of cards will give you hours of entertainment and help you make friends.
72. Cockroaches, however disgusting, will not actually hurt you.
73. Guard your passport with your life. Get an under the clothes travel wallet. Please don’t get those ones that go around your neck, they are sooooo ugly and you can see them right through clothes.
74. Research local laws. You never know what weird things may be illegal and/or frowned upon.
75. Talking with other travelers will teach you more than checking government websites.
76. Even if you don’t believe in karma, karma believes in you.
77. Ask before you take pictures of people.
78. Eat less things that come in plastic packaging and more things that grow on trees.
79. Stop and smell the flowers. Especially plumerias.
80. Even if it doesn’t make you look cool or the law doesn’t require it, wear a helmet while on a motorbike whenever possible.
81. Tigerbalm has multiple uses.
82. There is a 95% chance that anything “designer” you buy on the street isn’t. Ray Bans do not equal Ray Bands.
83. Don’t just rely on GPS for road trips. Sometimes the old fashioned way is better.
84. Don’t leave your purse on the table at the bar while you stumble to the bathroom with your friends. (Yeah… I know…I did a lot of stupid stuff when I was eighteen.)
85. Beware that when you see the word “happy” before food or drink (happy-pizza, happy-shake, happy-omelet, etc), it might not be the kind of happy you’re used to. And don’t worry, the rainbow dragons are your friends and will be gone tomorrow back in their magical kingdom.
86. Mini sewing kit.
87. Calm down. Just because you can’t post about it online does not make it less real.
88. No one ever said travel is easy. We all get lonely and homesick.
89. No matter what your beliefs are, respect the local culture. You are a guest.
90. Once you get home, print out some of your favorite photos. When you’re old, are you going to want to pull up your old Facebook page to show your grandkids the pictures, or would you rather pull out a box full of treasures?
91. Wear sunscreen.
92. If you get sunburned, immediately pop an ibprofin, take a cold shower, and slather yourself with sunscreen when you get out. You know how when you get out of the sun you keep on turning redder? These things will stop the burn from intensifying.
93. Ziploc bags do come in handy. As do credit cards.
94. Skinny dip in tropical water under a full moon at least once.
95. Riding camels is AWESOME! (And just a little stinky. But mostly awesome.)
96. Stick to your fitness routine. Yoga on the road helps me so much. Even five minutes every morning of stretching makes a difference.
97. Flipflops come and go. It’s better not to get too attached.
98. Its simpler to pack lots of accessories, than it is to pack lots of clothes. Plus you’ll pick up new threads on the road anyways.
99. A day spent doing nothing in a hammock is a day well spent.
100. There are always more mistakes to be made, more lessons to learn, more adventure to be had, and more sunsets to watch. If there is a way to travel without making mistakes, learning lessons, having adventures, and watching sunsets, then I don’t want to do it.
What are some lessons you have learned from travel? Leave them in the comments below please so others may learn from your mistakes!
* post written by Kyra Bramble. To read more of Kyra’s, check out her website.
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