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23 Lessons I Have Learnt From Traveling

Written by 30 August 2011 11 Comments

I stumbled across Karen’s blog, Dreamin’ The Life, and her incredibly poignant and insightful post of ‘27 things I’ve learnt in 27 years’. It got me thinking, what had I learnt in my 23 years? I don’t feel particularly wise at all and feel I have so much to see/learn/do/go, but as Karen said, “sometimes you have to stop, and look back and realise you’ve come a long way.” Traveling is a major focus of mine and is a passion that I’ve been able to seriously pursue at an early age which I am forever grateful for, so I thought it was about time I shared 23 things I have learnt while roaming the world armed with a backpack:

Photograph: Lu Lu Foster

1. Traveling with a friend can leave amazing memories, but traveling alone is more eye-opening.

2 Only forward-plan when dealing with visas.

3. Homesickness can strike at any point. So can diarrhoea.

4. If you find somewhere better than home, why not leave?

5. Tour group holidays/tour buses can be fun if you have never travelled alone before. If you’re an experienced traveller you may find it patronizing and a drag being trapped on a bus with strange people.

Photograph: Kiwiexperience.com

6. The beauty of traveling without a strict itinerary is that it’s impossible to guess what’s around the corner.

7. When on a boat in rough waters, focus on the horizon to keep the vomit down. On a bouncing boat in the dark? Good luck.

8. Hippy pants have a time and a place: exotic locations. Not rolling around in your home city centre.

9. When in a Buddhist temple, ensure to sit with feet facing away from the Buddha statue or be prepared to get spanked by a monks bamboo stick.

10. The hype of a destination can often set you up for disappointment. Take what people say with a pinch of salt but still check it out!

11. You don’t need five pairs of trainers, seven pairs of pumps that range in heel height, four identical dresses (just in case!) and thirty pairs of denim shorts. Pack light as after a while, your backpack will definitely weigh you down.

12. If you feel that the boy with the nose ring could be the love of your life… why not?

13. Photographs help record and capture moments. A travel journal is priceless.

14. Traveling helps you discover exactly what you’re capable of, whether it is jumping out of a plane or putting your hand down a squat toilet to retrieve a room key.

15. The world isn’t actually that big. You may very well bump into someone in Bali who you served pints to at your student union bar in England.

16. Traveling on a budget isn’t a myth. Just don’t be squeamish about the quality of the guesthouse and man the f*ck up.

17. The kindness of strangers demonstrates that people in general are genuine. But don’t ignore your gut feeling if you find yourself in a sticky situation.

18. Your independence gets exercised to the extreme and with that, confidence in yourself and in your decisions grows.

19. Companions and friends will appear along the way when traveling alone. Don’t sweat it and chill out with a beer. That’s when they will find you.

Photograph: Kate McCulley

20. Attempt understanding the local languages and culture, roll with the inevitable cultural differences and don’t be surprised with the amount of McDonalds that litter the world.

Photograph: Karn G. Bulsuk

21. I can survive without my daily western lifestyle luxuries: No laptop, no hairdryer, unreliable centuries old mobile phone, limited beauty products, unnecessary make-up, espresso coffees… roughing it is easy as everyone’s doing it.

22. America, Europe, Australia, Canada, Britain… no matter where they’re from, there’ll be certain travellers giving their home country a bad name. Hopefully you’ll encounter the ones who will restore your faith in that particular country.

23. Everything will be o.k. in the end, and if it’s not o.k. then it’s not the end.

In conclusion, I’m pretty sure traveling has done me more good than harm and I look forward to another twenty-three years of it. Feel free to share what you’ve learnt!

Happy traveling. xx

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  • Sarah said:

    Beautiful post :)

  • Steve said:

    Word! Nice Post – thanks a lot.

  • FourJandals said:

    Awesome list – particularly like point 3. Both can strike at any time. The worst part is they will often strike after one another. Weirder if its homesickness first though…

  • Michelle said:

    Easily one of my favorite posts :)

  • Amy (Australasia Dreaming) said:

    This is wonderful – and so true!

    I’m a stickler for planning where I’m going when I travel alone, though, so that I can be sure not to go over budget – but once I’m in a destination, I like to make my mind up as and when :)

    The advice about hype, though, isn’t always accurate – seeing Uluru, Australia, was one of the most stunning experiences of my life, even though it had bee built up beyond belief!

  • Port119 said:


    Words of Wisdom:
    “Everything will be o.k. in the end, and if it’s not o.k. then it’s not the end.”

    and so true ;-)

  • Viola said:

    Even in my Forties I can’t add any point…
    You only get more cautious with the time… you completely rely on your own, as no parents will refill your credit card and you don’t feel homesick anymore ;-)

  • Roselle said:

    I just to recommend a blog to you, it’s by a female blogger from the Philippines and she also quit her job to go backpacking across SE Asia. Her blog is, http://www.wearesolesisters.com

  • Akshata said:

    Words real beautiful words you said. I totally agree with you. Travelling alone is an eye opener. When I first travelled alone I was a bit scared as it was almost against the rules of Indians or people think so. But by the end of the I could understand my self much better and I fell in love with my self.

  • Eunice said:

    I’ve learnt that I could not live without having travels on my plans!
    I also learnt that the friends you meet during your travels are the best friends you can ever have.

  • Gemma said:

    Great post. Traveling sure makes you learn and realise a lot. I’ve grown as a person and learnt so much since leaving home 17months ago, waay more than I had in the previous 5 years! I find it hard to write down those lessons though, because I’m constantly having them reinforced and new ones popping up!

    P.S. no 23 is my favourite :) it’s so true!

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