Today’s post is all about what I learned from travelling. Why I hear you ask? Well ten years ago I was just returning from a five month trip travelling the globe. Which seems crazy, where did all the time go? Anyway, back then Fi and I had always discussed going travelling after university, so after graduation we spent six months working to save enough money, before jumping on a plane at Heathrow on a cold day in February with our travelling companion and fellow globe trotter, Sam. What followed was five months of exploring.
We took a total of 13 flights, countless buses and eight boats during that time. There was horse riding through a Lord of the Rings river, swimming with fish in Fiji and surviving a taxi driver in Singapore who fell asleep at the wheel. We saw the sunrise on the beaches of New Zealand, celebrated Fourth of July in Chicago and found fireflies in underground caves. It really was the trip of a lifetime.
I look back now and realise just how lucky I was to have these experiences. And while I wouldn’t change that trip for anything, there are things I wish I’d have known. So that’s what I’m sharing today. The things I wish I’d known before I hopped on that first flight, or as I like to call it….
What I Learned From Travelling
1/ Go Off The Beaten Track
As much as I love a good guide book, it’s also good to find your own way sometimes. Yes, it’s nice to know the ‘must sees’ of places, but it’s equally good to find your own version of these. So make the time to go and explore the unknown. Or walking in a city, rather than taking public transport. We found the best restaurant in New York when we did this. Likewise with some of the beaches we found in New Zealand.
2/ Air Travel Is Safe
Before going travelling I wasn’t a fan of travelling by plane. I hated take-off and each bump of turbulence felt, to me, like we were about to crash. The only part of flying I could handle was the landing, and that was only because it meant I’d be getting off the plane. Fast forward through 13 flights during those five months of travelling and these flying issues were cured. I found that the more I travelled by plane, the more used to it I became, until suddenly getting on a plane was no big deal. In fact I embraced it, because it meant that I would soon have somewhere new to explore. And then each new take off or bump of turbulence wasn’t a problem, it felt like a speed bump or something totally unimportant.
3/ Global Brands Are Not The Same Everywhere
This may seems like an odd thing to add to this list, but I definitely wish I’d have known this before travelling. Basically recognisable brands are not the same in every country so when you want some home comforts don’t expect those familiar brands to help you out. There was one day in New Zealand when we were all feeling particularly in need of home comforts. Our hostel was awful, we were exhausted, and didn’t fancy pasta for dinner (again), so we decided to treat ourselves with a trip to Nandos. Big mistake! We didn’t get the meal we were expecting and actually it made us feel even worse, we’d have been better of treating ourselves to coffee and cake instead! Likewise when we bought Cadbury’s chocolate in New Zealand. There must be something in it to stop it melting, plus the milk used is different, so of course the taste is different too. Sad times!
4/ Don’t Feel Guilty For Rest Days
This is an important one, and something that took me awhile to figure out. But rest days are important when you’re travelling. Yes, you’re trying to see so many things in such a short time, but you mustn’t forget to look after yourself, and that’s where rest days come in. We did not allow ourselves enough of these during our trip. Which is why we ended up spending three of our five Miami days doing nothing but watching TV and sleeping. Luckily it was raining through all of these days, so we didn’t feel guilty about it. We were all exhausted and needed to recharge our batteries, because we’d not let ourselves do it earlier on in the trip. So that’s a lesson learned from travelling, have a break!
5/ Don’t Overplan
This is probably the key thing I learned from travelling. I’m a planner, and so are the people that I travelled with, so we were always going to have a well planned adventure. With our round the world ticket we had to book all our flights in one go, which was perfect. It meant we knew our plan of countries, and time spent in each, early on in the planning stages. So we planned some bits before we left, hostels for our first few nights in each new country, the Vegas hotel and car hire in NZ. Then each time we arrived in a new country we sat down and figured out a plan for what we wanted to do and how we were going to do it.
It meant that we could work things out, and then book our accommodation and any transport requirements. But what it also meant was that we couldn’t change our plan easily. For example we all loved New Zealand and we knew we had five weeks in the country, so decided to split our time equally between the islands. However when we arrived in the South Island we suddenly realised how much we wanted to do there. Ideally we would have stayed longer, but we had plans in Australia, so that was a no go. Just like when we booked five days in Miami and then realised that we didn’t actually need to stay there that long. But changing our plans would have had an effect on our other plans.
See, too much planning, means it can be too rigid sometimes. I wouldn’t change the trip for anything, but it is good to remember that overplanning can have its drawbacks!
6/ You Can’t Do Everything
As much as I wanted to fit in all of the things, it’s just not possible. With only five months to travel, and a set amount of money, we couldn’t do everything. We had to miss some countries and cities and places.
Yes, we went to Las Vegas. But I didn’t make it to the Grand Canyon from there, which is one of my biggest regrets. In Australia we didn’t manage to visit the Great Barrier Reef, but we did go to Fraser Island. Likewise with how we split our time between New Zealand’s two islands. So that’s one of the biggest things I learned from travelling; you cannot do everything. But that’s okay because there will always be another opportunity.
So there you have it, what I learned from travelling for five months, 10 years ago! I’ve loved putting this post together and reminiscing. Have you travelled for an extended amount of time. What did you learn? What would be your top tips for anyone about to embark on a similar trip?