10 Things It Took Me 10 Months Of Travel To Learn
It genuinely surprises me that even after 10 consecutive months of travel, I’m still learning (and forgetting) the most practical of things. I continue to make the same mistakes, to be disappointed by the same things. I always tell myself that I should, by now, know better. Here are 10 things that – rather embarrassingly – have taken me 10 full months of travel to learn.
#1 A Bigger Budget ≠ A Better Experience
I admit it: I get envious of people posting photos of scenic infinity pools, degustation dining and cocktails from coconuts. But I’ve learned that spending less and sticking to a budget isn’t a bad thing. Chasing what’s cheap will regularly lead you to the most flavoursome meals and the most interesting neighbourhoods. It’ll introduce you to the most colourful personalities and deliver more out-of-the-box experiences. Living cheap is generally living local, and there’s no shame in that.
#2 Google Doesn’t Have All The Answers
With the internet in our pockets, it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and waste hours on your phone researching your destination. The abundance of information is overwhelming. Search long enough and you can find bad reviews on pretty much anything. In less developed countries, online information can be outdated, not available in English or simply not available at all.
I’ve learnt not to let Google be the be-all and end-all of travel planning. Ask a local, talk to fellow travellers and hostel staff or even go old school and walk into a tourist information office. It has saved me time, money and (most importantly) my sanity, and it’s taken me down paths that no webpage could ever have led me to.
#3 Don’t Always Take The Cheapest Flight
Being frugal can be time consuming, but when it comes to flights, saving a few dollars isn’t worth having to deal with frustrating budget airline websites, panic attacks at the baggage scale, 5am departures and terribly long layovers. Sometimes splashing just a little more cash on your flight means you’ll arrive at a better time, more refreshed, after having a better experience.
#4 Know When It’s The Weekend
When you’re away from home and having a great time, it’s easy to lose track of what day it is. Tuesday? Friday? Who cares?
In the routine of moving on the fly, you can be caught out by leaving accommodation and transport to the last minute, only to realise that it’s the weekend and things are fully booked. Try to plan ahead on Fridays and Saturdays when moving on to a new destination. Furthermore, check for any major events that might put a strain on availability. (I’m looking at you, Krakow World Youth Day.)
#5 Things Are Always Better In The Morning
The water is calmer, the crowds are thinner and the ticket queues are shorter. Start early and you have a whole day up your sleeve to do with what you will. You might end up with a spare hour or two in the afternoon to take a nap, call home, or sit and chill with a frosty. As an extra incentive – and this is a big one – the lighting is way better for photos in the morning, so your Instagram will benefit from your early-bird ways.
#6 Always Pack Your Bathers
Summer rule #1: when you leave your accommodation for a day of exploring, always pack your bathers. There’s nothing more disappointing than stumbling across a traditional thermal bathhouse, a waterpark or a natural swimming hole and thinking, “Damn, if only I had my swimmers here.” Oh, and same goes for packing your rain jacket.
#7 Let The Party Come To You
Going out on the town can lead to some of the most memorable experiences of any trip, but I’ve learnt that actively seeking a wild night means the party will never live up to your heightened expectations (kind of like every New Year’s Eve ever). Now, I’ll no longer book a self-proclaimed party hostel or booze cruise in hopes of finding a good time. A great night out will come with the right people in the right place, and you can’t force that.
#8 It’s OK To Not Get Along With Everyone You Meet
Just like with regular life back home, you won’t become besties with everyone you meet, nor should you try to. Spend your time with people who you genuinely bond with, and politely take a step away from those you don’t. Don’t feel that you need to “collect” friends or exchange details with everyone. Your time away will be all the better for it.
#9 Feeling Homesick Is Fine
Homesickness can be debilitating. This year I have missed, among other things, a wedding, a funeral and the first year of my niece’s life. But missing home reminds us of what’s waiting for us when we return, and it good motivation to keep on going. Plus, home is never more than a video call away.
#10 Your Travel Bucket List Will Never End
Every time I tick off a destination, I add three more. By learning about neighbouring countries, meeting locals or hearing about inspiring adventures from new friends on the road, the list only ever gets longer. That’s what makes travel so addictive, right?
(All photos: Kate McCabe. Lead image: Kristina Wagner / Unsplash)