Travelling will change you like little else can. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a newfound respect for the sheer amount of diversity in the world and you’ll realise that sometimes, all you want is to be in your own bed with a home cooked dinner by your mum.
I heard all this, plus the usual tirade of advice (read about the place before you go, learn local phrases, respect the culture, etc., etc.,) before I started travelling but there was still a fair bit to learn and some advice I wish someone had told me before I even started planning my trip.
1. Fuck checklists
Dear 18-year-old-me: countries are not an item on a checklist to be ticked off just because you’ve been there for a day. You haven’t ‘done’ Paris just because you’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, nor are cities a thing for you to ‘do’ in the first place.
Nobody really cares about how many countries you’ve been to, and if they do, they probably place undue value on similarly loaded numerical values (height, income, girth).
2. Don’t be afraid to slow down
Instead of chasing the country-count like a high score, don’t be afraid to strip your destination list down to fewer countries to spend more time in them. You’ll get to know the character of each town better, make deeper friendships with fellow travellers, and uncover dope eating/drinking/sitting spots you’d have otherwise missed.
Plus, spending heaps of time on buses and trains getting between places is a real convenient way to get burnt out on your holiday – the saddest oxymoron to exist.
3. It’s okay to be lazy every now and then
Since you’ve got more days at each destination, you’re free to spend some time reverting to your natural mode: lazy. I’m not saying you should be doing this loads (don’t spend hundreds of dollars on flights to Thailand just to scroll through Facebook in your hostel room), but it is okay to take a day or evening off every now and then to rejuvenate.
4. No, you don’t need to bring that
Seriously, you do not need three different jackets on your beach tour of Asia. Pack less, goddamit.
5. Just ‘cause you’re friends with them doesn’t mean you should travel with them
While the idea of sinking Bintangs and chasing sunsets with ya bestie sounds great on paper, you’re forgetting the fact that you’re spending literally every waking moment with them for months.
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll definitely have trips with mates that turn out sweet and enrich the friendship and all that shit, but some friends are just friends you should just never travel with. And that’s okay – they’re still mates at home.
6. Pack a sewing kit
Because you never know when you’ll get a tear in the crotch of the only pants you packed, or when an impromptu arts and craft party will get you laid (if you have to ask how, you’ll never know).
7. There is no ‘right’ way to travel
Don’t trust anyone that goes on spouting that the only way to travel is to do x, y, and z; they are most definitely a wanker. Travelling means something different to everyone, and what works for one person won’t always work for another.
It’ll be great when you come across people that enjoy travelling the same way you do, but don’t listen to people that say you’re doing it wrong. Sleep in if you want to, or wake up at 5am every damn day if that makes you happy – your way is the right way for you.
8. Don’t rely too much on guidebooks
Guidebooks are great for practical details, like how to get to places and what draws people to particular spots, but sometimes the people writing them just have different ideas of what constitutes a good time.
Plus, those Lonely Planet ‘hidden gems’ always turn into overcrowded tourist traps, and sticking to somebody else’s itinerary doesn’t leave much room for spontaneity.
9. Find a fun way to document the trip (but don’t let it get in the way of enjoying the moment)
Whether it be through photos, videos, or blogging, having some sort of documentation of your travels helps keep those memories intact, as well being a great way to reflect on your adventures. Just don’t be that guy that heads to waterfalls specifically to catch ‘grams.
10. It’s damn addicting
Be warned: the cost of your first trip isn’t just flights and travel expenses, but the price of every holiday you book afterwards, once you realise how fucking fun travelling is.
Your savings for the next several years will be solely and annually haemorrhaged for travel, and it’ll get in the way of dumb things like finishing uni on time and getting a full time job – but it’ll be totally worth it.