1. Don’t buy the biggest backpack you can find.
You think you’ll be fine if you get a bigger pack so you can fit all your stuff in it, but it just becomes brutally heavy. Pack what you know you will need and bring NOTHING else. Seriously, don’t bring anything you think, “well just incase” because you won’t wear it or use it and it will just end up adding extra pounds to your bag. Pack your bag then unpack it and repack it, while removing everything you aren’t sure you’ll use.
2. Souvenirs are a complete waste of money.
Don’t spend any money on material items, unless you’re in need of something on the trip. If I buy anything while I’m traveling it’s a sticker, they’re small, light and inexpensive. If you buy a t-shirt at every place you go you’ll end up adding extra things you don’t need and you’ll wish you still had that wasted $20 to use for a couple meals or a hostel, depending where you are in the world.
3. Traveling isn’t a vacation.
Traveling long-term is exhausting. I don’t think most people realize how time consuming planning, researching and budgeting is. When you’re not out exploring a place you’re usually trying to book your next plane ticket or bus ticket, while trying to find out what there is to do at your next destination. It’s a never-ending cycle of planning and being prepared.
4. Always leave much earlier than suggested to make it on time.
One more time for the people in the back, ALWAYS leave MUCH earlier than suggested to make it on time. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been told it will only be a 15 minute walk or if I catch that tram it will get me there in 5 minutes, but things never work out. I’ve almost missed the only bus to bring me to an airport that was an hour way because I waited for a tram that wasn’t coming and then started walking in the wrong direction because the directions I were given at the hostel were wrong. Or when I almost missed a tour bus because there was two streets with the same name about half a kilometer away from each other. Something is bound to go wrong, and if it doesn’t being early won’t kill you, in fact it will help you breathe easier.
5. Traveling alone is honestly better.
When you’re traveling with someone the idea of having a mate by your side seems awesome, until you don’t want to do the same things, or they want to go home and you want to go out. Or until you start getting irritated with each other over directions and destinations. Traveling alone might seem scary, but it’s not as bad as it seems. You’ll meet tons of friends along the way for the most part and rarely be on your own unless you actually want to be.
6. Hostels are the best way to go and sharing rooms aren’t that bad.
I was a bit worried the first time I stayed in a hostel, then I realized it was kind of like college dorm rooms. You meet people and you spend time with them for a little bit then go your own ways. Some people you’ll never talk to again or some can become your life long friends, it all depends. And definitely check out Hostelworld before booking a hostel because the reviews are super helpful.
7. Lonely Planet can be a life saver if you’re worried about traveling alone.
Lonely planet offers a service called “travel buddies & for sale” where you can actually input your dates and locations and find other solo travelers who are looking for companions to meet up with. It’s a great way to talk to other’s about their experiences and make connections before you even arrive.
8. You’ll never be able to do everything.
I think this one is hard for every traveler to grasp, but it’s impossible to do it all, no matter how hard you try. There will be two things you want to do, or something that just isn’t in your budget, or a destination you can’t make it to because of time. You’ll never be able to hit every spot on the map because there is too much in the world to do and see, and sometimes that’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true. You have to prioritize what you really want to see and do.
9. Leave all your expectations behind.
The only thing worse than having high expectations is being disappointed when those expectations aren’t met. Everyone I met has loved Melbourne, I thought it was an OK city and I didn’t feel the need to stay there more than one day. I had an alright time, but it wasn’t all it was made out to be. So, I learned to leave your expectations behind and just live in the moment. Go to your destination with a blank mindset and just wrap yourself up in the moments of your trip because there will be things you see and do that just completely blow your mind in the best way possible because you weren’t expecting how beautiful it could be. Expectations can either make or break a trip, so try to leave them at the airport because some people’s dream destinations could be another person’s nightmare.
10. The urge to travel more doesn’t simply “go away.”
The thing with traveling is that no matter what once you’ve got the “wanderlust bug” it’s more than likely always going to be there. You’re always going to find yourself looking up plane tickets, even if you had no intentions to go to a place once you get an email with airfare deals you instantly start considering it. I’ve started considering going places because I meet someone who went there or because a friend lives there and I want to go so it’s a perfect excuse.
11. You can’t travel forever and not work.
Money is not infinite, no matter how much we wish it were. It will run out and you will have to work. The best thing I can recommend if you’re trying to avoid the “real world” as long as possible is to find jobs that are temporary in order to earn some extra cash. Hostels usually have signs hanging up for work, but also talk to others about what they’ve done for money. I’m currently working a 10-day fair in South Australia for money. The work might not always be enjoyable, but the trip you’ll get out of it will be.
12. You learn to adjust your mindset quiet frequently.
Sometimes things might not work out like you expected, but tough shit. That’s the way it’s going to be. You’re not home anymore so you don’t have the comfort you’re used to. You might be completely sick of Thai food, but you’re in Thailand so street food it is for another meal. You might hate a certain food, but it’s basically eat it or starve. While traveling you don’t always have tons of options, sometimes you just have to suck it up and do the best you can with what you have.
13. Doing nothing is insanely boring, even if you’re sitting on the beach.
As much as people think sitting around all day with nothing to do is fun, it’s not. It’s absolutely boring and actually starts to drive you insane. You need to do something, whether it’s study, or create a travel blog, or pick up a new hobby based on your location. But sitting around with nothing to do for extended periods of time is not all it’s cracked up to be. If you find nothing else to do volunteer somewhere, it will feel good for the soul and make you not feel so brain-dead and useless.
14. People are generally nice.
A lot of times we generalize the world as “scary” but it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be. I’ve meet some really nice people stopping them on the street to ask for directions, of course some people will walk by, but most are happy to help. I’ve trusted strangers enough to leave my laptop out in cafés when I’m going to the bathroom. The world isn’t evil; sometimes you just need to give people a chance. People also love to talk to you when they notice your accent in a foreign location. They like to hear your background and it’s surprisingly nice to talk to people who are interested in your life. You can have some of the best conversations with people you meet on the streets.
15. It can be very lonely from time to time.
There are days when you wonder if it’s all worth it. There are days you want to quit and not get on any of your other plane rides and just book a one-way flight home because you miss familiarity and your family and friends. There are times when you feel sad you’re missing out on everything back home and feel like everyone has forgotten all about you. But then you have moments where you’re in total awe of the world or you meet someone and they feel like your soul friend. You have hard times, but the good times more than outweigh the bad and you’re reminded why you do what you do. Embrace the bad times, but also love the good times.
16. Speed is not everything.
You’ll burn yourself out and your bank account out if you try to cram everything you want to do into a short window of time. Instead of trying to hit four countries in a month period, only aim for two. Take your time exploring and really make the most of your trip. It will save you money and exhaustion from trying to jam it all into a tight window.
17. You will need to go home.
If you’re starting to get irritated, your emotions are running all over the place and you’re bank account is barely afloat it’s probably time to head home. Going home doesn’t mean you’ve failed it simply means you need to recharge. It means you need to get ahold of your life again before you head back out into the world. Traveling the world is fun, but sometimes we all need a little refresher away from hostels and planes, and to be around people we love for a little bit.