1. Everyone – and that means everyone – wants your money.
No matter what country you are in, people will always be trying to lighten your pockets. Whether they are offering you goods or services, or simply appealing to your sympathetic nature, they want your hard-earned money and will say whatever you want to hear to make it happen.
2. You are easy to spot.
There are signs that you are embarking on your first “big” journey. Money belts, carrying your backpack on your front, and strapping every bit of luggage to yourself are sure tell-alls that you are a bit nervous and probably a bit naïve. This isn’t to say you should disregard common sense in certain areas, but if you don’t want to be walked all over, keep that backpack where it belongs.
3. You WILL get ripped off.
Whether it’s because you looked a little too travel green, or you were simply too exhausted to haul your bags any further, at some point or another, someone will get more money out of you than you intended to spend. Everyone who’s done a few miles in developing countries will tell you that even if that hotel room isn’t really worth the $30, sometimes you will be just too damn tired to care.
4. It’s okay to miss where you come from.
People have this weird misconception that once you’re out and doing something new and exciting, you’d be absolutely insane to miss your normal life. Sure, you spend the day on the beach and the nights drinking cold beers with fellow travelers, but you may find yourself pining for hair that isn’t huge in the humidity and a good cup of coffee. Having spent several years in South East Asia as a scuba diving instructor, I can assure you that once in a while, you want to trade your bikini and flip flops for a pair of jeans and a proper supermarket.
5. Illness and injury are – unfortunately – inevitable.
You may have gotten 7 vaccinations in your arse or arm before you set out, but you will eventually fall victim to some sort of traveler’s scourge, whether it’s the tummy troubles of Asia, the motorbike burn on the inner calf, or the infections that breed in humidity. Drink plenty of water, keep your cuts clean, and try to limit your time spent drunk on a motorbike.
6. You’re over packing. Yes, you’ve heard you should pack “light” when you travel.
Actually, you should pack less. If packing was varieties of coke, over packing would be Coca Cola, light packing would be Diet Coke, and what you should pack would be Coke Zero. Seriously. Pack ZERO. You will not wear 12 different shirts, 5 pairs of shorts and 10 cute bikinis. You will pick up whatever is on the floor that isn’t dirty and go about your day. You will regret that extra weight after you’ve lugged a 30kg backpack up a flight of stairs to look at a temple.
7. Itineraries are overrated.
Mapping out every second of your trip never works out well for anyone. It completely inhibits the possibility of falling in love with a place and exploring new things, which could ultimately lead to regret. So you loved Cambodia but your itinerary commanded you were on your way to Vietnam, so you missed out spending more time in a beautiful place you were very interested in? No way. Throw away the schedule and go at your own pace.
8. Don’t stress. Mistakes happen when you travel.
You may miss a train, or a flight, or your tour group leaving for the next hop-on hop-off bus tour. It happens, and the sooner you realize it, the happier you will be. If you find you missed your plane because your Indian cab driver wouldn’t pass the cow standing still in the road, sit back, have a beer and wait for the next one. Relax.
9. Don’t travel someone else’s dream.
The whole point of traveling is to explore and experience things that you are interested in, and that would make you happy. Who cares if you have zero interest in art museums and would rather spend your time in France drinking excellent wine and sampling Brie? Make your own choices when you travel, and you will be fantastically happier. Everyone has a different idea of what makes an amazing trip. Pursue your interests.
10. If you can, travel alone.
It may seem scary and daunting at first, but if you travel with a friend or group of friends you may lose the possibility of meeting certain people and experiencing things that they may hold you back from. Your best friends may not have as much in common with you as you think, and traveling can bring out the best and worst in people. If you really want to experience a place and a new culture, go alone. The people you meet will be an experience in themselves.
Most of all, remember that traveling is far from perfect, and almost never works out the way you expect. If you learn to embrace the spontaneity, you’ll never stop moving.