Before entering my 30th year on this planet, I wanted to reflect on my 20s and all the globetrotting I’ve done. Although my 20s were my golden years of travel, I definitely learned some things the hard way while jet-setting around the world.
Social travel norms were pretty overwhelming for me, and advice on how break them wasn’t as easily available then as it is now.
So, here are six things I wish I had known about travel in my 20s:
1. Travel doesn’t need to be expensive.
I remember trying to figure out my expenses as I stared aimlessly at my PC at work. Where did all my money vanish? How in the world would I save any money for travel if I didn’t have any left at the end of the day? Back then, travel meant hotel rooms and fancy resorts because that’s what was advertised. Instagram hadn’t been born yet, and blogging was in its infancy. Resources that told you travel could be cheap were few and far between. I knew I was flexible and was willing to give up on comfort, but I didn’t know concepts like couch-surfing and house-sitting existed. If done right, they could have even assisted me in my long-term travel.
2. It’s OK to quit your job to travel.
Showing up every day to do my job and be civil to everyone around me while working at a place I hated wasn’t easy. The two-hour commute in a battered bus was even worse. However, the pennies I earned were still money. I just wish I knew that eventually, I would end up finding something I loved. But at that moment, my sanity and happiness was important. I needed to explore and find my preferences.
If I had continued putting something aside for a rainy day, I could have taken the plunge eventually. It may not have lasted for a long duration but would have been enough to make me feel happy and gather my thoughts.
Maybe it wouldn’t have worked out but I know for sure from past experiences I would have definitely seen my present situations in a new perspective and the new found wisdom would have been refreshing.
3. Travel should be about your unique experience.
I now realize I visit the same places and my perception of travel has changed. Some of the things that fascinated me as a teenager, no longer do and the route that I take keeps changing and is unique every time. Taking cheesy pictures and then comparing those pictures among friends are some of the funniest memories I have of my travels as a teen. At that time travels such as these, were frowned upon. Instead of taking the preachers to heart, I wish I’d continued being naive as that was when I was at my happiest. I didn’t have to be a nuisance, just travel as I pleased.
4. Travel isn’t always pretty.
When I visited Jodhpur I frowned at the number of tourists milling around. My version involved an elaborate palace with no visitors and me being the only one posing around for pictures! So not right! Only when I let go of my mental picture of the perfectly painted attraction did I start noticing the commotion around and the beautiful children playing silly games by the road-side. I also noticed the wafting smells of street food and in fact those are the memories that pop up when I think of Jodhpur. Locations may not match the fantasy you had about them, but in addition to having fun, there’s always something new to gain from a place.
5. It’s mostly safe to travel solo.
Whenever I declared I was done waiting for everyone and was going to travel solo, I was asked if I’d watched Hostel. While Hostel gives me goose bumps, I wish I knew it wouldn’t be a replay that included me, if I remained alert. It took me a few years to ignore the well-wishers and step out by myself.
If you’re aware of your surroundings and ensure you’re connected to the world or friends and relatives know of your whereabouts it’s going to be ok. It’s necessary to keep an eye on your belongings while you wander, or if they aren’t required to keep them in your room.
Speaking to the locals about customs and traditions, what is considered appropriate to wear and the common scams helped greatly when I traveled. Do not hesitate to ask for help and avoid walking alone at night based on the neighbourhood. And while impromptu travel may seem appealing, do your research. Always.
6. You don’t need to wait for people to accompany you.
I’d have massive savings now with all the pennies I put aside every time someone cancelled plans. I believed to have fun you needed a group of your besties to travel along and have insane parties that lasted till the wee hours of the morning. If I knew hostels existed to make new friends and get a taste of the local culture (pun not intended) I would have minimized group plans. I was getting restless and annoyed every time someone cancelled and in turn I had to eventually cancel my plans too. Not everyone prioritizes travel above everything else. Not everybody will be able to synchronize their plans (and expectations) in accordance with yours.
So just go!