On my first big trip overseas (without my family), I went with a group of friends who were seasoned travelers. We didn’t have an exact plan, we hadn’t booked accommodation and I was certain we would end up arguing because we had nowhere to stay and no clear agenda.
I loved how wrong I was.
How liberating it was to ‘go with the flow’. How fun it was to meet locals and then figure out the best things to do and see based off their insight. Not following the beaten track of most tourists and spending exorbitant amounts of money on accommodation and tours.
It was on this trip that I got bitten by the travel bug.
I made a promise to myself to intentionally make travelling a huge priority in my life. After visiting several countries now, I wanted to share 5 key things I have learnt:
1 – Don’t over pack. I am a serial over packer
No matter the size of my bag, I have this strange need and desire to always fill it to its capacity. I have recently started watching packing videos on YouTube, and I am looking forward to putting in to practice what I am attempting to preach. Despite struggling to lug my overweight bags all around the globe, I still hadn’t learnt my lesson.
I had this irrational fear that I needed to have everything including the kitchen sink because, heaven forbid, I would be unprepared for a situation that arises.
I think the key problem here is that I would always pack just hours before I would leave to a destination. So here is my advice: Don’t be like me. Take time to pack so you are not left with an overweight case and too many t-shirts and no sweaters in case of a drastic weather change. Be smarter. Pack smarter. Pack lighter.
2 – Take a trip with your BFF
Travelling with your BFF is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experience I have ever had. So much so, that we are committed to an annual trip overseas together. Having a best friend is one of the most important things to me. And having a best friend that you can travel well with, is a true gift. I realize there is a lot to be said for travelling alone and really having to put yourself out there.
But I think the same can be said for the rewarding nature of travelling and making memories with one of your forever friends.
But just because you do have the comfort of someone close, don’t use that as an excuse or safety net to avoid putting yourselves out there. Rather, encourage each other to try new things and talk to people whist feeling safe and comfortable too.
3 – Prepare to be gone all day when you leave your accommodation in the morning
This was a big lesson for me. I would make it to the hotel and sometimes be swayed by the comfort of a bed and shower and happy to call it a night. I really had to work to prevent myself from getting in to that habit. Some of the best parts of discovering a city are experiencing its night life. The same can be said for sleeping in. Avoid doing that too. Be prepared to be tired, and push through it.
Taking everything I would need for the entire day and night when I left my accommodation was a valuable lesson for me.
This meant I was free to continue to explore and be open to getting lost, meeting people or happening upon an event or a group of people without being limited to having to remove myself to go back to my accommodation to get more money, a jumper, a charger, etc. Always pack as if you won’t be back till very late. This was particularly challenging in Japan because the days were sweltering hot and the nights got very cold. The last thing I felt like doing was packing a sweater and carrying it around with me all day, but boy was I appreciative when the temperature dropped and everyone else was freezing!
4 – Eat it
If you are in a country with a language barrier I strongly encourage you to go to a restaurant and let them just bring you food. In fact, I dare you. I did this in Japan and surprisingly it was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. I still have no idea what it was I was eating but I do know that it was delicious. We were nervous, but it was fun and exhilarating. Do it.
5 – Ask questions and question your assumptions
One of my favourite parts of traveling to countries that are so very different from my own is meeting the people and having an open heart and mind to hear them speak about what is important to them.
My most recent trip was to the Middle East, and hearing the locals speak about issues they were facing or their opinions on the political climate, religion and life really stuck with me.
I have learnt so much more compassion and empathy from really listening to others and understanding their beliefs, even if they match my opinions or not. I would really encourage you to be open and just listen, without intention to respond or argue.
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