I honestly can’t believe I’ve been homeless and jobless for over four months. It’s been a really transformational experience in quite a few unexpected ways. I’ve learned a lot, thought a lot, seen a lot and grown a lot as a person. Whether you’ve traveled or not, I hope you enjoy reading 20 lessons I’ve learned on this magical journey thus far.
- Don’t overextend your visa. If it says thirty days, they mean it. Unless you want to pay extra to overstay (which you will have to no matter what, there is no getting out of it), trust me. I suggest using a days between calculator to ensure you aren’t overextending. Also, the day you arrive is day one. It doesn’t matter if you arrive at 11:58 pm. The customs agents don’t care.
- Do your research. I’m not talking about an hour by hour plan, but at least have an idea where you’re going before you touch down – city wise, if not the neighbourhood. In regard to lodging, if you are travelling to a less developed country, it is typically cheaper to just show up and ask their prices (depending on the country), but before doing this, check agoda (or whatever travel app/site you prefer.) I would suggest picking a “top three” places you want to stay, and getting transport to your most desired locale. For more developed cities/countries, it is the opposite. Book your place online, even if just for one night to feel out the place. We scored a mega deal in Singapore at a hostel, typically a 40$/night per bed (so that would have been 80$ total per night) for 25.80$/per night, or 12.9$ per person. Also, if you have a long layover, do your research about the city you’re laying over in, and whether or not it’s worth leaving the airport (ie. how much is it going to cost you to leave for the day.)
- If you’re planning to volunteer, do so with a lot of notice. I’m talking 1-2 months. Give yourself breathing room to find a place – nothing is more stressful than planning to have little to no living costs, only to be surprised with a 50$ minimum lodging per night cost, etc. Also, ensure to apply to your top two, or three, or five. A lot of the “good ones” get bombarded with requests on the daily, so having a back up is always better than not. I have also heard it is best to follow up in about 5-10 days if you haven’t heard anything, as some hosts actually don’t reply to someone unless they receive a second “confirmation” message. I have not had luck with this method, but better safe than sorry. Remember, hosts are highly unlikely to be sitting by the computer waiting for your message – they need help for a reason!
- Do not regret anything. You could have, would have or should have until eternity, but it doesn’t make whatever situation you’re in better. Make room in your conscious mind for something more important.
- People are friendly! Yes, really! Most backpackers are in the same mindset you are – happy, ready to explore, excited to share what they’ve seen, etc. I suppose the closer you get to resorts, the less happy people seem to be, but if you’re on a budget, that shouldn’t be a concern regardless. Locals are also friendly! I have not had a problem thus far with anyone, in any country. That being said, I also try to be the type of person I want to be around, so I suppose if I wanted to be a jerk and a brute, that is probably what I would attract. On that note, I also haven’t been “partying”, so that may have something to do with it? The more sober the individuals, the better?
- A lot of countries really like Michael Bublé – this isn’t a joke actually. I’ve heard at least one of his songs in every country we’ve been to!
- Don’t worry about others think – to a point. Being yourself is absolutely fantastic – forgetting about local customs is not. (Just another reminder – research!) Example – if you know you’re going to a temple, don’t wear short shorts and a tube top. No matter how humid/hot it is outside. You may think “fuck it, I wear what I want.” But guess what – you aren’t in your home country. You may not be in a place that has a “western” mentality. in a lot of places, it’s not appreciated. It can honestly makes people physically uncomfortable in certain cultures. Just don’t do it. Unless you’re staying on a resort, keep modesty in mind. If you insist on wearing skimpier clothing, please bring a sarong with you in times where shoulders and knees are not appropriate.
- Don’t be afraid to smile! Can’t understand what someone is saying to you, and you’ve asked them to repeat themselves twice? Just smile. Lost and google maps isn’t working/phone is dead? Just smile. Things will work out, they always do!
- A variety of outfits is not a necessity – and clothes are easy to come by. This can depend, as if you’re planning to go to both warm and cold destinations, it can make things a bit complicated… but for the most part, bringing a lot of clothes is just plain not worth it. I find myself wearing the same four outfits, even though I have loads more packed away. The more you have, the more you have to wash. Also another rule I’ve employed is if I buy something, I have to donate something else (ie. shirt for a shirt, pants for pants, etc.) This way, you can still buy clothes, but not at your backs expense.
- Having a water bottle with a filter inside is extremely handy. Plastic is rampant in less developed countries, especially those that cannot drink the tap water. (Straws, bags, cups, plates, etc.) I am not interested in contributing to that kind of waste (which can be a problem in certain countries), so having my bottle makes me feel a bit better about not contributing to the ever growing waste problem. I use Revive H2O, which works great!
- Put the camera down once in a while. Everyone loves a good travel pic, but don’t cheat yourself out of a special experience for likes and comments. Plus, taking 700 pictures is not only tiring to sort through, it is also not worth the stress of constantly snapping away. I promise you’ll see more and will become more connected with your surroundings, which is in my opinion, much more important. Most of my most surreal, amazing and memorable experiences have no photo documentation – it is more important to live in the now than the “digital now”.
- Do yourself a favor and invest in some good quality, healthy sunscreen. Slathering on the old coppertone does a number on your skin day after day, and its just gross. A tip – once you have been in the sun a couple of weeks, sunscreen may not always be necessary. I don’t use it on my face, and use it only occasionally on my check and back. I also do my best to cover up and wear a giant brimmed hat, but the point remains. What you put on and in your body affects how it all works. Putting poison on your skin every day can take a toll! There are many healthy options out there, including just straight coconut oil (though the SPF is low, and has to be used quite frequently – this is not the gospel, do your own research!)
- If you’re going to various places in the world that use different voltage, don’t bring anything that plugs into Canadian (or “insert your country here” plug). We learned this when we tried to use an electric shaver on a New Zealand plug. We had a travel adapter plug between the two, but it instantly blew a fuse, and toasted the shaver. Anything that turns into a USB plug is OK, but just ensure to check the compatibility before lugging stuff around for no reason.
- Don’t expect anything from anyone. You may be dealing with a different culture or mindset – which may be a total 180 from what you’re used to. The less expectations you have for your trip, the better it will be. Also, a reminder that locals/people working in the place you are visiting are not living for you and your needs. They are people just like you and I, and treating them like any less is giving us “tourists”/travelers a bad name.
- Carrying books are a good idea! Despite the weight and what some may tell you otherwise, don’t believe them! Also, don’t be afraid to let a book go once you’ve read it. Take note of it and let it go so that someone else can enjoy it.
- Save your media and notes in the cloud. It makes it so that you can delete the media off of your device and free up storage, plus if for some reason your device bites the dust, you still have access to your various pictures, videos, notes, etc. Dropbox, google photos, etc. are good options if you’ve already filled up your icloud (which I have).
- Don’t be afraid to speak up for what you believe in – but do so with respect, and with an understanding that your way of living may not work for everyone. The beauty of traveling and meeting people is learning about how others view the world, what people do and don’t do, and their reasoning. If you’re an avid vegan and those around you are meat eaters, cussing them all out and telling them how to live their life is not a good way to portray yourself, your “fellow country folk”, or even how you identify yourself (fellow vegans). It all comes back to respect. Keep this in mind.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. If you have any ailments, bring your typical treatments, just in case, whether or not you’re sure you’ll need them. Better to have them and not need them than to not have them, nor have access to it. If you are going to be away for a while, do your research on herbal/natural alternatives to the medication you can take instead once your curent stuff runs out. You don’t want to count on a local store having what you need, as the country’s pharmacies/health food stores may have a different idea of what one should use. An example – a lot of sunscreens, face washes, lotions, etc. here in Asia have whitening properties (yes, to make you more pale). That’s a no for me dawg!
To be on the safe side, I brought some essential oils, carrier oil (coconut, which has many uses) and though I haven’t had to use very much of my supply, it is reassuring to know I have it if needed. Same goes for your nutrition. Get to know your body’s needs, and know they include healthy, fresh food. If you find yourself lacking, do yourself the favor and devout one meal/snack a day to purely fresh, raw food. Eating vegan/vegetarian is a health saver! Obviously one can eat vegan/vegetarian and still eat very unhealthily, but if you stick with a balanced diet, food poisoning is definitely not a huge concern. I have had diarrhea a couple of times, but have not vomited, got a fever, or anything like that. I also try to supplement my diet when I can (apple cider vinegar, various tonics, etc.)
- Don’t forget to record your daily events. Whether it be a short daily journal entry, a few point form memories from the day, or a play-by-play, it will help you remember your day in a more detailed way both now and in the future. It is also helpful when you write a blog. 😉 Whether it includes photos or not is up to you.
- Enjoy the ride and live for the now! It is always better than the destination. 🙂