Can You Ever Know Enough Before Travelling?
There’s nothing like long-term travel to teach you life lessons you’ll never forget. Here’s what I wish I’d known before leaving on a 13-month journey across Asia.
1. Pack light…lighter…lightest!
When I first left for Nepal – not knowing when I’d be returning to the U.S. – I allowed myself two of everything: two pairs of pants, two t-shirts, two pairs of shoes (this rule did not apply to underwear).
And you know what? It was still too much. My backpack was heavy and bursting at the seams, and it wasn’t long before I unloaded my wares onto locals I met along the way.
When it comes to packing, you probably don’t need it. And if you do need it, you can probably buy it there.
2. The world isn’t scary
Maybe it’s just how the media portrays the rest of the world here in the States, but before I travelled I was terrified – of everything. Things like getting kidnapped, mugged, left for dead by the side of the road, you name it.
It’s not that you don’t have to be smart and careful. But most people are decent, many are kind, and the majority of places you’ll visit are perfectly safe. Yes, even for solo female travellers. Perhaps especially so.
3. Travel fatigue is a real thing
Why is travel so exhausting? Why can’t you bounce from city to city, night after night, week after week for months on end? Well you can, but at some point travel fatigue will set in and you’ll crash – hard.
Travel is exhausting not because of all the planes, trains and buses you take, but because of all the brand new stimuli you’re taking in. As your senses are overwhelmed with new sights and sounds, your sense of time becomes warped – days seem to last years, and you live lifetimes in a single week.
So when you feel that utter exhaustion creeping up, plant yourself somewhere for two solid weeks and just relax – no sightseeing allowed.
4. Travel less to see more
It’s tempting to try and cram as many destinations into your adventure as humanly possible – and rack up the passport stamps to match.
But spending more time in fewer places can give you a richer, more memorable experience overall.
When you spend a significant amount of time in one place, you get to see what it’s like to actually live there – not just what it’s like to be a tourist there. And to me, that is hands-down the best part of travel.
5. You can build your own travel experience – wherever you are
The most wonderful thing about travel is the freedom it gives you to experience the world on your own terms.
You don’t have to see the sights everyone else is seeing. You don’t have to do the things everyone else is doing. You can even skip the ‘must-see’ places the guidebooks insist you see – and have the time of your life doing it. (Case in point: when most tourists in Hoi An was busy drinking beer at the beach, I was holed up in a $10/night villa writing a travel memoir.)
And the best part? You can take that freedom mindset with you anywhere – even when you return home.
What do you wish you’d known before setting off on your adventure?
Rebecca Anne Nguyen is a freelance writer and the Founder of TheHappyPassport.com, an inspiration site for solo female travellers.