On July 17, 2011, a timid version of myself embarked on a journey like never before, clutching a one-way ticket in my hand. I had no prior experience with solo travel, and my longest trip had only spanned two weeks. As I stepped onto that plane, I was venturing into uncharted territory, unsure of what awaited me.
I have made many mistakes over the past eight years.
I have been scammed in Russia, China, Laos, Maldives, Tanzania and Sri Lanka.
I lost half of the things I originally traveled with.
I have been missing more times than I can count. Even nostalgia.
I fell off the biggest sand dune in Africa.
Had cholera in Borneo.
He was afraid of anger in India.
I was involved in a tsunami in Thailand.
He got stuck in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over the past decade, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge from my travels. To commemorate the ten years since I left the UK and embarked on a life of full-time exploration, I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of my most valuable travel tips. These nuggets of wisdom are things I wish someone had shared with me before I set out on my journey. My hope is that you’ll find them not only useful and informative but also inspiring and enjoyable.
1. Savor the Flavors of Local Cuisine
Looking back on my first year of travel, one of my greatest regrets was not having the courage to sample local cuisine. Growing up as a picky eater, combined with my crippling anxiety and a struggle with an eating disorder, I was convinced that I would either despise or have an allergic reaction to any unfamiliar dish. As I celebrate ten years of globetrotting, I implore travelers to embrace the flavors of the world and not make the same mistake I did.
Over the past decade of traveling, I’ve come to realize that food has become my ultimate favorite method for delving deeper into a destination’s culture and truly getting to know a place on a more intimate level.
Over the past decade of traveling, I’ve developed a passion for trying new things, particularly when it comes to food. This adventurous spirit has led me to discover a plethora of incredible dishes that I would never have encountered had I stuck to eating in supermarkets worldwide. Embarking on a culinary adventure may seem intimidating at first, but rest assured, your confidence will grow as you continue to fall in love with an ever-expanding variety of delicious delights.
2. Embrace Spontaneity: Minimize Planning
In my ten years of globetrotting, one of the earliest lessons I learned was the fluidity of travel plans. There will be times when you arrive at a location only to detest it and crave an immediate departure. Conversely, you may become enamored with a destination and yearn to extend your stay. Along the way, you’ll forge friendships with fellow travelers, compelling you to alter your itinerary to share more adventures together. Or perhaps, you’ll discover an enticing city just around the corner, luring you off your planned path. Embrace the unexpected twists and turns; they’re what make the journey truly memorable.
Absolutely, it’s essential to have a rough itinerary for your journey, but avoid booking every single detail in advance. Overplanning can lead to feeling overwhelmed and ultimately, regret. Embrace spontaneity and make lasting memories during your ten years of travel.
Start your journey by booking a one-way ticket and securing accommodation for your first few nights. Trust me, it’s not as daunting as it seems. In popular tourist destinations, you’ll never be short of options for lodging, as there will always be someone eager to accommodate you in exchange for your hard-earned cash. So, go ahead and embrace the thrill of the unknown.
3. Travel Insurance: A Crucial Component for Your Adventures
Before embarking on your journey, if there’s one essential task to complete, it’s securing travel insurance. Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous harrowing tales of travelers sustaining injuries in remote locations, consequently accumulating debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s crucial not to assume that you’re immune to such misfortunes, as those unfortunate individuals likely believed the same.
For the past six years, I’ve relied on World Nomads as my go-to travel insurance provider and have recommended them to countless fellow travelers. Their exceptional customer service, particularly when it comes to handling claims, has made them an indispensable part of my travel toolkit.
4. Always Carry a Backup Passport
When I mentioned that I carried a dozen spare passport photos with me on my travels, many people scoffed at the idea. However, I found these extra photos to be incredibly useful, saving me both time and effort during my journeys.
Are you keen on wandering the streets of a quaint Cambodian town in search of someone to capture your travel memories? My friends faced this very predicament during their travels! As a seasoned globetrotter celebrating ten years of travel, I’m here to share my top 10 tips to make your journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
Over the past decade, I’ve learned the value of carrying extra passport-sized photos in my travel kit. These handy spares have proven essential for visa applications worldwide, obtaining a new passport while abroad, and even purchasing a local SIM card in Nepal. By keeping a few extra photos in my backpack, I’ve saved countless hours that would have been spent researching and wandering through unfamiliar cities in search of a photo booth or studio.
5. Always Keep Essentials in Your Backpack
I’ve been lucky enough to never experience lost luggage, but I did have my backpack torn open during a flight once. Thankfully, I wasn’t carrying anything valuable at the time. I’ve also encountered some perilous bus rides in Southeast Asia, where we’d arrive at our destination only to discover that someone had been hiding in the luggage compartment and robbed passengers during the journey.
Over the past decade of travel, I’ve learned the importance of keeping essential items in my trusty backpack, which never leaves my side on travel days. This includes crucial items such as my passport, laptop, camera, external hard drive, debit card, and some spare cash. With these essentials at hand, I’m confident that I can thrive and enjoy my adventures, no matter where I find myself in the world.
6. Always Apply Sunscreen: Your Daily Essential for Travel Protection
As an avid traveler, you’ll likely find yourself basking in the sun more than the average person, thanks to endless months of island hopping, beach lounging, and days spent exploring the great outdoors. It’s crucial to lather on sunscreen daily, regardless of the weather or temperature, to prevent potential skin cancer and avoid developing a leathery, wrinkled appearance over the course of your adventures.
Throughout my ten years of travel, I’ve made it a habit to apply sunscreen on my face and chest daily, regardless of the season. Even in the depths of winter, I remain diligent about protecting my skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
7. Capture More Personal Photos During Your Travels
Over the years, I’ve often been hesitant to ask strangers to take my picture while traveling, only to later regret not having more photos of myself in those memorable locations. In my eight years of globetrotting, I’ve accumulated a mere 200 photos of myself exploring the world. Sure, the pictures of beautiful destinations you visit are captivating, but once you’re back home, you’ll realize they’re not drastically different from everyone else’s snapshots. What truly sets your travel photos apart and makes them invaluable in retrospect are the ones that include you, immersed in those unforgettable experiences.
8. Master Some Basic Phrases in the Local Language of Each Country You Explore
As you embark on your travels, earning respect from the locals can be as simple as learning to say hello, sorry, and thank you in their language. Keep in mind that if you’re unable to speak the local language, it’s your responsibility to bridge the communication gap – not theirs. Refrain from raising your voice in an attempt to be understood; instead, try to mimic their words or utilize a handy translation app on your phone. By making an effort to communicate, you’ll find that the world becomes a friendlier place, one conversation at a time.
9. Pack Earplugs and a Sleep Mask for a Restful Journey
Traveling can often wreak havoc on your sleep schedule, whether it’s due to snorers in shared dormitories, early risers rummaging through plastic bags, or inebriated travelers stumbling about in the middle of the night. Even if you’re not staying in hostels, you may still have to contend with external street noises, nearby bustling bars, and disruptive overnight journeys. To enhance your sleep quality, be sure to pack a pair of headphones and a sleep mask in your bag. Personally, I swear by Sleep Phones for blocking out light and listening to podcasts, which have significantly improved my sleep during my travels.
10. Maximize Your Backpack Space with Space-Saving Bags
For years, I’ve been a proponent of packing cubes, but my world changed when I stumbled upon vacuum-sealed versions. Simply place your clothes inside, seal the bag, and roll it to remove any excess air. These space-saving wonders have doubled my backpack’s capacity! Even if you aren’t looking to cram more items into your luggage, the extra room gained from these vacuum bags allows for a quick and efficient packing experience when you’re in a hurry.