(Before you start reading I know my hair looks awful in this photo, in my defence this was taken in 2012 and I did it myself!)
I have been travelling for a fair while now and I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what I’ve actually learnt from my experience. I figured it would be a good idea to write a post such as this and share my reflections as advice I would give somebody about to go travelling. I don’t claim to be an expert traveller or to know anymore than any other bloggers out there writing very similar posts, I just wanted to consider what I have learned along the way and what I would tell myself if I could go back in time.
The first thing I realised pretty early on, and would definitely advise against, was to not overbook. When I went travelling through Southeast Asia and Australia with one of my best friends we had planned everything meticulously. We booked everything in advance when it came to our accommodation and had our entire itinerary planned out giving us no wiggle room with our plans. This was my idea as I was a little nervous so thought it would be best to have everything arranged.
At first it was comforting to know exactly where we were going next and to know where we would stay, but as we got more used to travelling and being on our own it got frustrating having to stick to a definite schedule. It would have been so nice to be able to make last minute plans, leave places earlier or even stay longer in some had we been able to. It was nice to have the security of having everything pre booked for my first time travelling, but I definitely wouldn’t restrict myself that much again. Nowadays I book at flight, a few nights accommodation and then pretty much just wing it. I love having absolute freedom to take off whenever I want.
Another piece of advice I would give, that I really wish I had done myself much sooner, is talk to everyone! I used to be absolutely terrified of making conversation with strangers and really struggled to get to know new people. When I was travelling with my best friend poor Abi had to start pretty much every single conversation!
I’ve always been so shy but since travelling solo and having no choice but to be chatty and friendly, I’ve finally realised how liberating it is to stop being so scared. Most people are happy to chat to you and it’s so easy to meet people and make new friends while you're travelling. Most of the time I barely even think about it anymore and find it so much easier to make conversation. My travelling experience has definitely improved as my confidence has so to anyone else who is crippled with shyness, just go for it! You’d be surprised how easy it actually is. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone and anyone who will chat. You can learn so much from total strangers and everyone has their own story, you never know who you might meet.
A big one that I have been guilty of myself, and see a lot of other people doing, is overpacking. Wherever you are going there will almost always (unless you’re specifically going to the fuck end of nowhere) be places to buy the basic crap you need. Personally I don’t even travel with toiletries because you can buy it all when you get there and its a nightmare to carry around. I don’t carry a towel with my because they take up so much space and they’re so cheap to buy. I have a decent amount of clothes but don’t carry anything I don’t wear. If I haven't even touched it for a month, it goes. I am a bit of a rubbish girl and don’t do heels anyway so they’re not a problem, but even with shoes I take bare minimum. Fair enough if you know me you’ll know I’d much rather not wear shoes at all, but I have two pairs maximum just in case.
It is so easy to overpack and everyone does it, I just wish I’d been as ruthless as I am now when I first started out. I carried so much crap around with me that I didn’t even wear/need, and when you’re using a backpack every kilo matters. I now carry a small duffle bag that I can wheel along. It is deceptively large so I do have room for my makeup and a few extra clothes I can’t seem to part with, but I usually only have around 13kg of luggage. I try my best to keep the weight down but the main thing I need is to have a small sized bag I carry when necessary. I absolutely hate having to try and carry a big awkward suitcase up hostel’s narrow flights of stairs.
Something that has really stood out to me since travelling solo is that I quite often make the mistake of not taking enough photos. Oh my god take photos of everything, fuck it! It's better to have a few random photos than none at all. I'm so bad for wanting to try and get the perfect photos that if I don't have my camera I won't bother. Looking back some of my all time favourite photos I've taken since I've been travelling are ones I've snapped on my phone. They're not super high quality or 'blog worthy' but they're memories that I'll always get to look back on. If you're going to take any piece of advice from this post let this be it. I don't like to say I regret anything but I really do regret not taking more photos during my travels.
The final thing that I wish I could go back and tell myself, is to take everything in your stride. Things don’t always go to plan when you’re travelling and something is bound to go wrong somewhere, but don't let it ruin your trip. Try and go with the flow and stay as calm as possible when shit hits the fan. Stressing yourself out over whatever has gone wrong will only make it worse so just try and objectively look at the situation and find an alternative. I know this is so much easier than said, and I still struggle to pick myself back up sometimes, but it’s definitely something I really strive to do and want to continue working on. No amount of regret and stressing can change the past and no amount of anxiety can change the future, so just try and roll with whatever your travels throw at you. Almost all issues can be resolved so don’t waste precious time of your trip being down.
There is so much more I could say but I won't ramble on forever. I really enjoyed taking the time to write this post as it’s made me realise how far I’ve come since I’ve been travelling and what lessons I’ve learned along the way. I hope anyone of you reading could take something from this and maybe now avoid making some of the mistakes I have previously made.