We've been on the road for 6 months and we thought it best to mark the occasion with a reflection piece on what we have learnt along the way. Read on to get tips, hints and warnings from long term travelling.
In no particular order:
1. Having a fixed plan rarely works out, long term travel teaches you to be flexible and adaptive in an array of situations.
2. Never get a taxi the from the bus, coach or train station after reaching your destination. The drivers always ‘see you coming’ and put the prices up. Grab your cab 5 minutes walk away as it will almost always be half the price.
3. Long term travel forces you eat in local restaurants, which normally serve the tastiest food anyway. But here’s a tip, don’t buy food from an empty restaurant, if the locals don’t eat there it’s no good.
4. Try not to book seats at the front of a sleeper or long distance coach, the drivers will chat on their phones, play loud music and you’ll also get a premium view of some terrifying driving.
5. Ear plugs are a constant saviour, forget them at your peril.
6. Always have two prepaid credit cards and make sure you’ve topped them up when travelling to a new country, there’s nothing worse then getting in late to a new place without any cash to draw out.
7. Always have a some passport photos printed for visas applications, they’ll sting you with extra fees if they have to use their visa control web cams.
8. Except that you will get sick. It’s basically impossible to avoid bugs if you want an authentic experience, certainly authentic food.
9. You also learn that most of the world survives perfectly well without fridges, clean water, soap or basic sanitation.
10. Most countries have faster internet that the U.K. Germany and Norway’s trains had faster internet that our line at home! Although Myanmar’s sucked.
11. Most situations can be overcome with a smile, a few gestures or a drawing pad.
12. Many people have £2k DSLR cameras but shoot in automatic! Undermining the very reason to shell out for a DSLR.
13. Western tourists like to photograph landscapes whereas Eastern tourists take selfies of themselves in front of the landscape, just saying.
14. Asian culture is, in general, very generous. Even when they have very little, people will often share their food and drink with foreigners.
15. Most countries have two tier prices for products and travel, the best way to avoid paying a higher price is shop at supermarkets that use barcodes or shops/ restaurants with no English signage.
16. It’s important to take rest days during long term travel because it’s more tiring than full time work, think of it like a 7 days a week job!
17. Occasionally a place will feel like ‘home’ or your ‘beach.’ You should change your plans to spend a bit longer there or you’ll forever regret it.
18. Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail! Always have a raincoat and jumper because you never know what’s coming...
19. If it smells bad it’s probably bad for you!
20. Don’t drink too much if you’re trekking the next day, it will hurt physically and mentally!
21. Learn ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ as a minimum in all countries.
22. Never eat stinky tofu in China, it smells and tastes like drains.
23. Staying fit and slim is basically impossible when you eat out for three meals a day.
24. Life without with your phone on aeroplane mode is pretty liberating….
25. …..Although the first thing you do in a new hostel is login to the wifi, we’re all trapped in the Matrix!
26. However scary a new country may seem, rest assured there will be a well trodden tourist trail and lots of people. You’ll rarely find a place without other tourists.
27. After taking pictures of a few sunsets you soon realise you’ll never capture the in the moment experience, just take one photo when the sky turns from yellow to pink or orange and just live in the moment for the rest of it.
28. Do something every day that scares you, if you can.
29. You meet the best people when you’re in your favourite type of place. We always gel well with people in the countryside but stay well away from party hostels, we’re too old for that.
30. Save money on beer by buying it in rice kitchens, 7/11s, or mini marts and find a park or a sunset to enjoy it from.
31. Every few days you should treat yourself to a meal other than cheap rice or noodles, or you’ll never meet the doctors 5-a-day quota.
32. Distance from your old life really puts everything in perspective, most of the world doesn’t have a degree, high paid job or a mortgage and seem so happy. Perhaps ignorance is bliss.
33. Travelling as a couple means you’ll learn everything about the other person. We thought we knew everything about each other after 10 years, wrong!
34. That old phrase ‘the more you put in the more you get out’ is so true of travelling. Very often the hardest, sweatiest and scariest bits end up being the most memorable.
35. As with all purchasing when you’re on a budget, always check other search engines agoda.com, booking.com and hostelworld before you book because they often have one-off deals, we have found many half price rooms on agoda.com over booking.com and vice versa.
36. The Yanks have it easy, their currency is the worlds default currency. Always have some emergency USD.
37. Keep your passport in a plastic wallet on your body at all times, we’ve sweated through our cotton pouches too many times, you’d barely know Mark’s passport is a British one.
38. Always steal coffee/milk/butter/salt/jam/shampoo/soap portions from hotels and use them at the cheaper hostels later in your trip who don't supply these niceties.
39. Always confirm prices of the foods you want before ordering in a local restaurants, without menus a clever waiter may add on a few extra pence to your bill.
40. Always try and bargain. Although it might seem cheap to you, if you pay a much higher than local price it will only inflate future prices for future tourists. Just imagine how much your children might pay in 2040 if we all pay more than we should…
41. Getting a bike is the easiest way to get off the beaten track and create your own adventures.
42. If you are not feeling a place then just move on. Everyone might tell you ‘this place is amazing’ or ‘you’ll love it here.’ But you’ll soon get to know which kind of places suit your interests, don’t be afraid to move on early if you’re not feeling it and everyone else is.
43. Keep your plans loose, the best adventures always come from the spontaneous.
44. Don’t blindly follow guide books the whole time or you’ll likely end up following everyone else on the trail. They are great starting points in a new place but after a few days somewhere put it down and follow your eyes, nose and ears and create your own adventures.
45. Get rid of anything in your backpack you don’t use, send it home or give it away. Your back will thank you some day in the future.
46. Occasionally treat people you meet to something nice like a dinner, this flames the fire of the traveller circle of life. Someday someone will buy you dinner (so many people bought us dinner on this trip and wouldn’t let us pay a penny).
47. Forget about keeping your clothes clean, just embrace the hippy state of dirty traveller chic.
48. Although we have met many cool people, don’t except to meet as many people as you thought before leaving. Being a traveller couple in our 30s means we generally bond with couples like us, normally in more remote places. We missed the travel party experience of partying our way across Asia’s cheap dorms in our 20s, I guess we’re just getting old!
49. Although you shouldn’t expect a spiritual epiphany, there is something inspiring about living a completely new existence where you meet new people everyday, explore cultures and observe spellbinding sights. We feel like travel will change the direction of our lives, hoping to mimic the attitudes of some of the amazing people we’ve met in Mongolia, China and SE Asia. Perhaps the learning is just beginning.
50. The most important thing we learnt is that travelling is not as scary as it first seems. People are basically the same in all countries and there is human spirit to look after each other that is so easy to spot once you leave the safety net of home. Whether you start with smaller trips or plan something a bit longer you can't help but be amazed by the spirit of people.
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