5 Things I Learnt from Travel

Washington D.C. (USA), Oingt (France), Mexico City (Mexico). Photography by Stef Thompson

Pack Light

The wisest packing advice I have ever received is to lay out everything you think you need, and then halve it. You never need as much as you think – there are plenty of Laundromats to be found and, unless you’re going to the darkest jungles of the Amazon, you can buy an extra bar of soap at most convenience stores. Instead of making room for an extra pair of shoes, make room for souvenirs and memories.

Be Flexible

Perhaps one of the more important lessons for any person to learn in life is the art of being flexible. Flights get cancelled and trains run late, museums have obscure opening hours and hotels aren’t always located as centrally as you thought. Sometimes the best laid plans don’t just go awry, they go completely bonkers. Knowing where you’re going and having accommodation booked (especially in peak seasons) ensures you have a direction to aim for and a bed at the end, but be open to spontaneity. Say ‘yes’ to everything (without compromising your health or integrity) and be open to change. Everything is an opportunity.

Memories Can Buy Happiness

A lot of travellers mind their pennies when they travel and adhere to a strict budget. This can be very restrictive when it comes to being flexible with your plans – you might dismiss an activity because of the cost, or refuse a fancy meal because a tin of tuna for dinner tonight means an extra trip to the museum tomorrow. Spend money on things that delight you – don’t scrimp when it comes to making memories. When is the next time you’ll be in Paris sipping coffee by the Eiffel Tower? When was the last time you hired a car and drove around Sicily? Go home with memories, not spare change.

Tread Softly

Thich Nhat Hanh writes: “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” This is never more true than when you are travelling. Practise responsible tourism and tread lightly – you are a guest in this country; others actually live here. Some travellers can be inconsiderate, rude, and plain obnoxious – don’t be one of them. Wherever you go, research the country, language, and culture so that you can be open to practices to which you are not accustomed. Celebrate differences and appreciate that every individual has a story to share. When you come home, appreciate the visitors who demonstrate the same respect for your home, your culture, and your language.

A Smile is Worth a Thousand Words

Learn how to say ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the local language; a genuine smile communicates everything else.

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26 comments on “5 Things I Learnt from Travel

  1. Here is another for you. Don’t stay at the American Marriott, Hyatt, Best Western, or whatever chain hotel might see like a sure bet. Find a B and B or funky boutique hotel tucked on a back street.

    • True! I think that’s the general rule I was given when I started travelling: take half what you think you need and double the money! 😀

  2. I wish I had known about the “place everything out and halve it” rule. When we came back from our honeymoon in Bora Bora, I was able to put so many things BACK INTO MY DRAWERS because I hadn’t worn them. You live and you learn. And if you don’t learn, you read blogs and THEN you learn. : )

    • Haha, very true! You can learn to prioritise with clothing, too. I try to pack backwards and work out what I need to wear and when, and cross-check everything matches each other so there’s some variation. Two pairs of trousers and four shirts can be so easy to travel with when compared to a suitcase full of “I’ll need this in case I go …”!

  3. I would add… Pay Attention

    There are so many amazing things that are happening all around us. If we just pay attention, we can enjoy the moment, learn incredible new things, and even avoid danger.

    Nice post!

  4. Agree to all, especially the ‘smile’ part which can easily disarm sales staff, heh.

    Also, pack light then buy additional clothes and accessories at your destination (but not on those chain stores). You’ll go home with wardrobe pieces that not only remind you of the places you went to but are also unlike everyone else’s. 😉

    • Thanks, they are definitely applicable to life! 🙂 Glad you like the photos – I took almost 20,000 in 8 months of travel. Snap-happy!

  5. Great advice! 🙂
    I’ve found exactly the same. Perhaps one last tip I’d add – and one I’m not good at: when traveling, allow some time to chill out and do nothing. Otherwise you can just get overtired rushing around trying to fit as much in as possible wile you are away.

    • I also learnt that if you pack things in little plastic bags and decide to re-pack your backpack in a hostel dorm room at 3am, an assortment of objects will be thrown at you. I was a thrower, not a plastic-bagger!

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