Travelling is, without a doubt, one of the greatest experiences you can have, and whether that’s a trip to a corner of your own country you’ve never seen before or a flight to Alaska, the benefits are the same. When I was 18 and set off on the Great Escape, I knew not then what I do now, and hindsight is a tremendous thing. Some lessons were hard to come by, others snuck up on me without so much as a whisper as they set up home in my life. The road is life <3
I’ve always been in a bit of a rush to do anything, and being late puts an anxious knot in my chest that makes me jittery and a bit unbearable to be around. Yet, the stagnant time-warp of airports and lost luggage has taught me that there’s not much to be done when things are out of our hands. Sit down, have a beer and read a book – the things that are supposed to happen will happen when they happen. A general acceptance that nobody is really ever in a rush to do anything has done wonders for my stress levels!
2. Stuff is not important
Learning to travel hand-luggage only has been a godsend. It’s also taught me that whatever I carry in my 30L backpack is generally all I really need to keep me going. Those other 4 pairs of jeans left at home were a totally unnecessary purchase.
3. But photos are
Take them for every moment of this wonderful life – the same thing never happens twice and when you’re 87 and sat with your grandkids, going a bit mad and forgetting about life, those photos will jog memories and make you smile. At 27 I forget about things that happened 10 years ago until I see a photo. Take the pictures, make photo albums, remember all that you’ve done.
4. The world is bigger than you can ever imagine
It’s an endless, timeless, beautiful world we live in and it’s impossible to meet every person, smell every gut-wrenching stench and experience every single thing it has to offer. When that realisation hits, it’s a bit mind-boggling. It slapped me in the face when I was living in the Dolomites a couple of years ago – my wish-list of things to do, mountains to climb and views to see in that small pocket in Italy grew by a monumental amount every day and there just isn’t enough time in this life to fit them in. The adventures out there are endless – go find yours.
5. But it is a small world after all
You’ll bump into the same people time and time again, in hostels and on the side of mountains. You’ll almost definitely meet someone who knows someone from home who knows a questionable story or two about you already, or even meet someone from home you’ve never crossed paths with before. I was once in a hostel in Marrakech and heard a voice with the very distinctive accent of my hometown. My friend who I was with said, “Don’t be silly, you can’t tell someone’s from Penzance by their voice!” Turns out we went to the same school, have the same birthday and had a lot of the same friends. Small world, eh?
6. Food is wonderful
I strongly believe that good, tasty food is the greatest pleasure on this planet. Especially street food and even more especially home-cooked food by someone’s mumma. You’re not on this earth for very long and the size of your waistline doesn’t really matter – taste the world and you’ll appreciate its depths that much more.
It’s easy to complain about life, but when you travel you see what life is really like for people who have nothing. We are rich beyond our wildest dreams in the west, and we don’t even know it. Travel humbles you and knocks you off your high-horse with a thud.
8. People are mostly good
If you watch and read the news every day, it would be easy to think the world is a scary place that’s filled with terrible people. It’s not. On the whole, people want the same things: love, a roof over their head and enough clean water and food to feed their family. Most will help you if you’re in trouble, a good percentage will welcome you into their homes to feed you when they have nothing themselves. People are good – learn to trust them.
9. Always carry meds
To stop you pooing, to make you poo, to make that weird bug-bite shrink, to curb that UTI, to settle your stomach. Sometimes trying to understand a pharmacy when you’re feeling ill is too hard. Preparation is key.
10. Home is where the heart it
Going home can be hard, but being away from it can make you appreciate what you left behind in the first place. I’m now at a time in my life where home is my favourite place in the world, and although I itch to get out and see new places and get on planes, I almost always can’t wait to be back again. And that’s okay.