After traveling extensively for the past ten years, I’ve learned a few things about myself and the world that I owe to a life on the road. In no particular order, here they are:
1. Comfortable footwear: As long as the temperature is over five degrees, I love wearing sandals when I’m not going barefoot. Unlike most budget backpackers, I wear a full on sandal that can be tightly done up when needed and not a loose pair of flip flops. Besides for hating having something wedged between my toes, I dislike flip flops for the sole fact that I can’t go backwards unhindered or climb something without fear of them coming off. Flip flops are fine for the beach and the showers, the rest of the time, your feet deserve something better. Moral: If your feet are uncomfortable, so are you.
2. People are the same everywhere: After traveling to numerous countries over the years I’ve discovered that no matter where in the world you go, people are generally the same. They all want to be happy, are generous more often than not and will surprise you constantly. Their color and beliefs may be different but hopes and dreams are pretty universal. Everybody is just trying to get through life the best they can with what they have. If you can accept that, then understanding a new culture or people will be much simpler for you. The moral: Everybody is same same but different.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best and treat every day as an adventure.
3. Traveling is tough if you don’t eat fish: Since it seems Micki and I are always attracted to islands and gorgeous beaches, it only follows that we always seem to be by water. It’s a common fact that people who live by water eat lots of fish. The problem is that neither Micki nor I care for fish that much. I know that’s ridiculous for a lot of you to hear but the simple fact is that for us that’s true. I’m quoting my daughter here but “fish is too fishy tasting” for us. Darn oversensitive taste buds! Not eating fish in a remote fishing village is not conducive to a pleasant dining experience. Moral: Food can make the trip.
4. Air conditioning can be both a blessing and a curse: Getting off a cool plane into a hot, humid country can be like walking into a sauna. Air conditioning definitely helps to take that edge off as your body acclimatizes. On the other end, after spending a few months as a native in non air-conditioned areas, jumping onto something like, let’s say, an Indonesian ferry with the temperature set to a cool 15 degrees wearing only a tshirt and shorts with only a small towel and sarong split between both of us for warmth makes for a very uncomfortable voyage. Moral of the story: Always be prepared!
5. Airports are tedious: This is a sad fact since people that travel spend an overwhelming amount of time in them waiting for their flights. Thanks to heightened security, wait times are increasing and you’re expected to be there much earlier than before. Books, games, electronics and overpriced food all help to kill the time but the best thing about them is not being in them any longer than you need to be. Moral of this story is: Be prepared to kill more time in an airport than you expected but don’t spend any more time than you have to.
6. Kids get bored fast: There was a time when I loved nothing more than being semi stranded on some gorgeous, quasi deserted beach with nothing more than a pile of books, a hammock and a few small restaurants to supply me with cheap endless alcohol and a bite to eat. With kids I realize that they need more than sand and water to keep their attention for long. Gone are the days of lounging and relaxing. Now I find that cities and larger areas have a lot more to keep us all amused and will seek them out as often as I seek the quiet, pristine beaches. Moral: Moderation is the key with having kids.
7. The poorer the country, the more the culture seems to celebrate their kids: This was a real eye opener for us and something we first discovered while traveling through the Philippines when our son was two. Wherever we went he was a veritable rock star. Everyone went out of their way to say hi to him or to get him to laugh or interact with them everywhere we went. To give you an example, after having spent five days at one beach complex, I counted 17 different staff members address him by name as we left and a few even looked close to tears that he was leaving. Though we’ve never traveled someplace that disliked children, it seems the richer countries put up with them more than welcome them. Moral: Even though most places love children, poorer countries seem to show it the most.
8. Always have a home base: Whether it’s a dorm, hostel, apartment, hotel or house, always have a fallback position when you travel. There will always be bad days and times of burnout where the best thing you can do is lay low and let karma regain it’s balance. Always have some place you feel comfortable to call home whether it’s for a day or a year. Even having it half way around the world, knowing it’s there and knowing you can head back to it if things keep going off track takes a lot of pressure off travel. It can help keep you grounded and can comfort you when you need it. If you can, mark a place as you travel that you feel secure and happy with that is within closer reach than your place back home. Knowing you can quickly retrace your steps back to it will give you the strength to keep moving forward. Moral: Though travel enriches the soul, home is where the heart is.
Words I live by
Plan for the worst, hope for the best and treat every day as an adventure. A good attitude and realistic expectations will go a long way to making every adventure a positive one!
Read How to travel the world on $50 a day.