8 Things Travel Has Taught Me

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:

8 things travel has taught me - words of advice from an experienced traveler

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.

Beautiful Ko Phi Phi Thailand 8 things travel has taught me

Beautiful Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

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!

16 Responses

  1. Just One Boomer (Suzanne)

    I certainly haven’t traveled as extensively as you have, but based on my own experiences, I agree 100% with your suggestions and gleanings. I just have to add bananas to #3. I had to declare a moratorium on hating bananas when I lived in Colombia–or I would have starved.

    • Charles Kosman

      Glad to hear you approve of this list. Every place has their own staple food that everybody eats and rarely seems to be questioned by the locals. Thankfully we’re not traveling 200 years ago and most places have some sort of alternative. It’s a good thing a cheese sandwich is known almost the world over otherwise my vegetarian wife would have starved years ago. 😉

  2. Tamara

    Nice round-up. All so true, and well-written to boot. Thanks for sharing your reflections. We’re still working on the whole home base thing, but it’s something we aspire to (sometimes). Safe journeys!

    • Charles Kosman

      Everybody is unique and if you managed to do it without a tether then all the better for you. We’ve been renting our places these last couple of years and this year sold our cabin so for this next big trip we are completely unhindered. Of course, it also means that if things go sour we don’t have a place to come back to.

      The good news is that we have great families to spend time with and a massive storage locker with all our stuff waiting for us so if our travels got interrupted, it wouldn’t be hard to reset. Thanks for the kind words! Safe travels.

  3. Runaway Brit

    I’m totally with you on the fish thing! I HATE fish, and will not eat anything that has been in the sea. Vietnam was particularly troublesome as there is fish sauce in EVERYTHING!!!

    • Charles Kosman

      Ahh fish sauce. Our one true Asian enemy. That stuff is everywhere. We’ve had it ruin many a good meal. Sometimes it’s even in places you wouldn’t expect. Bag of chips, sure. Pastry, why not. Pretzels, couldn’t hurt. In some places it’s as common as salt.

      Totally agree with you Runaway Brit. Glad there are others who feel the same as we do out there. I swear most people look at us like we’re nuts when we say we don’t like fish. Keep on spreading the word. Fish is yucky. 😉

  4. Jason Lavis

    Agree with all of your points, I find that I say very similar things myself when describing my travels. The one thing that I can add is that you can adapt to flip flops and fish! Last year I spent a few days hiking in Sagada, the northern mountain province in the Philippines wearing Reef flip flops, leather ones though. And there is a difference between eating sardines or dried fish compared to fresh Snapper, Grouper or tuna!

    • Charles Kosman

      Jason, I’m sure I could adjust to flip flops if I gave it enough time but I’ve been around enough backpackers to know they’re not the best things to hike in. Good for the beach, the showers and lounging around. I think of them as outside slippers to be honest. I used to keep a pair with me for those exact situations.

      As to the fish I’m sure that if I ever got stranded on a remote island I would adjust accordingly however if given a choice that’s not going to happen. I’ve eaten all kinds of fish at different points in my life, either at the urging of someone swearing it doesn’t taste fishy or just because I wanted to see how it tasted. I’ve tried shark, grouper, barracuda, etc. and they all taste like fish. Some are less strong however the taste is always there to me. Tuna and salmon on the other hand are so strong that I can’t even stand the smell!

      Glad you enjoy your flip flops and to be honest I’m jealous you can eat fish without gagging. Trust me when I say my travels would be much easier if I did. Safe travels!

  5. George

    First of all thanks for such a wonderful blog post. Travel has also taught me how to get adjusted to different climate, culture and languages. It has also helped me in improving my punctuality as we go for a travel trip with a limited days and have to cover the scheduled travel destinations in this time frame. So we learn to become more punctual and fast.

    • Charles Kosman

      Travel can teach a person so much about themselves and the world around them in such a short amount of time I often wonder if it should be an integral part of a child’s curriculum. What better way to understood culture, monetary differences, climate and the importance of language than getting out there and seeing it all occur before your very eyes!

      George, I can understand about the punctuality aspect. To the chagrin of others, time has never been especially important to me however when you’re stuck in a slow cab and about to miss a very expensive, non refundable flight you quickly learn the value of time management. It’s definitely made me appreciate being on time more!

  6. Frugal Expat


    I stumbled on your blog and I really enjoyed reading your posts. I agree with you on point #2.You will be even more surprised to realize that people in general are helpful. When trapped in difficult situation, they are just willing to extend a helping hand.

    Give me a shout if your family will be travelling in this part of the world.


    • Charles Kosman

      People are people. Most will behave the same way you will. Some of the poorest places in the world can be the most helpful simply because they know that if they stick together they have greater strength.

      I often find it’s not people that let people down rather than people’s unrealistic expectations of others. Understand what drives a population and you’ll understand the people.

      We’re not planning on being in Abu Dhabi in the near future Frugal however there’s always the chance we show up sooner or later. 😉


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