Here’s a confession: I gained around 20 pounds over my first few years of travel, mostly thanks to eating out for every single meal. And I’m only 5’1” — 20 lbs is a lot for such a small-framed human! While it can be tempting to treat yourself to junk food, and Pringles and Oreos will fuel your every travel day, resolve to have at least a few days every now and then when you go for the healthier option. Whole foods, plenty of vegetables, tons of water, as little sugar as possible, and an alcohol detox. Your body and mind will thank you for it. I discovered that my bad travel diet was actually resulting in panic attacks! Five years into my travels, I began to suffer from a reoccurrence of anxiety and I couldn’t figure out why. Once I removed sugary foods, alcohol, and dairy from my diet, I found myself in a fantastic place, mentally. I couldn’t believe how much my diet had impacted my mental health. And travel? It makes it pretty tough to eat healthily.
I pride myself on my memory, and yet, I can’t believe how much I’ve forgotten from my travels. You think you won’t forget anything, but you will. You won’t remember the name of that lovely girl from Oslo you hung out with for a day in Marrakech, you won’t remember the name of the hostel you loved in Beijing, you won’t remember the conversation you had with that dude in a pub in Sydney. You won’t remember how it felt to see Angkor Wat for the first time. You can look back over photos, but they only tell a small part of the story. Keep a journal in order to remember those small details because you’ll treasure them in a few years. I particularly love being able to look back and see how I felt at a specific time. In my mind, I always look back with rose-tinted glasses and think I was happy and joyful all the time, so it’s valuable to have a reminder of the challenges I faced on the road, and how I was able to overcome them.
If you only have three days in a place, it can be tempting to rush around like a madman to try and see absolutely everything, but that’s just a recipe for a nervous breakdown. Slow down, go to a coffee shop and people watch, wander down alleyways, and chat to locals. Sometimes the best way to get to know a place is through sitting and observing.
So many people email me for advice on their itineraries and I nearly always go back to them recommending that they visit half the number of places. You’ll enjoy your trip more if you work in rest days, and you’ll get a better taste for a place if you spend more time in it. Don’t plan a trip that has you jumping from capital city to capital city every few days. And take account of travel time! Don’t be like two nights in Bangok, two nights in Phuket, two nights in Koh Phi Phi, when it’ll take a day to travel between them all, leaving you with one day to actually see those places. Oh, and you’ll likely be jetlagged, too, so you’ll want to take that into account too.
Visit your doctor and dentist for a checkup before you leave. The last thing you want to happen is for you to set off and discover two weeks later that you need to get a filling in India. Not that I’m speaking from experience here…
Your photos will be some of your best memories, so invest in a good camera. And, of course, take the time to understand how it works before you leave.
If you don’t like a country’s customs, remain open minded, rather than immediately jumping to conclusions that you’re right and it’s wrong. Ask questions, research more, and listen to other peoples’ point of view. And don’t let your bad experiences taint an entire country — if you had a crap time somewhere, it doesn’t mean that the country sucks or it’s not safe. Maybe it was just bad luck. Don’t judge other travellers, either. Don’t judge people for visiting the most touristy cities in the world, don’t judge them for travelling with a backpack or a suitcase, don’t judge them for being a budget or luxury traveller, don’t judge them for carrying a selfie stick, just accept that everyone’s different, travels for different reasons, and likes different things. I once met a girl in a hostel in Washington DC who told me that her parents were funding her trip. There I was thinking she was a spoilt brat, until she told me that she was slowly losing her sight and would be blind within a couple of years. Her parents were paying for her to travel the world while she was still able to see it.
Scan a copy of your passport, any visas, and any debit/credit cards you’re traveling with. Password protect the documents, and email a copy of them to yourself and to a family member . If everything you own gets stolen, you can access them safely from your email account, take your copies to your embassy as proof that you’re who you say you are. Plus, you’ll be able to buy flights home and pay for accommodation with your debit cards to keep travelling/go home in an emergency.
It’s necessary every now and then. If you’re feeling exhausted, check yourself into a nice hotel for a few nights. If it’s a special occasion, splash out on a fancy meal. These splurges will mean so much more after months of hanging out in cheap hostels.
It’s good to have a budget to stick to, but most people tend to go over. Start saving as soon as possible (like, now) and aim to bring more money than you think you’ll need. The more money you have, the more you’ll be able to treat yourself to nicer accommodation, splurge on fun tours, and not spend your entire trip worrying that you’ll run out of cash.