Before I set off on my big trip I read many inspirational stories about what travel had taught other travel bloggers.
Having just come back from backpacking for nearly 2 years, I’ve been thinking a lot about what lessons I’ve learned myself.
But how do you even tackle such a big topic? How could I capture the full depth of what it’s like to travel for a long time?
It might be impossible, but with this stream-of-consciousness list of lessons learned I tried at least to capture a tiny slice of it.
This list might seem a little disjointed, but these fragments might give a sense of what it’s like to go on a big journey. And I promise you that by the time you reach the end, that travel bug will be itching.
1. Off-the-beaten-track isn’t always so amazing
Touristy places or ‘off the beaten track’ destinations are not by definition better or worse. Going down roads less travelled can be fun, but sometimes… well, it just leads you somewhere mind-numbingly dull.
A lack of tourists doesn’t necessarily make a place more interesting. And not all touristy or commercial places are really so bad.
2. Do NOT trust monkeys
Sigh… I was nursing a cold beer on an island near Cat Ba in Vietnam when I was greeted by a happy little monkey, or so it seemed. Suddenly the bastard hissed at me as though possessed by the devil, snatched my beer from my hands, and drank the whole thing—lifting the can to his mouth in the same way a human would—while giving me the evil eye. Never before did I feel so much like Chris Griffin from Family Guy.
3. You won’t know the true meaning of broadband until you’ve used a faxmodem in Laos
I ragequit after waiting 20 minutes for one e-mail to send. On the plus side, I ended up having a wonderful internet detox in Laos.
4. Speaking the language (even a tiny bit) is super useful
It’s amazing how positively locals will respond to even the most broken attempts at speaking their language. They’ll usually find it endearing, and doors will open for you.
5. But language is not strictly necessary
I’ve ordered chicken noodle soup by clucking like a chicken and pointing at a bowl, or communicated numbers by drawing them on my hand with my index finger. Once in a roadside restaurant in Burma, after several failed attempts at ordering, I walked into the kitchen and pointed at whatever smelled good (to the delight of the staff). Language barriers are only there to be crushed—and it’s fun to approach this creatively.
6. You don’t have to be rich (by Western standards) to travel
7. People with the most basic lives are often also the friendliest
8. Meeting locals is the key to big cities
I often find large cities more challenging for me to get to know better. They can be a little alienating, or just have so many layers to peel back before you find the truly good stuff.
Hanging out with a local can change that completely. They can take you to that impossible to find roof-top bar, or they’ll know a green grocer that turns into an underground cult cinema at night (!), or they’ll bring you to this amazing street food place that has people lining up around the block. Big cities have little secrets, and it’s often locals who can help you find them.
9. People around the world all want the same things
Work, family, love, laughs, etc. There’s common ground everywhere.
10. But we’re not all the same
I get why people say we’re all the same (and in the grander sense we are), but for me travel mostly just emphasises how different cultures can be. You only need to look at all the little details. For me one of the ultimate examples of this is a city like Tokyo: it might seem like any modern metropolis from your airplane window, but on the ground it’s actually incomprehensibly different to anything you’ve ever known.
11. To travel smart is to travel light
I traveled with only a 40 liter backpack, and that was just perfect for me. I’m glad I didn’t end up hauling a giant way-too-heavy backpack around the world.
12. No amount of prior research will tell you what a place is truly like
13. Your plans will change all the time
14. I am too tall for this world
I am 1.94m (or 6’4). That’s not uncommon in the Netherlands, but in many countries it’s considered extremely tall. As a result I have hit my head on far too many door-frames and market stalls, and spent far too much time crunched up in transit with no leg room. Once in a sleeper bus in Vietnam the beds were encased in essentially a plastic sarcophagus, and since my legs didn’t fit I had to leave them bungling to the side for the entire 8 hour journey. I was a sad panda.
15. Passports are not water proof
My passport got thoroughly soaked while speedboating through a rainstorm in Belize. I’m a little sad as many of my cool stamps are just big ink blots now. Next time I’m bringing a dry-bag.
16. Travel has broadened my interest in world news
When you hear news of foreign places it doesn’t always fully register. When it’s about places you have visited, you sit up and pay a lot more attention.
For instance, this happened for me when the Philippines was struck by disaster in 2013: seeing photos of places I’d been utterly flattened added an emotional dimension, and as stupid as this is, it probably made me want to donate to relief organisations more than I would have otherwise.
Recently I found myself genuinely caring about the outcome of the Colombian presidential elections, which would have a big impact on peace talks with the FARC. I kept thinking back to Pablo, my guide in Medellin, who had told me with such raw emotion about the history of the conflict.
I like that travel has made me feel just a little bit more connected to the world, and not only to Western countries.
17. On a long journey you need to keep a journal, even if it’s really basic
18. Always have a travel soundtrack
You will create some powerful associations with the music you listen to… associations that you will remember forever.
19. The world is mind-boggingly huge
20. But sometimes it can feel absurdly small and full of weird serendipitous connections
21. I wish I’d brought an action camera
Sandboarding in Peru, mountain biking down Bolivia’s death road, scuba diving at Palau Sipadan in Malaysia… I would have liked to have some videos of these experiences. Alas, I only brought a DSLR camera, so I just have my mental recordings. Next time, I’m taking a GoPro.
Mountainbiking down death road in Bolivia (shot by someone else).
22. Markets are fascinating places
Local markets can be chaotic and intense places to wander around: I’ve often found myself overwhelmed by the smells, sights and sounds. You might see some interesting things for sale (particularly in developing countries), like big stacks of chicken claws or buckets filled with frogs.
23. Earplugs. Thank fuck for earplugs.
24. Taxi drivers are the worst
Honest ones are a rare breed almost anywhere.
25. Early bird catches the worm (much to my dismay)
I am not a morning person. Tragically, every important tour, trek, or UNESCO site visit requires getting up at some horrible ungodly hour. I cry.
Of course, it’s almost always worth it.
26. You have to see the joke in a bad situation
It’s 2 a.m. in a town in Mexico. Due to a lot of bad luck and bad planning, the only room me and my travel buddy could find for the night looks like a prison cell from hell. To make matters worse, we failed to find any kind of proper food at this late hour. We’re tired and broken, sitting outside a closed gas station, silently sharing a Snickers bar we just got from a vending machine. “Well, this is nice,” I say. We explode with laughter, and can’t stop laughing for another 10 minutes. We agreed to do better tomorrow.
27. There is a whole beautiful world beneath the waves
Learning to Scuba dive on Koh Tao in Thailand is one of the best decisions I ever took. My first-ever dive was like stepping through a mirror into a strange other world. I’ve been taking every chance to dive since.
Palau Sipadan, Malaysia. Photo credit: SK Chiuh via Seaventures Dive Resort
28. Seriously, scuba diving is incredible
Nothing surprised me more than seeing a cuttlefish shapeshift right in front of my eyes—its brown and rock-like skin turning into a smooth porcelain white before shooting off into the deep. Seeing light green bioluminescent plankton sparkle as you wave your hands through the water on a night dive is literally magical. And when I swam through a swirling vortex of barracudas as it blocked the sun above me, my jaw dropped so much you’d think my regulator could have just floated away.
I’m actually getting goose bumps just thinking about this now.
29. We need to take much better care of Earth
Overfishing, loss of rainforest, climate change… it feels like so much is slipping away.
30. Yep, that was a cockroach.
Welcome to Asia.
31. If you’re lost, follow a dog
I got lost at the top of the Copper Canyon in Mexico. Actually, I knew roughly where I was, but I had to find my way back within an hour to catch the day’s last bus back, and I wasn’t sure how. I couldn’t find the actual path anymore, but I did find this fella here. Within half an hour he led me straight back to the town, where I bought him a ton of biscuits for being such a good dog.
Disclaimer: most dogs don’t know where the hell they’re going
Above: my rescuer. A visitor of my blog actually recognized this dog and said they’d named him Picchio when they met him. Thanks Picchio!
32. Travel long enough and you’ll eventually end up somehow crashing a wedding
33. You’re packing and unpacking every few days. You will definitely lose something at some point.
(If you’re lucky, it’ll be just a toothbrush or a sock.)
34. Space-time is warped in Latin America
30 minutes means 3 hours. “Muy cerca” is still 15 blocks away.
35. Sometimes people will randomly want to take a photo with you, but no one will smile
36. Eat it before asking what it is
37. Local food and street food are just the best
Especially in countries with amazing food like Thailand or Mexico. Though delicious as it is, you’ll inevitably start to crave some variety. Western style food is rarely very good, but sometimes you just really need a burger…
38. In some countries American fast food is not what you think it is
Go to Pizza Hut in Ho Chi Minh City and a waiter will show you to your table. There’s mood lighting with young couples having a fancy night out. What on Earth?? The American fast food experience sold as an up-scale and aspirational thing.
39. Extreme or crazy food is rarely legitimately good
Eating things like guinea pig, fried tarantulas, giant ants, bugs, etc. can be really fun! But it turns out there’s a reason people eat chicken or cow. When going for the weird stuff, dipping in sauce definitely helps.
40. Chopsticks are fun. I wish I could eat everything with chopsticks
41. Hostels without WiFi: I love them
If you’re looking for that wonderful communal sitting-around-a-campfire-with-people-from-all-over-the-world feeling, a place without internet is where you’ll almost certainly find it.
42. I am my own worst enemy
I suffered no physical harm during my travels… except this one time in Argentina when I was zipping up my backpack. The zipper flew off causing my clenched fist to land right onto my eyeball. Ouch!
43. Take ATM error messages with a pinch of salt
‘Incorrect PIN’ does not necessarily mean you entered an incorrect PIN, because that would just be too obvious. Some ATMs just throw a random error when they don’t accept your card. I’ve been stressed out by ATMs many times, but usually they’d just magically work again the next day.
44. Always say yes to karaoke
No night ever ended badly with karaoke. My favourite time was when a waitress in Singapore invited me and some friends to a karaoke party. It was an after-work thing for off-duty bar staff, and so our booth had all these people doing flair bartending with bottles of liquor they had smuggled inside. We didn’t leave until early morning.
45. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to surf
But it’s fun to try.
46. Travel changes your perception of distances
I used to think going all the way north to south in my home country of The Netherlands took a long time (about 3 hours). This seems like a cakewalk now compared to some of the 20+ hour journeys I’ve taken.
47. I’m happy with less
Living out of a backpack brings everything down to their essentials, and I haven’t really missed much. That said…
48. Hooray for capitalism?
Spending some time in Cuba forever changed the way I look at a modern shopping street or supermarket. You don’t know what you’re missing until it isn’t there.
In Cuba the food options were often very limited — with maybe just a choice between cheese/tomato pizza OR… cheese/tomato sandwich. Stores had only very few products available. Then after 2 weeks I got back to Playa del Carmen in Mexico… and there were so many choices and so many varieties of everything that I didn’t know what to do with myself. Suddenly I could not only buy ice cream but choose from like seven different gelatarias.
49. The more you travel, the more you want to travel
And you’ll never be done in a lifetime.
50. Something can cost next to nothing in one country and a fortune in another. Accept this or you’ll go insane
51. The world’s tallest palm trees, found in Colombia, are at least as tall as 28 horses stacked on top of each other
I know this because I measured it.
52. You shouldn’t live your journey through a camera lens
I had to remind myself of this a few times. Get too snap-happy and you might just forget to experience the actual thing (in unbeatable high definition).
53. But photographing with intent can enrich your travels
I love to go into a busy street or market just with the goal of taking pictures of interesting things from unusual angles. I end up noticing details that would have otherwise passed me.
54. Don’t piss off a bouncer in Vietnam
Or you might get roundhouse kicked in the face, Muay Thai style, as I saw happen to an aggressive customer in Nha Trang. These guys don’t kid around.
55. Bartering at a market is cool
It’s kind of like a mini improv theatre session. Both parties have to feign shock and dismay at every suggestion, but both know it’s just this little dance you do to arrive at a mutually acceptable price. I was a bit annoyed with the process at first, but it can actually be a lot of fun.
56. Telling people you’re atheist/agnostic can be awkward
This is particularly the case in countries where people are very devout. I’ve had some pretty confused looks, which of course is understandable in places where there’s virtually no atheists. To skip the awkwardness and/or questioning, I’ve sometimes resorted to saying “my family is catholic”, which is only sort-of true.
57. Special events are worth planning around for
Getting somewhere in time for a festival or celebration can be a bit of a pain (because I prefer to improvise and not have too many dates locked into my travel calendar), but it usually pays off.
58. The world is not nearly as dangerous as you might think
So long as you don’t do stupid things.
59. Doing scary stuff is fun
I’m not a born adrenaline seeker, but I’ve loved the opportunity to push against my comfort zone. One of them was in Thailand, where I went caving and crawled through crevices that were nearly fully submerged in water while barely fitting a human body. Jumping from a huge cliff into a waterfall down below in Guatemala was another. Then there was that time on a tour in Vietnam that I had to stick my finger in a bee hive… okay, that one maybe wasn’t too bad.
60. Crossing the street in downtown Hanoi takes a leap of faith
Seemingly infinite streams of cars and motorbikes turn this into a nightmarish real-life version of Frogger.
61. Power cuts are fun
Some developing countries regularly experience power cuts. This is a shitty thing for the people who live there, but it’s not too bad of a situation if you’re a traveller. What usually happens is that candles get lit, people huddle up, and they’ll tell each other stories. If you’re lucky, someone has a guitar.
My favorite power-out: in the Philippines during a storm with lots of thunder and lightning. Such a good atmosphere.
62. Going solo? You will never be alone
Traveling solo isn’t weird or lonely. You will meet people everywhere.
Hiking up to the Lost City in Colombia with my travel buddies (who I met sailing from Panama)
63. But it’s also fine to be alone as a solo traveller
Travel can be introspective. Sometimes it’s nice to just quietly enjoy a beautiful view.
64. Whatever happens, you can always find a place to stay
It’s just one of those things you can easily overcomplicate in your head before you’ve started your trip. On the trail you quickly learn that no matter where you are, there will always be a bed. That hypothetical nightmare scenario of having to sleep on the street or something never happens.
65. You adjust to the rhythms of a place very quickly
I spent several weeks on the Gili Islands in Indonesia. The first couple of days I kept waking up at 5 A.M. due to the morning prayers blasting from the speakers at the mosque nearby. I was grumpy (see also: me not being a morning person). A few days later, I got used to it. The prayer calls throughout the day became part of my daily cycle, and I even missed it after I left.
66. There sure are a billion great card games
‘President’ and ‘Asshole’ are my enduring favorites. If you meet an Israeli backpacker, ask them to teach you Yaniv. Are you with Canadians? Have them teach you Moose. (I’m just going to assume that every Canadian knows Moose…)
67. Working while travelling is incredibly hard
Keeping a blog while travelling is just about do-able, but working on an actual project while also actively travelling seems nearly impossible to me.
I had set out to write a book about backpacking, but in a world full of distractions I didn’t make much progress. I had to lock myself inside with my laptop for two months to finish it. I’m proud of the book and I’m convinced I couldn’t have written it on a beach!
(Psssttt, Travel the World Without Worries is available now as ebook and paperback).
68. You will bump into people again
Wait, is that Eddie? Eddie the former finance guy from New Zealand who you last saw 4 months and 8 countries ago? Yes… of course it is. Though he’s got a big beard now and learned how to spearfish in the Amazon.
Long term travel is just full of the most seemingly unlikely reunions, and it’s always great to catch up again and hear what crazy adventures people have had since you last saw them.
One of my favorite places is this secret beach near El Nido, Philippines. You enter by swimming through the hole during low tide. Behind it is a coral reef and a small beach surrounded 360 degrees by tall cliffs.
69. Romance is fast and furious on the trail
If you’re travelling and single, you can go from “hey, where are you from?” to “whoa it’s like we are totally a long-time couple now” in mere days. Buckle up.
70. But inevitable heartbreak awaits
It’s easy to fall in love but just as easy to be heartbroken.
71. I’ve met people with the most fascinating professions who I would normally have never met
Just to name a few:
- An Olympic boxer from Cuba
- A VIP airline pilot from Canada (the kind that flies around movie stars and CEOs)
- A Dutch commando who fought the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia
- A heavily tattooed Scottish stripper
- A US navy serviceman who works on an aircraft carrier
- A girl who normally lives and works in a travelling circus in the American mid-west
- A producer of BBC nature documentaries with David Attenborough
- A professional close-up magician with the most stunning tricks I’ve ever seen (apparently he was an international legend)
72. Not every travel day is amazing
It’s okay to have a bad day. You just have to regroup, relax, and try again tomorrow.
73. Whatever happens, go with your gut
And life’s too short to second guess.
74. There’s nothing like that buzz from arriving in a new place
It’s like unlocking a new level in a video game and being presented with all new possibilities to explore.
75. Things that make you feel in awe of Earth:
Hearing the roar of an active volcano, seeing lightning from a plane, Iguazu Falls in Brazil, and any sufficiently high mountain summit
76. Sometimes you enter a small church in Mexico and, you know, there’s a bunch of dudes from an indigenous tribe taking shots of mezcal while ritually sacrificing a chicken
It’s a thing.
77. During Easter in the Philippines, they’ll crucify a jesus reenactor for real using real nails. Also: he won’t scream.
78. People from high-income countries are ridiculously privileged
We can easily travel just for fun. We are so rich and don’t even know it. Travel teaches you a little humility… and to complain less in the grand scheme of things.
79. I love eating out every day
Go to cheap countries and you can easily afford to eat out three times a day. I love it, though it’s easy to get spoiled… and sometimes I miss cooking myself.
80. I love spicy food now
When it comes to seasoning I used to be accused of being Mr. Bland. But since travelling a ton in Asia, everything changed. Later in Mexico and Belize I found myself in love with habanero sauce.
81. It’s the journey, not just the destination
To me a huge part of travelling is just the process of getting from A to B. I’ve moved by tuk-tuk, taxi, banka, propellor plane, jeepney, mule, horse, quad bike, bus, bicycle, tricycle, speedboat, catamaran, hot air balloon, and more that I can’t remember. But my favorite mode of transportation is always, hands down, trains.
82. Long term travel is amazing, but like having too much icecream, you can eventually have too much of a good thing
After 2 years, I was pretty tired of traveling
83. Robbery may be negotiable
Nearly at the end of my journey I got robbed in broad daylight by two street kids in Rio de Janeiro. When they took my phone I wagged my finger, and they gave it back. It was a surprisingly gentlemanly exchange, though they did get away with my wallet. (Plot twist – it was not my real wallet, and it only had about a dollar in it.)
By the way, in 2 years of travel this was the only “bad thing” that happened to me. A robbery is not a fun thing to happen, but it also didn’t feel like it was the end of the world. These were poor people trying to steal money at the lowest possible risk/hassle to them, visibly nervous throughout the process.
I always exercise a healthy degree of caution when travelling, but I also find myself becoming increasingly trusting in the world. Everywhere I went I’ve just met lots of friendly and helpful people, and bad apples are extremely rare.
84. Road tripping? Make sure you have at least a decent car
I drove through Central America with a buddy in a 1983 Subaru clunker that nearly fell apart. It seemed like the only people we spoke with from Honduras to central Mexico were car mechanics. Funny in retrospect, but stressful at the time. Least fun bit: the engine not starting on a mountain in Guatemala just as it was getting dark. (Though fortunately, it didn’t take long for some truck drivers to help us out.) Our road trip eventually ended 6 hours from our destination in Mexico with the gearbox literally falling apart… we sold the car for scrap to a random man in the street for a measly $100.
85. Isreali backpackers are nice!
It may sound strange but I was ‘warned’ about Israeli backpackers—by travellers and even by official guidebooks. I was told they’re loud, insular, and way over-the-top. Following military service they travel only in tight groups, supposedly ruining everything for everyone else.
Well… either things have changed, or this just hasn’t been my experience. Politics aside (and I’ve actually gotten some hatemail for writing this!), every Israeli traveller I happened to meet was generous, funny, and kind. Maybe it’s an old stereotype.
86. Yellow Dragon Fruit has to be the most delicious fruit on the planet
87. You have to appreciate the little things
It’s nice getting in the zone and immersing yourself. Travel is a great time to try and be more mindful.
88. Experiences are much more valuable than belongings
I find that experiences stay with me in my memories, and become a part of my story and identity in ways that possessions never will.
89. Box-ticking mentality and traveller’s FOMO are the two worst enemies of a traveller
Travel should never be a competition.
90. Travelling long-term won’t tell you where you’re going in life, but it will remind you where you’ve been and who you truly are
91. And finally: Live the life you want today
The one thought I keep coming back to is “I’m so damn glad I did this”. I followed my impulses, and while I spent a lot of time and money going around the world I will always have so many incredible memories that keep putting a smile on my face so very often.
Whatever it is you want to do there really are no excuses: you should go do it now.
Some links may be affiliate links, meaning I may earn commission from products or services I recommend. For more, see site policies.
Leave a comment
Your email address will not be published. Comments are manually moderated.
”A lack of tourists doesn’t necessarily make a place more interesting. And not all touristy or commercial places are really so bad”
This is so true!!! I visited some random cities in eastern Turkey. 0 tourists. But it wasn’t worth it. Absolutely nothing to see. On the other hand, Bangkok is full of tourists, but it is also one of the coolest cities in the world (imo).
”4. Speaking the language (even a tiny bit) is super useful”. Yup, for a long language trip, I even recommend taking a language course. Currently learning Arabic for my adventures in North Africa and the Middle-east! I also took a Thai course, but was never able to get the Thai tones correctly and Thai people did not even understand me, haha.
”8. Meeting locals is the key to big cities” This is GOLD advice. Hanging out with locals in Delhi made my trip way better & safer.
That is a great blog! thank you for sharing and keep posting
Great content with humongous value attached to it. Thank you Marek for your input, keep up the good work 🙂 I am also a traveler, can’t wait for the world to get back to normal and travel again.
Hi! I’m traveler too, till now been 21 months … and I lost some of my passion… now trying to figure out how to get it back .. great to read your opinion here.. at least you remind me somethings about traveling … hope to see you on the road when you back to travel again 🙂
Nat, Solo traveler from Thailand 🙂
All so explanatory and fascinating….but not so good with the earplug comment 🙁
Boy! These lessons are it! The essence of life and th reason we get up in the morning. As a fellow traveler I can relate to most (but not all because I haven’t yet experienced them) of them.
Oh mate these are some of the great lessons that you have learned. It’s just amazing how you put all these in one post. I am sure that these are definitely gonna help so many travelers through out their journey. And maybe some of them are already relate their experience with you like me. Thanks mate for these great info, really appreciate.
1 question! Did you get a travel insurance? 🙂 If yes, which one? If not, why?
Yes 🙂 I’ve used either World Nomads or Columbus travel insurance
These are some amazing lessons you have learnt on the road. I can relate to most of them. But, I didn’t quite understand why you called taxi drivers bad. I mean they do such a tough job! And, even though private taxis charge you a lot, the drivers are usually good.
I guess just some bad experiences I’ve had! 🙂
What a fun list! I was actually thinking of making one for the travel blog I have in mind as well so seeing yours was exciting! (Ok, maybe tonight I’m just in an excited mood browsing your website. 🙂 ) It’s so interesting to read about the views and experiences of other travelers and how more often than not there is a lot of common ground. Monkeys are definitely sneeky fellas. I remember having my small box of Japanese rice crackers stolen by one fella in a hotel in Bali! He just saw beneath the parasol munching away, hehe. I think this list is one I’ll be reading many times.
Glad you enjoyed this list and recognized some of these things 🙂
Great list, though as a Canadian I have no idea what moose is (the card game that is). Thankfully I’ve never, on second thought I’ll say rarely, had problems with a cad car but I have had problems with being bumped up and ending up with a too-nice car where I ended up standing out way too much!
Haha I’m beginning to think it wasn’t a famous Canadian card game at all. Perhaps my friends made it up on the spot!
That’s quite a list, thanks for sharing! Travel really is the most fulfilling, amazing experience!
“Weird and wonderful” describes it really well, lol. Thanks for sharing this, loved reading it!
Glad you enjoyed, Diana!
I really enjoyed reading this list – there is so much I agree with and so many more new perspectives on travel you brought up that I’d never really thought about! I look forward to reading more of your stuff and signed up to your newsletter too. Thanks for the inspiration, it has inspired me to put more and more effort into my own travel blog!
Thanks Blaise. Now your comment is, in turn, reminding me that I should post more often! Love your story on your about page by the way. 🙂
Ah you are so sweet – I love this list. Great job mate!
Thanks, glad you enjoyed! 🙂
Thank you for sharing all these lessons. I related to so many of your points based on my travel experiences (like traveling light and not traveling through your camera lens). You did a really good job of summing up your travel experiences in short but sweet and funny points 🙂 Look forward to reading more of your stuff!
I completely agree with your number 8! In my eyes, locals are what makes each city unique!
I’ve traveled to different countries and my number one goal is to connect with as many locals as I can. They can truly make any city feel like home, and before you know it, they can become your new best friends!
I’m currently planning my first travelling trip, to Thailand and Malaysia for 3 months, and your blog has already given me so much good advice and insight. Thank you so much for making this available and free!!! xx
My pleasure and hope you have a great trip! If you think anything is missing let me know as I’m always trying to improve the blog. 🙂
I’m already in awe with your blog! Just got back from Bangkok and reading your blogs makes me miss Thailand.. Im going to Malaysia & Singapore this Oct 28- Nov. 1. Do you mind going with me? Do you have any recommendation?
Marek! I love your style of life! So amazing, so many beautiful photos, great adventures, unusual and interesting people… big WOW 🙂
I am so proud I can met you yesterday on CS meeting 😀
(PS: your DESTINATIONS map doesnt work, it isnt display:(
Hey Aurelia, it was really cool to meet you and talk about our travels! Thank you for your nice words and also for pointing out the map – some server changes broke it but it’s fixed now 🙂
How long did it take you to come up with 91 lessons? You provide a such great combination of funny stories and useful tips, and from the way you write, it sounds like you could easily come up with 91 more. It sounds like you have had quite a journey in the two years you have been traveling!
Ha, I kept a notepad file open for a couple of weeks and wrote things down as I remembered them. I enjoyed doing this post as it’s a pure reflection of what I love about travelling, moreso than the usual ‘top places to see’ posts (even though way more people read those!) 🙂
What a lovely mix of deep insight and light humour!
Yes, never trust monkeys!!
This blog post changed me. It is hard to describe, but it resonated in me like a desperate call to action. I have always loved travelling and I want to experience the world instead of reading about it or seeing it on television. I never fully realized that this was really my dream until I read this post. It inspired me to get off my ass and do something about it. I leave January 22 for 6 months of backpacking Mexico, Central America, and South America. I bought my ticket last week. Thanks for the inspiration!
Chris, your comment puts a smile on my face. Amazing decision – enjoy every moment! 🙂
Awesome tips. We are currently a month into our travelling. We also started in Thailand. All your tips are too true :]
Israeli backpakers, loud and insular? I guess even more than that…I was years ago in Santiago, Chile, a nice Guest House did not accept these kind of travellers. I asked the Recepcionist what was the reason. Then I heard really weird stories; cooking in the room, letting more people sleeping on the floor, derty, loud and not respect at all. Years later, I was in Ibiza, these time were not backpakers but according to other guest ” those people are indecent”. There might be decent israeli travellers somewhere…
Wow. Speechless. Welcome to travel to India too in future my friend.
So people think Israeli backpackers are “loud, insular, and over-the-top”? Gee, sounds an awful lot like the stereotype of Jews! Glad you didn’t fall for it.
Honestly I don’t think this reputation is antisemitic though. Many israelis travel in their gap year just after completing a hardcore disciplined military service, so this can create a strong element of YOLO / letting off steam / etc. Though I didn’t notice it much myself 🙂
OMG, found your blog and this article by accident. This list ist amazing, there is so much I’eve experienced just the same way. Can’t believe it. Love it! Keep rocking!
Marek! I’ve been reading and reading about your adventures, your tips, your thoughts – I love it all! You are very helpful, inspirational and most importantly (for me) funny! GREAT! Thank you thank you thank you 😀
Thank you Marzena for those very kinds comments! 🙂
Wat een super leuke blog! En je schrijft ook zo leuk! Keep it up!! 🙂
Dank Mireille. Je hebt ook een gave blog – mooi verhaal hoe je je niet hebt laten stoppen! 🙂
I have read a lot of travel articles and not replied but your one really struck a chord with me today. I have cracked up laughing and cried at how honest this is and so accurate.
Im on a long term trip and during my time in Colombia I have had a fair few things stolen from me – 2 days ago my phone got stolen. Ive been feeling pretty p^ssed off and bummed out and was going to leave Colombia. However, since reading your article Ive had a good laugh, read a bit of honesty and decided to continue my time here.
Thanks for cheering me up and giving me the oomph to continue happily and not let these moments get out much.
A quote I read recently that I found perfect for travel….
I thought when I go travelling I would be changing lives when in fact it is my life that has changed.
Setbacks like that can be very dispiriting, but there’s always something good around the next corner. I’m happy to hear this post resonated with you! Good luck on the rest of your journey 🙂
Articles such as these put a smile on my face!
Nice trip Marek
you don’t get nervous travelling solo?
i want to go backpacking but am too scared to go alone
i know it sounds stupid but I’m scared ill feel like a loser
kind of like a loner – and have to do things on my own which then won’t be fun as u don’t have anyone to share the experience with
its like my biggest fear in life
Travelling solo can be a bit scary the first time, but maybe just try it out and see how it goes. Part of the answer is being comfortable doing certain things on your own – at some point you realise the ‘loner’ thing is all in your head. The other part is that if you stay in backpacker hostels, you can quickly end up doing many things together with other travellers you meet there. In many places you can travel solo while rarely ever being truly alone.
Whow ! That is a super-entertaining list you have made. Also a lot of learnings to take away from this. Beautifully written. I liked the witty style of writing. I am from India and yes 6’4 is super tall for us. People will look at you like you’re from another planet. Anyways; this list is going to help me plan my next trip.
Thanks for your nice words Apurva 🙂
What wisdom you have bestowed on us Marek! Such a fun read. I’m coming to the end of a 5 month trip in Central America – my longest ever, and it feels even longer given the variety of things I have done, seen and places I’ve been to. No doubt it won’t be too long until I can resume my world travels!
This is blog is brilliant. An inspiration for my own 🙂
Keep it up!
It’s awesome to hear this post resonated with you Josh 🙂 It’s crazy how many memories a trip like that leaves you with!
I have to agree with #10 since I lived in Tokyo for more than 3yrs. Yes, Einstein’s theory of time and space for #18 (a music or a book); relativity makes sense. Your introspective viewpoints in #16 #20 #53 and #52 are “nuggets of wisdom” (essential details). After working very hard, traveling cities and airports in a rush/appointments/itineraries etc.; Im going for a different trip.#63 I will be traveling around SE Asia and hopefully this will be as enriching as yours…
What’s your instagram?
Lessons to live (and travel) by.
Great post. I laughed (especially at the earplugs), and felt a slight punch to the chest when remembering the album i couldnt turn off while traveling with the person i fell in love with on the road. Excellent, excellent thoughts you’ve shared. Thank you. I look forward to continuing to follow you!
I nearly shot coffee out of my nose on #23! Ha. Yes, nothing worse than trying to sleep but the sound of epic-traffic keeps you awake.
Thank you so much for making this post! I backpacked for about 9 months before landing in Taiwan and living here for the past year. So many of the points you made resonated with me. I laughed out loud at yes that was a cockroach, welcome to Asia. I also really appreciated you mentioning that long term travel can turn into too much of a good thing. It’s cool to see we’ve been to many of the same places. Hopefully you’ll be on the road again soon! I know as soon as I got home I had itchy feet after a month or so. Cheers 🙂
That wasn’t unusual…the one where the Burmese guys wanted to take a pic with you. I was taking a Dutch guy thro’ Red Fort in Delhi and a local family approached me saying they would like to snap a pic with the “white man”. In spite of our protests, they didn’t let us go. In the end, the poor guy had to pose as if he was shaking hands with them individually ;-))
Haha excellent. Recently I was approached constantly for photos in rural Indonesia as well. Sometimes when one person found the courage to ask, it would cause every other person in the vicinity to also come in for a photo. :-S Felt like a full time job!
This was so so lovely. I can’t wait till I have memories like this.. Currently planning my first backpacking trip for 3 months in central America with the help of your blog posts! So helpful, thanks soooo much 😀
So much love for this. Thank you, Marek! I’m planning my next trip at the moment… cannot wait.
Rachel | A Little Grey
Fantastic! What a list, packed with advice, humour, and solid truths. You seem like the kind of traveler any backpacker would be happy to meet!
What a wonderful, varied list packed with truth. You, sir, seem like the type of traveler any backpacker would hope to meet! 😀
omg nearly died at number 34!!! hahaha such a true, down-to-earth list! will totally rummage through your blog for a while now x
Just curious on how your earning $$ while traveling. Are you location independent currently?
Hey Mike. Nearly all of my 2 year travels were funded through existing savings. Now my situation has changed as this blog plus another site give me enough income to continue a travel lifestyle sustainably. I do have a fixed base again now (in Brighton UK), but having online sources of revenue lets me travel whenever I want.
I should probably do a post on the financial aspects sometime – there’s other people who have taken other approaches (for instance teaching English abroad in between travelling, or doing freelance programming wherever there’s WiFi, etc.).
This was such a fun read, thanks for sharing! I loved seeing Guatemala on your list. I was just there last summer, and fell in love with the country. My favourite place I went to was Panajachel- and waking up at 5am to watch the sun rise on Lake Atitlan was most definitely worth it.
Great post! I feel ready to pack my bags and become mesmorized by all the world has to offer.
Love this post!
I’m from the Philippines and I often read people from 1st world countries commenting something like this on travel blogs/posts ‘I wanted to travel but I can’t afford it’ (those in high-income countries are priviliged and they just don’t know it).
It is quite challenging for us in the 3rd world countries (min. monthly salary here is around $250) to make long-term travel happen. But I guess if you want something so bad, you can find means to do it 🙂 Search for ‘South America’ landed me in your site.
Thanks Joann. It’s true that people from high income countries often don’t even realize the options they have. The money is easier for us and so are our passports (I recently read a story from a Filipino who had to try for years just to get a tourist visa for Europe). It makes it all the more inspiring when people still try to travel despite bigger obstacles!
I wish this list could have gone on forever! Really amazing writing and so many resonated with me from my own experiences traveling. I want to do Colombia next!
Great tips. Would really help me a lot . Happy travelling!!
Laos or Vietnam, which would you suggest for a short backpacking trip, say 3D2N for a girl? Thanks in advance.
I’d probably say Vietnam. Laos is a very slow paced and remote country with limited infrastructure which could end up being frustrating on a short trip
Which part of Vietnam, like Halong Bay Islands or city is better for 3 days? Other ideas?
Honestly, this is very difficult for me to answer because I’ve never spent just 3 days in a destination like Vietnam. I usually take a chance and if I don’t like a place I go somewhere else. If your time is limited, there’s much more pressure for a place to really deliver. Halong Bay is cool but I don’t know how a 1-day tour compares to the full thing, for example. I would say maybe hedge your bets and go for a city with enough daytrip opportunities nearby.
This is absolute perfection. You are such an inspiration!! What a beautiful list. I have done a bit of traveling, but starting my year of backpacking in 3 weeks…first stop, THAILAND. You literally just got me soo much more excited, I didn’t even know that was possible 😛
Comments such as these put a smile on my face! 🙂 You’re at the start of something so wonderful. Good luck and enjoy every moment!
Nice blog I agree with 99% of what you said. I managed to make my way to every continent and I learned quite a bit doing it. I to found it’s not expensive if you are frugal. That’s the most important thing for people to know you don’t have to be rich to travel, my family was poor I grew up poor, the money I saved to travel was from working while in college. I never regret a day. My brothers had to send me money periodically but they never griped because I think they liked living vicariously through me.
I could not agree more with your points! Yet I might not be on the same page in regard to the whole idea of being on the road for a year or even longer – in my opinion, you might as well move to another country for that long and have a first-hand experience of the “real” life there… but that is, of course, just my perspective on life 🙂 Anyway, this is a great list and I already can think of a couple of people I’d like to show it to.
Thanks Anna! There’s definitely great value in that too. I’ve met a lot of people who stayed in one place to work or volunteer, and they got to know a country much better. On several occasions I stayed in one place for about a month, but that’s not quite the same. 🙂
Good Lesions 🙂