Oh dear, where to begin. Let’s just say, solo travel will really teach you some stuff. Honestly, I made so many f*ck ups and learnt so many lessons during my time in Southeast Asia/Australia that I really think I deserve some sort of prize. Or certificate. Or perhaps a nice badge.
Whatever, the point is, I’m wise now.
Yes I’ll make more mistakes when I’m on the road again, but not the same ones twice. Surely not. Knowing me though, it’s quite possible. So, today I thought I’d share some of my discoveries with you in the hope that any travel newbies out there can save themselves some trauma.
- Self-care is the most important thing
This is a big one. Hence why I’ve popped it up here first. It’s really easy to get caught up in the mentality of daily boozing and saying yes to every activity possible when you’re travelling, but in reality, this can be a one way ticket to burn out (and financial ruin).
By all means, if you’re only away for a few weeks at a time then you can probably live the high life and not care, but balance is so important when travelling long-term. After a few months, I had to learn to schedule in alcohol-free nights and get more rest in order to be fit and healthy, and y’know, have the energy to do stuff.
Take it from me, when you’re feeling run down, it’s really difficult to enjoy things. So I started adding a few extra days onto my schedule to simply do nothing. Itineraries are overrated in my opinion, and I always discover the best places when I’m just going with the flow.
I also treated myself to the odd cheap hotel, because seriously, never underestimate the power of a comfy bed and a hot shower. On top of this I started taking multivitamins, drinking lots of water and eating more fruits and vegetables instead of living off noodles or pizza.
Oh, and massages. Get lots of massages.
2. Don’t pack so much crap
I packed so much unnecessary stuff when I left for Southeast Asia that I was genuinely relieved when some of it got stolen in Cambodia.
Honestly, it’s true.
First, pack what you think you’ll need, then take over half of it out. Just a couple of pairs of shorts, t-shirts, swimwear, underwear and a pair of flip flops will be all you need clothing-wise if you’re off to sunny climes.
I’d also recommend taking a few toiletries and meds in case you get stuck, but it’s easy to buy the essentials when you’re on the road. Less is definitely more.
Believe me, your spine will thank you.
3. Technology is amazing
It really is. I hate to say it, but it’s true. Let’s not pretend.
I honestly thought that I’d shun all forms of technology on my travels, no question. I’d be too busy living amongst nature like a proper hippy, sunkissed with beachy hair and not even a hint those pesky dark circles under my eyes. I’d even sell my iPad and iPhone because y’know, nomads don’t need that kind of thing. Who knows, maybe that hunchback I developed from years sitting at a desk would magically disappear too?
Oh, if only this was true. Turns out, I’m only half hippy.
The other half is a 21st century lady. It’s hard to admit, but as much as I love being surrounded by nature and being away from screens, I also like scrolling through Instagram before bed and watching movies on my iPad when I’m lonely and don’t want to socialise. It was essential for my sanity when travelling solo and a vital way to keep in touch with people back home. Also, I’m a freelancer now, so an internet connection will be pretty essential on my next trip.
Just to add, I spent 10 days wifi and electricity free on the island of Koh Rong, and whilst lovely, I’d had enough after a week.
So there, I tried it. Don’t judge me.
4. You can’t be in control of everything
For some reason, if I got sick during my travels I’d deny it in the early stages. That gurgling sound coming from my intestines? Totally normal. That pain? Don’t be silly, that’s just cramp or something from those 2 sit-ups I did in my room earlier.
Then before you know it, boom. It’s code brown.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find the nearest toilet/hole in the ground and escape the situation with dignity. If, like me, you’re not so lucky, you’ll be forced to abandon your undercrackers by flinging them into a bush in the Cambodian countryside.
Tragedy struck when I was walking to a yoga class one morning at a retreat. I’m still deeply confused about the whole thing if I’m honest.
Sorry for the overshare.
5. It’s perfectly OK to abandon people
Sounds harsh, but it’s one of the most important lessons I learned while I was away. Truth is, everyone is different.
I discovered that I’m more of an introvert than I first realised, so I need more time and space alone than most people in order to recharge the batteries. I also love doing things by myself, which helps.
As I mentioned in this post, it can really drain you when you’re travelling in the wrong company, so I’d always advise people to do whatever it takes to branch off and recharge. If something feels off, my advice would be to leave. Move on to a new place. A new hostel.
Whatever, just go.
I did it countless times. Just listen to what you need at that particular time and stop caring about upsetting people who you’ve just met.
It’s your trip, so don’t waste time feeling uncomfortable.
6. Bugs might crawl on you, but it’s fine
This kind of relates back to the Cambodian bush incident I mentioned earlier. You’ve got to face it, some things are just completely out of your control when you’re in foreign lands, and you can’t protect yourself from every potentially bad situation. I mean, if someone had told me that a giant cockroach would crawl into my t-shirt on Koh Rong, I would’ve died at the thought and cancelled my trip.
But shit happens, and that shit actually happened to me.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but my fear of cockroaches pretty much disappeared after that.
Thanks lil fella!
7. It’s OK to f*ck up
I won’t lie, there was a time in Cambodia after the cockroach thing and that bush incident and, the erm, casual moped mugging (a story for another time), when I felt pretty fed up.
I also started to question life.
Had I been cursed by that lady who looked at me funny in Bangkok? Was I in a cruel Japanese reality show? Was a just a shit traveller?
But, when you venture into the arena of travel, it’s an education.
I wouldn’t change any of my mistakes or erase any of the embarrassing memories, simply because it’s all part of the story. Cheesy as it sounds, you really do learn from these things, so you just have to take it on the chin and enjoy the good times.