Ok, so first things first. I didn’t go off travelling to find myself, or anything like that. No really!
But somehow along the way you still find out stuff ABOUT yourself. And that’s pretty cool too. Here’s what I learnt:
1. I don’t need more stuff than fits in my backpack
Ok, that might be a little bit exaggerated, considering I still have stuff at my parents’, my boyfriend’s parents’, my brothers place….uhm, you get the picture. I used to be the girl who couldn’t wait until payday every month to hit Topshop and H&M and get a new outfit that I reeaalllyy needed.
If you only have a 45 litre backpack and have to carry everything yourself, you have no choice but to prioritise. For someone who needs around 19 minutes to decide what flavour bubble tea to get (passion fruit and cucumber in case you were wondering) it was quite refreshing to only have two dresses and one playsuit to choose from.
Getting dressed is much quicker and there’s never much laundry to do – win win!
2. I don’t need much action to keep me entertained
You know you’ve reached a whole new level of lazy when you find yourself lying in a hammock for hours thinking about maybe moving to a different hammock later in the day, if you can be bothered (turns out I couldn’t be). That’s what I did for about two weeks on Caye Caulker, Belize.
We initially only planned on staying five nights over Christmas, as we were meeting some good friends there, and I was really worried we’d all get bored on the tiny island.
Boy, was I wrong!
Simon basically had to drag me onto the boat kicking and screaming because I didn’t want to leave my perfect island paradise.
Everybody we met asked us what we got up to for such a long time. To be honest, nothing much, really. We ate lovely food, swam in the warm Caribbean Sea and chilled at the Split with a few cold beers.
And trust me, it didn’t get boring. If you’re in the right place with the right people you don’t need much action to enjoy your time.
3. The world isn’t as gross as everybody tells you
When you prepare for a trip like this you undoubtedly come across a whole bunch of horror stories about filthy toilets, disgusting food and bed bug infested hostel rooms. So naturally I was a little bit worried about how I’d cope in situations like this.
What surprised me most was that we didn’t actually find ourselves in too many gross situations at all. The world isn’t such a nasty place, and yes obviously there are horrible hostels out there (and we had our fair share of those too) but generally if you research online and ask fellow travellers for recommendations you’ll be fine. And remember that usually people are proud of their guesthouses and restaurants everywhere in the world and want to offer great quality.
But that’s not what you want to hear, is it?
So, yeah, yeah, we did stay in a room which not only harboured a rat (not a small mouse as Simon tried to let me think) but also a whole family of cockroaches in the dresser. I freaked, to say the least.
Then there was the time we had food poisoning while hiking the Inca Trail in Peru. There’s a reason you can’t find much information online about the quality (or quantity) of toilets along the trail, they are UNSPEAKABLE! But surviving 4 days with squat toilets makes you appreciate the lovely, clean, modern, pay-as-you-go toilet at Machu Picchu so much more!
4. There is no right or wrong travel budget
Everybody travels differently.
Some people like package holidays they can buy at the supermarket; some people like adventure, hiking to Everest base camp. Others only travel in luxury, and others, like me, are backpackers on a tight budget.
While I was preparing for this trip I read every post I could find about shoestring travel and guides on how much (or little) you’ll have to spend in each country. You start to think the only right way to do it is super-shoestring-eating-ramen-noodles-and-drinking-box-wine every day. We were struggling a lot with going “over budget”, (and we did, we ran out of money half way round the world and got stuck in Australia for six months).
But that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. It just means the budget you initially set yourself didn’t fit your personal travel style.
I’m not an 18 year old gap year traveler who’s happy eating toast everyday to have enough money to get drunk at night. I love good food and trying new dishes is one of the most exciting parts of travel for me. So if that means increasing our food budget and instead working along the way to be able to do it, so be it.
Only you can know what’s important to you and what you’re happy to spend money on. A designer handbag in Milan, a skydive in New Zealand or a Michelin-starred dim sum meal in Sydney.
5. The more I travel the more I want to travel
Ok, this is a short one. I thought this trip was something like a congratulations-you-made-it-through-your-PhD-without-losing-your-mind gift to myself; a big treat for studying for ten years.
After that I’d have gotten travel out of my system and would settle down. The case was quite the opposite. The more I’ve traveled the more I want to travel. Once bitten by the travel bug there’s no cure. Yay!
6. I really, really want to start my own business
And last but definitely not least. Ever since I’ve started seeing how people all around the world make a living running their own businesses, be it the German expat in Nicaragua who sold handmade jewellery at the beach, or the Cake Lady in Belize who sold her mouth-watering home-made cakes from a little cart, I knew I wanted to be my own boss, too. I’ve thought about it vaguely in the past but suddenly it feels like I should’ve known it all my life.
What exactly this business will be, I don’t know yet. Ideas have ranged from running a falafel stall to opening a mini golf course, via starting an online travel business or opening a school. A little too kooky maybe, but I’m sure over time I’ll figure it out and it’ll be awesome.
Or go horribly wrong, but at least I’ve tried.
Now I’d like to hear from you!
Has travel ever taught you anything surprising? Why not share it in the comments? I’d love to hear about your experience!