Remember how you felt the very first time you went travelling? All that rush and excitement of the unknown? You knew it was going to be amazing, but perhaps no idea how addictive it was going to get. Truth be told, the more we travel, the more we enrich our lives. From the relationships we make with others to the relationship we end up having with ourselves, as well as life values and new perspectives – travelling changes everything.
Experience and wisdom also come from travel. After roaming thousands of kilometres across the world, we can often find ourselves wondering: how many of the things you know today do you wish you knew when you first started travelling?
1. One of the biggest things we wish we knew when we started travelling is that places are often very different than what they appear in photos or in the media. This could be a good or bad thing. For instance, some of the most picturesque places are often nothing more than a tourist trap. Trying to capture a photo of that “beautiful, remote” spot can prove impossible without a crowd of people in your shot. On the other hand, some places that are painted as “dangerous” in the media turn out to be completely the opposite. In fact, we’ve encountered overwhelming hospitality in some of the most unexpected places.
2. One other thing we wish we knew is about Charles Schwab accounts. It’s free to open a checking account and they reimburse ATM fees worldwide! Plus the exchange rates are the best. This could have saved us a lot of money our first year abroad! – Brittany and Charlie, The Trading Travelers
3. The first thing I wish I knew when I started travelling (solo) is that it is OK to talk to strangers! It’s so ingrained in us from childhood to be mindful of talking to strangers, and you should. But when travelling for the first time talking to and meeting new people will make or break your experience!
4. The second thing is to try everything at least once! Trust me on this one! Looks weird? Try it! Smells odd? Try it! Never seen it before? Try it! If it turns out to be awful, at least you will have a great story and cherished memories to share. – Tamara, Traveling Natural
5. If I knew that travelling alone opens many more doors in the countries I’m visiting, I would probably choose to travel solo to more destinations when I started my travels. Usually, when I was travelling alone I got more help from local people, more invitations, offers to go to places that only local knows. Travelling alone also helped to find more about local culture. I was invited by local families to go to celebrations, and places that I did not know to exist.
6. At the same time, I would have been glad if someone had told me that I should keep my eyes open for people whose behaviour looked much too friendly. More often than not, if someone has already been too friendly instantly upon meeting them, you should pay attention, as maybe they wanted to get something in exchange later. There is almost nothing for free – just depends on what people want in exchange for helping you. – Ria, Life in Big Tent
7. Before I started travelling at age 15, I wish I knew I’d be doing more of it. I rushed through four European countries in a blur at 15, barely stopping to marvel or take in what I was seeing (who does the Vatican museum in 90 minutes?!). Since then, I’ve been to more than 30 countries and lived abroad in Spain.
8. So. I guess I also wish I knew I would eventually meet and marry someone foreign – then I could have warned my parents! – Cat, Sunshine and Siestas
9. Italy was the first country I visited outside America. It was a whirlwind trip, but Italy left a lasting mark on my heart. The next time I landed in Italy, I never expected that my destination — the Amalfi Coast — would become my home! I had no idea how much travelling can change your life if you let it! Ten years on, I enjoy reflecting on how much my travelling experiences have changed. Now that I speak Italian, I feel I get to know each new place I see in Italy on a deeper level.
10. I wish I had taken more time to learn Italian before those first visits to Italy. Do you need to know Italian to visit Italy? Absolutely not! But if you have the chance, do learn as many conversational words as you can. You’ll be so happy you did while travelling in Italy! – Laura, Ciao Amalfi
11. One of the two things we wished we knew before travelling is that you don’t need to have it all figured out before you go. As things rarely go to plan, it is best to have a rough idea then go with the flow to have the rest fall into place. Some of our fondest travel memories are those which were unexpected and we now have incredible friends around the world.
12. We also wished we knew that money could be stretched and there were unique ways to replenish it. We thought we needed a big nest egg to get started and keep going, but once you start, you meet others and find your passion. Then your mind is open to thinking differently and making things happen. Travel is amazing on so many levels and it’s what keeps us thriving and feeling alive every single day, even with kids in tow! – Alan and Heidi, Wagoners Abroad
13. When visiting Granada, Spain, the best advice is to book tickets for the Alhambra Palace six weeks before travelling. This beautiful Andalusian monument gets very busy and it is good to know that you need to plan ahead. Otherwise, getting up really early to try and get tickets at the last minute can be stressful.
14. Another tip is to observe the locals and follow suit. After over 20 years travelling, this is the best thing to do when visiting places you are unfamiliar with. As I have lived abroad since 1998, I’ve learnt the hard way, but know now that the locals do things a certain way for a reason. It may not always be clear with new arrivals. An example is that during summertime, the Spanish will walk along the pavement in the shade, whereas visitors tend to want to be in the sun. – Molly, Piccavey
See Also: Off the Beaten Path: Do This, Not That
15. Travelling is a wonderful opportunity to discover different cultures, different customs, different food. When I started travelling I wish I would have known that no distance is too far. Looking back I should have ventured to countries further away – Asia and Africa in particular.
16. The second thing kind of goes hand in hand – time. When starting out to travel (usually in high-school/ university) time is not such an issue. Something I regret not doing is travelling further for longer. Backpacking for months through South America sounds so great! Time becomes a luxury as you get older so travel far and travel for longer is my advice. – Andreea, On Food and Wine