10 important lessons I’ve learned on the road

So here goes, a new blog with a new look, a new start, a chance to talk about my love of travel. To kick things off, I am 26, closing in on 27 at a daunting rate. I currently live in Cambodia, where I have been managing projects for an NGO for 4 months. Previously I worked in volunteer travel and development programmes in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Mexico. My career-based passion is education and international development. I have now been on the road for 5 years, have visited 26 countries and experienced the highs and lows that encompass that journey.

I have learned so much from my travels, so much more than I could have ever learned if I had followed a more traditional path, so here are a few of the most important lessons for life on the road (at least according to me):

  1. You will always regret not trying something much more than you will regret giving it a go and not enjoying it. This lesson was employed very strictly when I bungee jumped at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, as much as I wanted to run away, I knew it was something I had to try whilst I had the chance, if not, I would always have wondered ‘what if…’.
  2. Not everything you eat is trying to kill you. I was cautious at first, as every sensible first-time traveller is, washing fruit in drinking water, not eating street-food. But my first really adventurous trip took me to a small island called Mafia in Tanzania, and there wasn’t much on offer if you didn’t try the street food. I did and yes I did get the one dicky-tummy in a month, but overall I learned to be more of a risk-taker when it comes to food. Some of the best foods I have had have been from street vendors, but yes it may occasionally end in the bathroom!
  3. You will need home comforts. I love to throw myself into a new country and a new culture, trying new foods, activities, exploring. But I also know that some days I will need to stay home all day watching movies, or go and eat the most homely dish I can find (in Battambang this is crispy chicken strips and fries…) for the sake of my sanity!
  4. Sometimes you must be frivolous. I have witnessed so many travellers missing out on simple pleasures and memorable activities for the want of saving cash. If it means your trip is a week or two shorter but you got to sand-board in Namibia, or simply drank a few beers with new friends every night, be sure not to inadvertently limit your enjoyment by limiting you cash.
  5. Whatever your age, there will always be times when you miss home. I still have plenty of days when I need to call my Mum, chat things over and move on. I might not be able to see her every time, but skype makes a decent alternative.
  6. You will eat a lot of rice. If you leave the west to South or Central America, Africa or Asia, to name some serious land-masses, you must accept that you will eat rice, almost every day, sometimes every single meal. Just accept and embrace it.
  7. People are the most interesting resources. You will see so many things in your life, do so many amazing activities, experience great wonders. But the most interesting experiences will involve other people, people you would never otherwise have met, people with a story to tell and an ear to listen to yours as well. Make time for people, whether it is your taxi driver, a guide or just someone you meet on the street, be patient and friendly, be open to their conversation.
  8. Sometimes you will be lonely. That’s true as well, as well as being homesick, you may simply be lonely. You might spend weeks moving from place to place, not spending more than a day or two with the same person. Technology is a great cure for loneliness and I often use this chance to connect with a familiar voice, or of course, just go out and find someone to share a beer with and move on.
  9. Trinkets are great memories, but don’t overload. I love to take home a souvenir, a memory of a happy time and a beautiful place. Just remember that there will be plenty of opportunities to shop, and plenty of amazing treats to buy, so limit yourself and be real about what you will use when you get back home. Often, I actually find that buying clothes, bags and jewellery to wear along the way is one of the best things as they get plenty of use and carry even more memories with them.
  10. Be yourself. There will be times when you land in a place and everyone is doing X, but you came to do Y. You will find yourself travelling with people and suddenly having different plans. Be yourself, go your own way and beat your own path. The journey is yours and only yours. That being said, be flexible and differ from your plans when something truly attractive becomes an option.
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