Spending money on travel is like an investment in yourself. It scares you, excites you, liberates you and ultimately changes you.
I remember the first time that I packed my overweight backpack and set off on the road. I had no idea what I was in for… overcoming my fears, making friends, getting robbed, being ripped off, gaining confidence, learning to trust and getting some slap in the face lessons about life through the world of travelling.
But, it ended up being the best decision I ever made. Having travelled on and off for the past 3 years, I have put together a list of the 21 things that NO ONE tells you about travelling (and you’ll only learn after you’ve been).
1. That you become richer by spending more money on travel
There’s no doubt about it, travelling is expensive! It will burn a hole in your wallet but you’ll laugh as it does.
As cheesy as the old saying goes, it’s the only thing that you can spend money on that will make you richer (that and education). But, you know travelling is like enrolling into the university of life.
You’ll learn about the differences in the world, culture, humanity, your own fears, how to survive, making friends and ultimately yourself in this classroom.
When you think back on that money you spent, you’ll never say ‘I wish I didn’t spend it on so many amazing experiences!’ or ‘Damn, I’ll never get those hours of my life back’.
Long story short, you will never regret going travelling. Get a passport of stamps rather than a house full of stuff.
2. You’d miss your bed…so damn much!
It’s the only thing I dream about when I’m travelling. Especially when my bed is a seat on a bus for the whole night, I’m staying in a hostel or I’m camping and it’s in freezing temperatures.
Travelling isn’t all luxury and it can be tough. I once did a 24 hour journey from Arunachal Pradesh to Kohima for Hornbill festival. I had to hop from a jeep, to a overnight bus, on another bus and then a taxi to just jump straight into a tent with no sleeping bag or roll mat.
My god, did I miss my bed then.
That time that our flight out of Myanmar ‘took off early’ and the airline put us in the only guesthouse in He Ho which resembled little more than a jail!
3. That you should half your luggage and double your budget
A tough lesson but ultimately the most important. It’s something that I don’t think you really learn until you’ve come back from your first trip.
You’ll pack all your toiletries, towels, six pairs of jeans, a hairdryer, mosquito nets and those money belts which you ‘definitely need’ (not). Your back will be breaking with that pack that’s bigger than you. Then you’ll realise you used about 30% of it and wonder why you ever packed so much.
You’ll spend money like crazy, you’ll spend money on taxis and Western food in Asia that tastes bad and costs double the price of local food. You won’t bargain or haggle. And soon your small budget which was going to keep you going for six months will only get you four.
Double your budget. It’s better to overbudget rather than go with the bare minimum. You don’t want to be going home early by not having enough for your whole trip. Or, click here to see a money saving secret.
The first time I set off to Asia with my shell
4. That you would share so much about yourself with other travellers
I’ve always been a bit of an introvert but I was quickly sharing more of myself to random travellers in 5 minutes than even my closest friends at home.
You’ll be sharing stories, gory details of illnesses, that time you got ripped off somewhere, where you’ve been, where you’re going, travel tips, your dreams and more.
You’ll overshare and sell yourself like an elevator pitch to make friends in hostels and it teaches you confidence. To create memories, find people to share the experience, laugh until your sides hurt and cringe at travel mistakes.
It’s all part of the journey.
Partying with new friends at the bowling alley in Luang Prabang !
5. That you’d meet friends for life on the road
Many of the people that I meet on the road I’m friends with now. Whether that’s on Facebook, Instagram or people that I reunite with when we’re in the same place, I love the fact that I meet friends for life. People that share your passion, your interests, it feels like your travel tribe.
Partying in Wellington, New Zealand with fellow Kiwi Experience friends!
6. That you’d become a millionaire overnight!
You’ll be getting currency from all different countries and in some, you’ll be become an overnight millionaire! When you head into places like Vietnam, you’ll be getting millions of Dong out of the ATM.
Don’t spend it all at once 😉
7. It will change your perspective on life
Before I went travelling, I believed that having a lot of money meant being happy. That having a car, house and the latest iPhone would make me a better person. But, when I went travelling, all of that was thrown out of the window.
Now I believe that experiences are the things that make your richer. That I would rather spend every penny I have to watch a sunrise in a different place than to fill my wardrobe with clothes.
It’s funny but once you make that shift, your perspective on life will never be the same again.
8. Your standards would be lowered
Okay, so this isn’t for everyone. But, your standards will change.
You’ll no longer need or crave a 5* hotel when a homestay has more warmth and welcome. You won’t need MAC makeup or the latest fashion to feel good. You’ll appreciate the small things like having a roof over your head, having a warm meal and people around you to share experiences.
A Tuk-Tuk is more of an adventure than an air conditioned taxi and sometimes the third class carriage where I can hang my legs out and breath fresh air beats any plane!
9. You will become frugal to travel more
I no longer go online shopping and spend hundreds of pounds on clothes and makeup, I would rather save my money for travelling. Always in the back of my mind, whenever I go to spend money, I think “that’s a hotel night” or “that could be spent on a plane ticket out of here”!
You start becoming smarter with your money as you know it will bring the next journey closer. You start bringing your own food to work, saving £5 a day by making your own coffee and wasting precious travel funds on partying at the weekend.
Because partying in your hometown will now never compare to the parties and experiences you had around the world!
1o. It’s sooo addictive!
You’d think that when you travel it would get it out of your system. But, that is totally not true! When you start to travel or come to the end of your travels, you’re constantly planning where to go next. Looking at your bucket list, finding inspiration on Instagram or Pinterest, lusting after places you’ve never even been yet.
Travelling is the most addictive habit you can have…that’s actually good for you!
11. That you would spend so many hours of your life on buses
I actually get scared when I think of how many hours I’ve spent on buses. My record is a 3o hour bus from Varanasi to Kathmandu. Closely followed by the 27 hours from Laos to Vietnam. Then 20 hours from Manali to Leh in India and the millions in between!
You’ll start to get used to spending so many hours on public transport. It’s weird because when I’m at home, a 2 hour journey feels like a lifetime but when I’m travelling it feels normal. “Oh, it’s only 8 hours, that’s nothing” said no one in UK about a journey, ever.
See my guide all about night bus survival!
12. Or get up at ungodly hours for so many sunrises
Growing up I never wanted to get up before 8am. I’m not really a morning person. But little did I know, I’d wake up for so many sunrises on my travels throughout the world. 4am trek up a mountain to see the sun pop it’s head over the hills you say? I’m in!
Having a city or a place to yourself is also another reason to wake up nice and early and beat the crowds. You just can’t beat it.
Sunrises are truly a time when magic happens before your eyes!
13. You would walk a stupid amount to avoid a taxi fare
I once walked 13km down a beach with my massive backpack to avoid paying $30 for a water taxi to Long Beach in Koh Rong in Cambodia. That included getting dumped about 10 metres offshore, having to wade through the ocean and carry my pack on my head praying that my stuff wouldn’t get wet…
There’s not a lot I wouldn’t do to avoid a taxi fare and when you’re travelling every penny counts. You’ll haggle til the cows come home, walk for hours, hitchhike and sacrifice going to places to avoid massive taxi fees.
But, I’ll let you in on a little secret, walking round a city and getting lost is the best way to see a place anyway!
14. That you will want to set your wardrobe on fire!
Packing clothes for six months of travel seems like a good idea at the time, but by the end of it you’ll want to burn all the clothes in your pack. Don’t take plain clothes, zip off trousers and stuff you wouldn’t wear when you’re not travelling!
When I first went backpacking, I hated all the clothes I brought. I read so many travel articles to bring plain and practical clothes and I felt miserable wearing them. Why on earth did I think it was a good idea? I felt like the clothes didn’t express who I was. So, I ended up wearing one jazzy dress I loved to DEATH and ended up wanting to burn it when I came back home.
Of course you can buy more clothes on the road but never underestimate how badly clothes (and expensive for the quality) are made in Asia or how expensive fashion is in Western countries.
In short, try and take a varied wardrobe that actually expresses who you are and you won’t want to set on fire!
R.I.P to this dress…ashes to ashes, dust to dust!
15. You will transform into a human turtle
Ever wanted to be a Ninja Turtle growing up? Well your wish will be granted when you go backpacking. You will transform into a human turtle with a giant heavy home on your back. So, try to travel light or you may find that you’ll struggle to walk!
Click here to read a review of my favourite pack away home.
16. That you’d learn so many languages
“Mingalabar”, “Sawadeeka”, “Xin Cao”, “Namaste” – know any of these yet? I can guarantee that when you travel you will learn ‘Hello’, ‘Goodbye’, ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ and maybe ‘How Much?’ in a variety of languages. Before you know it, you have added a tonne of local languages into your vocabulary! You won’t be fluent, but you’ll know enough to get you by.
It’s actually one of my favourite things to do when I go to another country. You should definitely try it, it will gain you a few points when you’re meeting locals (and even money off when haggling!).
17. That locals will restore your faith in humanity
Maybe it will be someone who pays for your metro ticket when you have no Singapore dollars or an ATM nearby, or someone who gives you a lift. It could be someone who gives you honest directions or offers you some snacks when you’re near starving on a bus.
Your homestay who offers to wash your clothes, someone who shows you round their city, or a local who lets you borrow their phone when you have no service.
Either way, learning to trust and see the good in people is all part of what travelling is about. It will restore your faith in humanity and make you want to do more for travellers back home in your own country.
My new friend Rahul who partied with me when I was celebrating Holi on my own in Pushkar!
18. That a smile is an international language
No matter where you go in the entire world, coming with an open heart, mind and armed with a smile is sure to make you welcome anywhere you go!
When I was in North East India, everyone was speaking in Tribal languages. Nagamese, Khasi, Tawang but time and time again my guides were translating what the locals were saying. A lot of them said ‘Language isn’t same, but laughing is same’. This really stuck with me.
Smiling is an international language. Use it and see!
19. That you’d leave your heart behind in so many places
There are so many places that have my heart and even my soul. India being at the very top! I don’t think I’ve ever truly had my heart broken as badly as I did the day I left India. I just don’t know how to describe it, I’ve been to over 30 countries now but, India feels like home to me.
You’ll find that you’ll instantly fall in love or just ‘fit’ with a country and when you leave you’ll want to cry and already plan how you can sneak back in!
Well, you’re never more than 30 hours away from a country by plane, so don’t fret too much! It will always be there.
Memories from India!
20. You’ll feel homesick for places which aren’t home
When you choose the life of a Nomad, the world is your home. And, sometimes, you won’t even miss the country you were born in! You’ll miss the families you became part of along the way, the places that felt like you’d always been there, the food from a country you crave (Thailand *cough*) and relish in all the good memories.
That’s when you know you’re hooked on travel, when your home is never in one place and it’s where you lay your head for the night.
21. It will be the best time of your entire life!
All the anxiety and the worries, all the fears and the limitations will be a thing of the past. You will realise there was nothing to worry about and that travel is the best thing that ever happened to you!
It isn’t all an easy ride but it’s not about the destination it’s a journey and a beautiful one at that.
Your hometown won’t change, your friends and family won’t change, the world won’t change but you will. You’ll crave new experiences, lust after new adventures and you won’t be able to look at your world in the same way again.
You learn a lot on this travelling journey. The world is a classroom and it’s the hardest exam you’ll ever take. But, when you come out the other side, you’ll wonder why the hell you didn’t start sooner.
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