Yep. That’s right. This is no April fool. Today, this baby face hits the big 3-0. Despite the constant handing over of my ID when I’m buying a bottle of fizz, my third decade has arrived. EXCITING. And I’ve chosen to welcome it in with 30 travel lessons I’ve picked up over the past years adventuring and exploring…
1. You’ve probably definitely packed your passport. But it doesn’t stop you checking as you leave the house, five minutes down the road, three minutes later, on the Stansted Express (seven times), at the airport, in the airport loos, in the Wetherspoons bar queue and three times going through security.
2. Budget travel doesn’t have to be grim. Hostels have cleaned up their act, street food is in and there’s loads of free stuff to be done wherever you go.
3. Double check where you’re flying from. Unless you want to be like this girl *thumbs up*, who ended up having to book a new flight to Iceland after going to Gatwick instead of Stansted.
4. Sitting on the beach isn’t quite as boring as I thought. I used to wax lyrical about how sitting on the beach sunbathing was a waste of a holiday. Nowadays, I’m way more open to more relaxing beach day or two. Just as long as I can get up and do something frequently, regularly have a drink in my hand, and have plenty of reading material to be getting on with.
5. Speaking of books…invest in a Kindle. Seriously, coming from a former ‘REAL BOOKS ARE BEST’ preacher, it’s the handiest thing you’ll buy for travelling. And less books in your case = more space to bring home TREATS.
6. Camping abroad is super different from camping in the UK. Before I went on my East Coast USA trip, I’d only camped at festivals and grey, drizzly British weather. Turns out in the USA, camping is a lot cooler. Waking up on riverbanks, rolling out of my tent opposite Elvis’ Graceland, and getting up at 5am to see the sun rise over Florida’s Destin Beach.
7. Beware ice. And not just the slippy kind on the floor. Being mega-careful not to drink the tap water in Mexico, I managed to completely ignore the ice in my tasty frozen margarita. WHOOPS. What followed? Becoming besties with the toilet in Palenque, obviously.
8. Stop giving a shit about your hair. It’ll be windswept/sweat-soaked/rained on within the next ten minutes anyway. (this definitely doesn’t stop me definitely still giving too many shits about my hair).
9. Make sure you’ve got good travel insurance. And that it covers everything you’re going to be doing on your trip. Like, for example, skiing. Over a third of bumbling British folk (yeah, that’s us) injure themselves in some way on a winter sport holiday, so having the right travel insurance is a boring but vital thing.
10. Travelling with friends is awesome. As long as they’re awesome friends in the first place, at least.
11. Travelling solo is also awesome. Because I rather like my own company.
12. As is travelling in part of a couple. My boyfriend is still my favourite person to go adventuring with (probably because he lets me make the majority of decisions…)
13. 18-30s group tours aren’t all coaches of pissed up Aussies. Some of them are though. Small group tours are the way forward, as much as seasoned travellers turn their nose up at them.
14. Hop On-Hop Off buses are a great way to see lots in a short space of time. Don’t @ me. Read this post about my day in LA instead.
15. Touristy stuff rules. Okay, yeah, getting a local bus to a nowhere town 50 miles away to spend three days ‘living like the locals’ is fair enough, if that’s your style. But pretty much, fuck anyone who looks down on people who just wanna check out the Colosseum, throw a penny in the Trevi Fountain and eat some gelato.
16. ALWAYS PEE BEFORE YOU LEAVE ANYWHERE. No matter how much you think you don’t need to ‘go’, you will in roughly 20 minutes’ time if you don’t.
17. Eating alone is totally fine. As is going to the cinema alone, going to a gig alone, going on a rollercoaster alone. If you wanna do something but no one else will join you, the world won’t point, laugh and shout ‘SADDO!’ if you go solo.
18. Don’t get a taxi from your airport. It’s SO much cheaper to get local transport, or even a shared transfer. Research it before you go, to save more money for cocktails.
19. If you’re going somewhere where there’s even the tiniest chance of getting bitten, COAT YOURSELF IN DEET AT ALL TIMES. Seriously, those bad boys are ITCHY.
20. Plan in time for unplanned stuff. Because the best stuff always happens when you least expect it. And even if the stuff you do discover isn’t what you hoped for – it might just make for an interesting story, at least.
21. Make the most of included buffet breakfasts. Eat seven sausages and a million rashers of bacon so you don’t get hungry til mid-afternoon, at which point you can tuck into the cheese sandwich you’ve made sneakily in your lap at the breakfast table and the chocolate chip muffins you wrapped up in a napkin.
22. Not everywhere looks like it does on Instagram. Case in point – we hunted down some colourful steps in Bucharest that we’d seen beautiful shots of on the internet. Turns out those pics had either been HELLA Photoshopped, or were very old indeed.
23. There’s nothing wrong with ‘doing it for the gram’. But travel should be about more than that, and the best moments always happen when you’ve put your camera away. Don’t stress over the fact that they’re not photogenic – the most enjoyed things often aren’t
24. Charge your camera. In complete contrast with the above – I can’t count the amount of times my camera battery’s bailed on me when I’m in a particularly gorgeous and interesting place.
25. Comfy clothes and shoes are essentials. I basically stopped packing heels when I realised I can’t even walk in them at home anyway. A hoody, a good pair of trainers and some comfy flats are always first on my packing list these days.
26. Invest in decent luggage. Because a cheapo suitcase breaking on the tube before you even get to the airport is an actual nightmare.
27. Pack extra underwear. BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW.
28. Don’t forget to actually pack underwear in the first place. Yes. I have done this. I soon became the proud owner of 14 pairs of Walmart’s cheapest pants. (They’re actually pretty great).
29. If there’s something you want to do, do it. No matter how ‘uncool’ (Popeye Village, which I loved) or weird it might seem, or how nervous you might be (a bungee jump, which I have NEVER done) . Because you’ll definitely regret it if you don’t.
30. Just go.