Before I left for my trip I had various ideas in my head of what to expect and what travel would be like, and heard plenty of travel stereotypes about what kind of people you’ll meet and what the experience will be like. So now I’ve been back home a few months and having gone through a fair few myself, I thought I would bust some for any future would-be travellers out there.
- Travelling should be done a certain way
As someone who has travelled solo, with friends, in groups, across different continents and on very different budgets, I can safely say there is no set way to travel to get the best experience. It always amazes me when people try and tell you how you should be doing it to get the best experience. It sounds obvious but everyone is different and we all experience things in different ways. Your experience will completely depend on your personality, on the people you encounter and experiences you share. A lot of the time during your travels you’ll meet people and end up doing the unexpected, in fact some of the best experiences are the ones you haven’t planned, you see a chance to do something that sounds like an adventure and you do it. For anyone that tries to tell you how and where to travel definitely listen, but take it with a big pinch of salt. Think about what you think you’ll like, and if you don’t know (which I didn’t), then try some different things. There’s no way to know you will or won’t like a certain type of travel until you go out and give it a shot.
Sometimes you’ll find that some of the most highly recommended places are actually disappointing. Some of the best experiences I had were places either off the beaten track or ones I stumbled upon by accident. So my advice on this one is there is no set way to travel, I still don’t even know the best way myself. If you’re new to travel, try different things, try different ways of travelling and contrasting countries, because if there’s one thing I can be sure of it’s that until you’re out there you’ll never know.
- Travel will always be as great as the Instagram pictures
I remember the days when travel was a distant dream on the horizon, when I looked enviously at incredible pictures online of people’s trips and got massive travel envy. Now I’m back home, I frequently see photoshopped places I visited on travel social media channels represented in completely different ways. Always with the thousands of tourists taken out and just the right filters used. Although the picture above is not filtered or photoshopped (yes Fiji really is that beautiful), alot of the time photos will be. Having met travel bloggers and Instagrammers, travelled with them and then seen it transpire onto social media, it definitely lets you get a bit of perspective on social media vs reality. I spent a lot of time trying to best document and remember my trip taking pictures to share with friends and family to make wherever I was visiting look as epic as possible. We all do it, it’s natural, and to avoid stating the obvious it’s really not the reality or even capturing the best bits about travel.
The best bits about travel are those moments that really make you realise how lucky you are, or just sit back and think ‘how crazy is it that we’re here doing this’. It’s the people you meet, friendships you make and shared experience that really make travelling special. It sounds bad but sometimes I’d visit a place of interest, take a picture and think ‘OK great I’ve seen and snapped that, what next’. It’s not those things you remember, its exploring bamboo forests by bicycle, hiking up to waterfalls, being immersed in local culture, going off the beaten track and discovering the unexpected, and having boozy nights with new friends who a few hours ago were complete strangers from the other side of the globe. That feeling when you arrive in a new country and step out into a completely different culture not knowing what’s in store. That’s the best bit about travel, those experiences it’s often hard to capture, and even harder to recreate.
- You’ll ‘discover yourself’
Now this is one I heard a lot. Often people go travelling as they want change in their lives, it allows them to push boundaries and learn new things about themselves they didn’t realise. In this respect, did I discover myself and feel reborn as a new person? No, not quite. But. And it’s a big but. I do feel I’m different now I’ve returned. I genuinely feel my trip was life changing, but not in the ‘I discovered myself’ kind of way. I realised (and I’m still realising) that through the people I met, the new perspectives I gained, the time I had to myself and to think, I was really allowed to reflect away from the pressures of everyday life and a career, and plan for a life in which I would be a lot happier and more fulfilled. Now I’m back, I still don’t have it all figured out, who does. But each day I’m learning new ways that travel changed me.
Once I came back and slowly returned to normality and getting some sort of routine, I started realising all the ways I’d changed. I realised how for the first time in years I wasn’t stressing out about the future as much anymore, I knew not the details, but a rough idea of what kind of life I wanted to lead and how I was going to do it, and I even noticed little things, like how I wanted to get up earlier and make more of my time no longer being satisfied with just sitting in front of Netflix all evening every evening (although admittedly I still like an occasional binge). Mainly though, travel allowed me to take a break from the rat race and actually have time to think for myself what I wanted. What did I want to do with my life, where did I want to be, who did I want to be?
- You may find lots of ‘travel snobs’
Now this was a big worry for me. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there that seem to use travel to impose a specific view of how things should be done, and how places should be experienced. Kind of like some hipster snobbery but for travel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m massively of the view that you should try and take a step off the tourist track and meet local people, but that’s my view. Unfortunately though you may meet people who feel there is a set way and will look down on anyone who doesn’t meet those standards, often even judging the length of time you choose to be away for. An example of this unfortunately was a few girls I met on a train in Thailand backpacking through the country (I know right, Thailand, how un-mainstream), who proceeded to mock some of my fellow travellers because they had suitcases rather than backpacks, calling them ‘suitcasers’. I mean really? It’s this kind of utter superficial nonsense that really gets on my nerves. If you travel you should leave your judgement behind, it’s just taking the same closed minded opinions abroad and I have no time for it.
HOWEVER, it’s not all doom and gloom, luckily these people are in the massive minority so I wouldn’t really worry. As in, 99% of people you’ll meet are awesome, open minded and actually embrace how travel should be about celebrating difference. Which is great. If anything people are actually probably my favourite part of travelling. For me, it’s your trip and it’s your money so do it how you like. If you want to stay in hotels stay in hotels, if you want to couch surf with locals, do that. My only advice is to try different things and push yourself out of your comfort zone every once in a while, often the best experiences happen when you put youself out there.