One thing that has changed dramatically in my life in the last year or so, is the amount of travelling I have been doing. And it has been a very steep learning curve in every respect. So with that in mind, I have compiled a list of the most invaluable life lessons that travelling the world has taught me. Fasten your seatbelts guys, you're in for some deep stuff here...
1. Travelling alone is SO MUCH EASIER than travelling with others.
I have officially been ruined for all girly or family holidays from now on. I no longer enjoy having to wait around for other people before checking in or heading to the gate. Or even sitting beside people I know. I am very happy alone, thank you very much. It seems daunting at first, but once you do it a couple of times you will never look back. I guarantee it.
2. The “Emergency Fifty Euro”.
This is a typical Irish Dad manoeuvre. My dad always used to tell me to have an emergency fifty euro on hand just in case I lost my card or something on a night out. I, of course, NEVER adhered to this. After being caught in a couple of sticky situations where my reliable debit card wasn’t accepted/ didn’t work/ I had no money left in my account though, I now understand it. And would you believe, after being in Canada since November 2014, I have had that emergency fifty euro in my wallet the whole time. And yes, it is a fifty euro note, not tempted to spend it that way, ya see? Smart, that's me.
3. Don’t keep all of your money in one place.
So as much as I advocate the emergency fifty euro, I also refuse to keep an awful lot of cash on me as a rule. No cash = less of a target. I also keep money in different accounts and with varying levels of ease of access. That way if I lose my wallet, with all of my cash and some of my cards and then by some awful disaster my safe is also raided, I still have enough money in the back of beyond that means I can somehow make my way home or to another safe place where I can regroup.
4. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS carry a clean set of underwear in your hand luggage.
Like I mean ALWAYS. Luggage has a fascinating way of growing legs and disappearing. And even just having a fresh pair of your own pants can make things a lot less stressful. Same goes for a bra. Lads, you may not understand this, but there's literally nothing worse than only having one bra option. Those things get smelly. Fast. And, Lord help you if the underwire breaks. Those things digging into your boobs during the day is a new level of torture. We’re talking Guantanamo levels....
5. Adaptability is key.
Things are going to go wrong. Luggage will get lost. Flights will get cancelled or delayed. Connections will be missed. Who cares? You’re still on holiday right? Before I started travelling, this would be an entirely alien notion. I was the ultimate stress-head. But now though, I've learnt that everything can be dealt with in its own way. Luggage will be found. There will be other flights. When things start going south, I always just think “it could be worse, I could be in Lost right now”. If I ever do end up in that situation, all of the tiny disasters I have survived will hopefully stand to me. Along with all of the episodes of Bear Grylls I've watched, obviously.
6. FaceTime somewhat eradicates homesickness.
Everyone gets homesick every now and then, it’s completely normal. Especially when things don’t go according to plan. FaceTime and Skype are lifesavers, in this situation. Sometimes all you need is your Mother giving you the old “never give up” speech or even looking up what to do in the specific situation in which you are currently stuck. The internet is available almost everywhere, and you can rest safe knowing that even if you find yourself in the back of beyond, CHILDREN OF THE NOUGHTIES, I GIVE TO YOU THE HUMBLE PHONE BOX AND CALL CARD. Google how to use these before you leave because they are invaluable.
7. Keep some things from your parents though, all the same...
For example, I've gone to the emergency room a couple of times and the time difference means that at home it would be the middle of the night. I have chosen to wait until I have more info or, you know, never, to tell her. There's no point in keeping your nearest and dearest up all night worrying about you. A broken arm is a broken arm, no matter the time of day or night. If you’re big enough to go away travelling, you're well able to braveface it alone for a couple of hours in the hospital or drunk tank-wherever you may end up. Also, if your Mother is that worried, you'll never, ever be allowed to travel away again, over her dead body.
8. People are bloody LOVELY.
If you have any issues at all, people are generally happy to help. Obviously, choose wisely, there are more than enough people out there willing to take you for a ride. But, honestly, people will generally help you as much as they can. All you have to do is ask. Friendliness is a powerful tool. And being wildly grateful transcends all language barriers. As does exaggerated sign language. Smiling gets you places. Resting bitchface does not, trust me.
9. Get up early in the morning and walk around the local area.
It has a variety of benefits. First off, you can locate all the important local places, I always look for a supermarket, a pharmacy, a bar and the local police station. Obviously some places are going to be further than expected. So I’ll only spend an hour or so. Second reason for doing it in the morning is that it isn’t too warm or busy, so you can get more done. There are also less undesirable characters around in the morning, just in case you get lost. My third reason is that it helps me cope with jetlag, as opposed to laying in my room fretfully trying to sleep, I get up and active and move around. That tires me out enough that I can get another nap in, and still be able to have the rest of the day. Sorted.
10. Travelling is the most fun that a person can ever have.
Going to different countries and seeing different customs is mind-blowing. But it is important to respect these customs and traditions. Time and time again, we hear stories of people getting arrested for breaking local laws. Do your research before going to a country. If you really want to be there, make the effort. On the same note, please, for the love of God, DON’T DO ANYTHING STUPID. NEVER get involved with anything even the slightest bit shady. Everyone knows in their heart of hearts when a request sounds dodgy or illegal. Travel is awesome. Trouble when travelling is not. Stay under the radar and just bloody enjoy being in other countries with some good old fashioned, clean fun. This world is there to be explored, go for it!