Even though there are a thousand articles written on how you should take the first step and travel the world on your own, the truth is that when the moment approaches you are never a 100% ready. There are just so many situations that you will face that in the moment they arise, it won’t matter how much you have read on the topic, your mind won’t be able to react as it should. There are some others that, even though you read all the essentials, you will only learn them once you live them. I decided to go back to some of them and reflex a little bit on what I learned from them.
1. Pack wisely
Three years ago, on my second trip to Azerbaijan my bag arrived 5 days later than me. It was one of the worst nightmares ever. It was the middle of a cold winter, 30ºF (-1ºC) temperature, all my coats and winter clothes in that bag and I couldn’t experience as much as I was trying to in the city because I didn’t have enough clothes to be outside for a long time. After this experience, I learned to pack a lot better for the Winter. One of the problems I had on this trip was the fact that I was bringing liquids with me, so I decided to use a bigger bag and check it in.
Lesson learned: Check in a smaller bag with the liquids and the least amount of clothes possible, and bring a carry on bag with me inside the cabin with at least one coat and two or three different outfits.
2. Organize my essentials to be easily found on my carry-on bags
I never meant to be that person who stand in the middle of the airplane aisle trying to fit the carry on in the overhead bin while everyone wait who annoys everyone else. I don’t know why it became for me kind of challenge try to move out of the way as fast as I could. The first step to avoid this was trying to figure out what did I need to have close to me while I was sitting on the place. I solved it always traveling with pockets so I can put my earphones there. Then, the other thing I always do now is having a book, the tablet and my pillow being the first things to grab when I open my bag. I believe in every flight I’m becoming less annoying (I hope so!).
3. To never feel happy with the first air tickets I find on my searches
This one was more a thing of trial and error. For my first Europe trip four years ago I did stay with the first ticket I found online, it was definitely a good price, but now that I’ve acquired a lot more of experience I’ve realized that I could have found something better. Now when I have a trip in mind, I check four or more search engines and set different price alerts to be sure I’m taking a good deal.
4. Always carry my valuables close to my body
After being robbed a few years ago, I learned that cash, credit cards and phones or cameras always go the closest to my body I can. Also, I learned that there are spots in the world where you shouldn’t be carrying a bag around. That’s why I found other things that help me go around feeling safer.
5. To trust others when I am not able to do it on my own
I believe this is the most important thing I learned while traveling and every time I move around the world I can see it clearer. Our parents taught us when we were little to never talk or trust strangers, and a lot of us developed our guts the best we could to trust the least possible. Traveling for me has become a way to be surprised (or disappointed) of the human nature.
I always travel on my own, I know that I can’t walk trusting everyone I find on my way. Luckily, there are many tools in our word that has made a lot easier the process of meeting strangers, and in this case, fellow travelers. I have always been thankful of what Couchsurfing has done for me since I started to travel. I knock on wood that, until now, I don’t have any Couchsurfing horror story, but amazing friends I have met along the way. This is always something I recommend to fellow travelers: you don’t need to surf someone couches to be on that community, but get there and get to meet amazing people.
Another thing I have learned is that, even I am a strong independent woman, when I need help there’s nothing else I can do but ask for it. Once I got stuck in the middle of the road after a volleyball match and I wasn’t sure how to get back to my hostel. I had to ask for help to the first person I found in the parking, I only needed a phone to call a cab and pick me up, but instead he decided to take me to the hostel. I’m glad I did that: even though I could have imagined the worst thing ever for getting into a stranger’s car, instead I found a good person that saved my life and who also became a friend. Sometimes you must risk and forget about what your parents told you: talk to strangers, and trust them if the situation requires it.
I’m sure that, even though I wrote this and you will agree or disagree with some of my points, you will never be so sure about any experience until you live it on your own skin.