It's soon 4 years since we started travelling together. Our travel world is our unique way of experiencing travel and life. We learned a lot and we hope to expand our knowledge base and continue to widen our horizons. The most important travel experience for us has been the realisation that we are addicted to knowledge. Somehow, this is our purpose. It's like we connected some dots, somehow, somewhere, and this was what we were meant to do in life: learn more about the world. We spent countless hours walking and talking to each other. We love debates and we challenge each other every day. And in doing so, we learned what we love from life, and how we could use travel to our advantage.
They say travelling changes you. This goes against one of the most fundamental Romanian sayings which I grew up with: "Lupul isi schimba parul, dar naravul ba", meaning "The wolf changes his coat but not his nature". I don't believe travelling changes you. What I do believe, however, is that through the means of travel, you gain a unique opportunity to discover what you enjoy most in life. You have a lot of time to wonder, ponder, think whilst waiting in line at the airport, whilst flying to the other side of the world. You connect with various books, people, dishes and cultures. Slowly but surely you discover a pattern of what part of travelling makes you happy. Some love the efficiency of travelling, others love the discovery of missing historic puzzles. Some love talking to people and seek human connections, whilst others lurk in the depths of national archives and libraries in search of cultural discoveries.
As with everything in life, the travel world is a mere tool which, if used correctly, can open up doors of opportunities. Give in, but remember to stay grounded. So what did we learn after 4 years of travel?
Our travel world: lessons from the road
Patience is key
The best travel experiences are there to be shared with others. We've been travelling together for several years now and we loved every single moment of it. Was it always easy? No! It takes time to learn what you need and want from life. It takes even longer to discover what the other person needs and wants. It's a process and one which requires a lot of patience. Irrespective of your travelling companion (if any) you still need a lot of patience. Once you join the travel world, everything changes. You leave your comfort zone. During my travels, I was faced with many of my demons: screaming children, loud drunken people, slow queues at the airport. The list can continue forever. The only way out? Being armed with patience. It took me 4 years to learn to be more patient, and although I improved a lot, I'm still far from being patient.
People are not that different
The mysterious travel world taught us some seriously interesting things about people. We lived in 5 different countries. We can definitely express with certainty that stereotypes are as real as they get. However, down to individual level, people are all different. This creates a very interesting travel world paradox as I like to call it. How can such different individuals which have nothing to do with the stereotype, put together, create a stereotype? How can 10 quiet individuals, put together, create a very loud group?
So why do I think people are not that different? Whilst nations are different from each other in terms of belief, education, culture and food, down to a fundamental level, people have the same needs. People want to be remembered, people want to be happy, have meaningful relationships and have a fair life.
In knowing so, you can now connect with people who otherwise may seem hugely different. Erase the superficial stereotypes and dig deeper. You are going to find a piece of yourself in each and every single human you encounter.
Travelling is incredibly tiring. The best way to get over the hurdles of long drives, waiting around and flying in an uncomfortable chair, is to lead a healthy lifestyle. It makes all the difference.
Buy what you need from the destination
This is one of my favourite things I learned from travelling. I used to fill up my luggage with shampoo, conditioner and shower gels which I can very well buy at the destination. It's hard to let go of things but after several months on the road, all the stuff you once thought you need, become useless. When we left the UK, we kept 4 boxes in storage and decided to have them shipped to Europe after several months. We lived a happy life without anything in those boxes. Once we received them, we couldn't believe the stuff we kept. Almost everything was useless.
Keep only the strictly necessary, save your photo albums and memories and ditch the rest. You can find everything you need, in almost every destination you visit. Travelling taught us the art of letting go.
Get travel insurance
Things go wrong. Things can go wrong in your office, in the comfort of your home, during a flight abroad, or during a hike to the top of New Zealand. It's a matter of great coincidences and unfortunately, it can happen to and you, at any time. The best you can do is be prepared: so have travel insurance, spare cards, and a plan B. Always check the travel advice, always have plan B. I mean it!
Things can go seriously wrong when you least expect it. Do you speak several languages? Do you know someone who can help you if in need? Do you have access to forums, groups, support centres if in trouble? Who can you call? Do you have emergency numbers written down? Are you aware how to scream for help in different languages? Do you have any survival skills if trapped in the mountains?
Travelling requires a set of skills which are best learned through experiences. But no matter if you are just starting out, or have been travelling for years, it is essential that you have travel insurance. ALWAYS.
Don't arrive too early at the airport
I'm serious, it's a waste of time. Read the instructions on your ticket and don't arrive a second earlier than you have to. Do you need to check in your luggage? Then arrive no earlier than 2 hours, drop your bag and make your way to the gate. Travelling with hand luggage, then 1.5 hours is way more than enough. We now arrive 1 hour before our flight and we still have to wait around in queues.
Here's another tip for the travel world: be as efficient as possible during the security checks. Have your liquids and electronics ready. Be quick. If you want to master this skill (which you should) we recommend observing how the Japanese do it: super quick, super efficient. Perfection.
Not only this will make your life easier, but also make it cheaper for you to travel. When you visit a new destination, collect all the information you need in advance. How to get to your hotel from the airport. What is the bus timetable? Do you need a taxi? Just make sure you are aware of every single detail and book everything in advance. This will make your journey safer. There are so many instances where tourists have been taken advantage of after getting into a late-night taxi.
The beauty of having everything planned is that you can change your mind as you go along and perhaps visit new things, discover new streets, enjoy different aspects of a new destination. But whilst doing that, at least you know how to be fully prepared and well aware of your surroundings.
Update: we used to recommend N26, but we no longer do so. They terminated my account without any explanation and their customer service refused to talk to me about it. This is not an isolated incident as there is a dedicated Facebook group to people whose accounts were closed for no reason (some with lots of money still in the account).
We used to travel with our normal UK cards. What a disaster. It's terrible to check your bank balance and see £££ going out in bank fees. Well, this all changed when we discovered Monzo and Starling bank. All of them are modern banks which allow you to travel without the major bank fees. We still wonder how come that conventional banks still function. Modern banks even allow you to take money out abroad at no extra cost.
Why is this an important life lesson? Because you don't waste money on conversion and bank fees and because you don't have to carry lots of cash with you from one country to another. This makes you less of a target and you spend as much as you need, whenever you need.
Read online about the travel world: you are going to find a huge division between people who travel with kids and professional couples who prefer a life without lil' ones. For now, we are in the second category. The logic is simple, I don't want to listen to a stranger's child shouting around me. In an ideal world, people would educate their kids, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. So you have two options. You either fill yourself with anger, raise your blood pressure and ruin your travel experience, OR invest in a really good pair of noise-cancelling headphones. This may sound ridiculous, but long story short, my pair of Bose saved my life. There was a time when I honestly couldn't deal with the extreme amount of noise in the airports, trains and planes. But now? I simply don't hear it. It's bliss.
Avoid tourist traps
Want to join our travel world? Then make sure to read our restaurant recommendations. Why? Because we refuse to sit down in a place located in the main square. It might look good, but we already know it comes with inflated prices, bad customer service and terrible quality food. It is super important to do your research BEFORE your visit. Read blog posts, verify reviews, and add various recommended restaurants to the itinerary. Plan your day well and avoid spending unnecessary money on rubbish food.
This also applies to various tourist attractions which can be easily replaced with cheaper alternatives. Want an example? The Tokyo Sky Tree is a great way to see Tokyo from above. However, it's extremely pricey, but because of great marketing, it's one of the top things to do in Tokyo. Consider a FREE alternative, the Government buildings which offers beautiful views of the city. See? Just like that, you saved £30.
Be efficient at the airport
One of the things we learned during travelling is how we enjoy being efficient. We love being quick in the queue and at the security checks. We don't waste time. In doing so, we respect our time and yours. We noticed that the more people travel, the more efficient they get. In a sense, this life lesson reminds us of Up In The Air. Do you remember the movie? When George Clooney was showing Anna Kendrick how to pack a carry-on and always queue behind efficient people so they don't have to wait? Yes! True story. We are the people who will hunt for the most efficient and rapid queue. After 10 flights, you will be the same, promise.
It's important to have a home
The era of the digital nomad has emerged. We are a bunch of people who can travel and sustain this lifestyle by offering services over the internet. We have a digital agency. We also have this blog. Both companies enable us to work remotely from anywhere in the world. And whilst that's great, after almost one year of changing homes, apartments and hotels, we came to the conclusion that we need a home base. Of course, the more you travel, the more you realise what you need. Whilst 4 years ago we just wanted a house in the suburbs, we now have a set of requirements which we learned during our time travelling. Everyone has different requirements, but until you experience different homes and different environments, you won't know what you really need.
Don't ever fly without taking vitamin C first. Don't ever visit a new country without taking Vitamin C. Don't start the day without your dose of Vitamin C. My first ever long haul has been awful. I travelled from Bristol to London, London Dubai, Dubai Perth, Perth Christchurch in New Zealand. After 32 hours of agony, I got really sick. I was not an experienced traveller at all. My second long haul was London to Tokyo via Beijing. First night in Tokyo was awful for me, as I had the weirdest flu I've ever experience. My first week in Tokyo was me walking around like a zombie, eating hot ramen, drinking hot green tea and wearing a sick mask. I was so ill, I could barely stand up. But Tokyo was too awesome so I fought that nasty bug! What did I learn from all these? To never ever be in a confined space with lots of people without having at least 1000mg of Vitamin C. The result? I don't get sick anymore.
There is no right or wrong way to travel
Our travel world is ever changing. We travel to photograph the Eiffel Tower. We travel to experience a new city. We travel to eat good food. Does it matter how we travel? Are we tourists or travellers? Do we spend too long or too little visiting a new city? Do we eat authentic food or cheap bakery items? Who the hell cares? We travel because we love it. We travel to learn new things, spend more time together and enjoy ourselves. We have our own way of travelling and we are proud of what we achieved. If you take away nothing else from all these, just remember to be considerate of others around you so we can all enjoy the travel experience. But ultimately, we are grateful that people take the time to travel.
A short summary of our travel world life lessons:
Life isn't fair.
But life can still be really good.
It's important that you start doing.
Stop wondering how to achieve your goals and simply take one small step at a time. Life works in funny ways and there comes a point when you will be able to simply connect the dots.
The answer to life, the universe and everything is 42.
I mean 42droids, of course, your next best digital agency. Ok, really, what I mean is that your answer to life, the universe and everything is totally different than mine. The answer itself is irrelevant without understanding the true question. So stop asking for an answer. Look for the question first.
Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
Truly it is. When you want to hate someone, imagine yourself in a better place than them. Not only you attract positive vibes, but you will eventually be better than any of them.
Debt is bad.
Don't acquire debt. Agencies, banks, governments can own you through debt. It's better to have nothing and zero debt than have everything and lots of debt. Debt is the one easy way to lose everything. And if you must have any debt, be smart about it and pay your credit cards every month.
Understand your personality
Take time to really understand who you are, how you react to things, what makes you tick. Only by understanding yourself you can open up to others and begin to understand the world around you.
Save for retirement
It's lovely to freelance, travel the world, be in a great financial position now. But make sure you put some aside for challenging times ahead.
Figure out what it means to eat healthily and stick to a good diet. Eat fruit and veg and avoid ready-made meals at all cost. Make your own food from scratch. Don't buy stuff with added colourants, preservatives and sugars. Remember that sugar is your worst enemy, so always check the label before buying anything. Eating healthy could be expensive, but once you regulate your portions, you will pay less. Besides, better to spend money on food, then medicine.
Make peace with your past.
We all make mistakes. We all regret some decisions. Hey, sh*t happens to us all, because as we already learned, life is not fair. Remember that it's your past that shaped you and made you the incredible individual you are today. "When the past is calling, don't answer. It has nothing new to say".
Don't compare your life to others'.
We are different. That's what makes us awesome. My journey is different than yours. We are not in competition with each other. We should do what we feel is right for us.
No time for bad relationships
No compromises. If you feel it's a bad, it means it's bad. "Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy". Robert Tew.
A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
This applies to everything in life. Truly.
When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
When a door closes, another one opens. If you are too blind to see it, build your own.
Overprepare, then go with the flow.
This has to be my favourite travel lesson of them all. Our travel world depends on it.
If they don't like you, find others who do.
Be in charge of your own happiness
We live in a selfish world. Be selfish when it comes to your happiness. Always.
Ask yourself: in 10 years, will this matter still?
The answer is usually no. This will help make your problems be smaller.
If a problem is too big, break it into manageable chunks.
Nobody came up with solutions to solving the whole problem in one go. Start small, tackle it cleverly and eventually you will solve it all. Apply the same tactic to business plans.
What other people think of you is none of your business.
Your life. Your rules.
Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
Patience is the mother of all skills.
To see the rainbow, you have to face the rain.
Just make sure you have an umbrella and good company. The rest is history.
Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Look back at everything you endured, everything you achieved. You are awesome.
Get outside every day.
Walk, exercise, enjoy the fresh air.
Whatever you do, make sure you LOVE.
It's all about who you share your life with. Make sure you don't stop until you find true love. You will know when you found it. Be relentless in due course.
The best is yet to come.
Always keep excited about your life ahead.
Take a deep breath.
Relax, take a deep breath. Always calm down before making rash decisions.
If you don't ask, you don't get.
I have this as a life motto.
Keep your mind active.
Always seek new experiences to widen your horizons.
Question everything, always and forever.
Tell us about your travel world. What did you learn during your travels? What was the best travel experience you ever had? Leave a comment and share your travel story with us.