Expert Traveler’s Advice for New Travelers

Back in April, I celebrated 3 years of traveling blogging and in 5 days, I will celebrate five years of traveling. In honor of both those occasions, I asked you, my readers, six questions as a lead up to my big travel anniversary. It’s been really interesting seeing your responses over the last few months. We’ve been through five of the questions and today we finish with the last one: what advice would you give to new travelers? One of the first blog posts I ever wrote was my advice for new travelers. Since I shared my advice, it’s time for you to share yours:

“Most people in the world are out to help, not hurt you. We spend so much time being told not to accept candy from strangers because they are going harm us that we forget that sometimes, the woman next to you on the bus just has some spare sweets to share.” – Alex

“Never have expectations. Open yourself up to the endless possibilities and the world will offer you more then you knew was out there.” – Jessica

“Take it slow, and don’t plan too much. Have an idea of what you want to do and see, but try not to lock anything down until you have to.” – Mike

“You’re going to enjoy these experiences ten times more once you are back home. You will relieve every moment, regret all you didn’t do, and make it out to be much more exciting than you realized it was at the time. While few newbies realize it at the time, your travel experience only becomes better once you are home and as time goes on.” – Aaron

“A big smile and some enthusiastic pointing will get you a lot further than looking stricken as you struggle with unfamiliar verbs. That being said, if you can memorise “hello”, “thank you”, and “I’ll have a beer, please”, it does make life slightly easier.” – Susan

“Traveling is not so much about the places you visit or the things you do, it’s about the people you connect with and the experiences you share. It’s about immersing yourself in and learning about another culture, so be open-minded and respectful so you can get the most out of your travels.” – Niki

“When you travel, things go wrong.” That’s been my mantra for years now. If people can be at peace with that before they leave home, they’ll have much happier trips. The farther away we step from our comfort zones, and our homes where we know how to do things, the greater the chances are that things will go awry. If we’re going to have happy journeys, we need to accept those moments rather than resist them. Later on, they usually end up being our best stories.” – David Fox

“Slow down and enjoy your time. So many new travelers try to see everything in a short amount of time and they get burnt out. ” – James

“Pack less & spend less! As we did Asia first, we quickly realised that all the expensive clothes we bought and packed into our big rucksacks we’re a waste of money & time. Just buy the cheaper t-shirts & tops as and when you need new ones, they last about as long and cost a whole lot less.” – JW

“Don’t skip out on doing something because you never know if or when you’ll return.” – Michael

“All the stuff you really need can fit into one bag that’s easy to carry, no matter how long your trip.” – Sarah

“Take it slow! You have your whole life ahead of you; there’s no need to fit everything you possibly can into a single trip. Also, build in some recovery days, particularly if you plan to travel long-term. It’s important to remember to take care of yourself, even when (or perhaps especially when!) you’re on the road.” – Christy

“Accept every invitation because you don’t know the outcome until it arrives.” – Maria

“Go with the flow! Be amenable to change. Not everything is going to go according to plan, and you have to be ok with that. Embrace spontaneity!” – Allie

“You CAN do the travel thing. It’s easier than it seems and there are so many other people out there doing the same thing.” – Mike

“Keep in touch with home. Some travellers will tell you that the internet has destroyed travel, and I get their point. Once in a while, it’s good to disconnect. However, travelling solo will mean you sometimes get lonely, and even a five-minute Facebook chat with a friend back home can help cheer you up on a blue day.” – Tom

“Be open to everything. Travelling is meant to be a new experience, so don’t close yourself off to things you initially reckon you won’t like, as you will more likely than not be surprised.” – Rob

“Clean underwear are a luxury worth having.” – Crystal

“Book the flight that starts your trip, and leave the rest to the road. That first one makes sure you don’t put it off forever, and the freedom afterward leaves you open to whatever randomness traveling throws at you. ” – Stephen

Thank you everybody who participated and sent in responses to the questions over the last few months. This was very interesting and I learned a lot about you. (I hope you learned a lot about each other!)

I asked my readers a series of 6 questions about travel. Read their answers to the other 5 intriguing questions:
Why did you start traveling?
What is your greatest travel memory?”
What’s the one item you can’t travel without?
What’s the worst thing that has happened to you?
What is your greatest regret?

  1. I love this compilation Matt. It’s great to read what advice long-term travelers have for us newbies. I especially like “the woman next to you on the bus just has some spare sweets to share.” So true.

  2. This is great advice and nicely summarized. I like the tips about pacing. We we’ve been so focused on maximizing every moment that it can be easy to lose track of time for yourselves. We try to engineer a down day at least every week or so to just lie by the pool or sleep until noon. It really makes the most of your trip.

  3. I love these. One I might add is travel doesn’t necessarily mean leaving home. Some of the best places I’ve visited have been in my backyard, so to speak. :)

  4. Niki says it best – traveling is not about the places you see but the things you experience. I have learned that both at home and abroad people are what matter. Make sure connecting with people is a part of your travels. When you get home, those are the experiences you will remember the most – far more than the Eiffel Tower, Great Wall of China, or Angel Falls.

  5. Sio

    I love Alex’s advice :) I was traveling abroad with a first timer recently, very shortly after the caputure of Bin Laden. She was very nervous that the world would be out to target us. While it was a sensitive time in terms of security, I had to assure her that people are people, and most people don’t want to hurt one another…. and by the way, my friend had an amazing time and may love travel now more than me!

  6. There’s some good advice up there! I especially like: be open minded, plan less, go with the flow, and accept new opportunities. I love the excitement of spontaneously hopping on a bus or train to go somewhere you just heard about from your roommate at a hostel or the local you were drinking beers with. That is pure joy, pure exploration, and pure freedom. Total bliss.

  7. Fantastic advice and thanks for including mine! I really agree in particular with Niki — the process of travel; that is, the “how” and “who” along the way, and how you interact with people and the environment wherever you end up–matter as much or more as the “where” of the destination.
    BTW Aaron means “relive” I believe — he doesn’t really want to “relieve every moment” :-)

  8. “Book the flight that starts your trip, and leave the rest to the road. That first one makes sure you don’t put it off forever, and the freedom afterward leaves you open to whatever randomness traveling throws at you.”

    Love this one! We just booked our first flights this morning. Leaving in January… Yes, they’re enough to get us out the door and on the road; we may or may not decide to purchase a RTW ticket after that…

  9. I especially like the “pack less, spend less” mantra. Spending less, or aiming to, will have you visiting more authentic places, eating more authentic food, and trying things the way locals do it, most of the time. Great article!

  10. One thing I always do is write my hostel and street location down on a piece of paper and put it in my pocket. If I end up drunk and need a taxi back I just show the taxi driver my address, has so helped me in South America…my spanish isnt great.

  11. Joel Tillman

    I got one for you:

    A roll of toilet paper wrapped in plastic is a travelers best friend and should be carried at all times!

  12. Rings

    2 old adages I learnt from my Dad 50 years ago. Stop and smell the roses and always look up. Both literally and figuretively.

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