In just over four months of being on the road almost nonstop, we have come to learn some valuable lessons. Travel has taught us many things; most of the things are rather cliché and are expected to be learnt through travelling. You get better at navigating your way through a crowd of people and navigating in general (although I still can’t tell my left from right without making the L shape with my hands), you learn how to buy street food safely and why restaurants aren’t always better (although in China neither were safe), you start to learn how to get yourself to a bus, train etc and get on the right one despite some serious language difficulties and you learn to use your own experience in a country as opposed to listen to other people’s judgement and reservations. With all this somewhat normally expected knowledge we have gained, there are a few unexpected lessons we have learnt.
Needing a holiday from travel
Travel is tiring. Constantly moving location every day or even once a week starts to wear you down and you become more and more tired. We travelled 10 weeks without being in the same place for more than 4 days in a row.
As great as it is to always be seeing new places, sometimes you need a break. Someplace to stay for a few more days. If only to provide a moment for you to catch your breath, to not have to pack up the next day or to just have a lazy day in your room without missing out on your new location.
I missed doing my morning Yoga practice many days. We were trying to get out the door early to explore with the limited time we had there.
The roads aren’t always drivable
A lesson we, unfortunately, learnt the hard way in Thailand. We come from a rather developed country that rarely has a terrible road; the worst roads there just have semi-avoidable potholes and the odd gravel roads. We never really thought about what roads would be like in other countries as it didn’t seem a very important thing for us to know before travelling. The road conditions in Thailand, Mongolia and Russia were undrivable from what we are used to, only a local could navigate some of them and survive!
Since being in Thailand I have read that they are well known for the worst and most dangerous roads. Wish I knew that sooner….
We ended up crashing our rented scooter in Thailand. Jacob was the driver, I the passenger and navigator on the back (Phone with Google maps held in my hand). As I owned a scooter back home and we had both been riding for 5 years with zero incident, we felt confident enough to brave the Thai roads. After riding a small amount near the hotel in the day we ventured further afield to visit Soi Dog in Phuket, a mere20-minute ride through some countryside. Luckily, for the animals sake we crashed on the way back. An unsigned and small series of speed bumps that looks suspiciously like shadows caused us to skid and come off. I am quite lucky as the cushion naturally occurring around my arse saved my fall and my seemingly indestructible phone broke my fall for my hand. Unfortunately, Jacobs elbow and arm took the force of the road for him. Luckily this was on our last day in Thailand so there was no more ocean diving to be done.
Know the climate before you go and pack accordingly.
We really had no idea just how hot Thailand could get, until we went there in their Low Season (the hot season). Thailand’s hottest months are April to June with the average temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius in the cities and over 40 degrees Celsius in the plains. Let’s just say once we got there and our first hostel only had a fan, I was quickly checking all the other accommodation I had booked had air conditioning. The best investment I made in Thailand was a 50 Baht purple fan, we also purchased two 20 baht hand towels aka “sweat rags”. These make the odd appearance in our videos. These life-saving items have served us both well through other countries too.
On a very unusual note I have learnt my way around any appliance possible. I can now operate any washing machine, drier, microwave and some strange showers, even in Chinese! This sounds like a rather stereo typical woman lesson to learn, but I am actually proud of myself for this. Jacob still struggles and knows to just ask me instead, so I have adopted the role of “figure-outer”.
Strange taste for odd food
We have developed a new taste for some strange flavor combinations. However, I still do not understand Jacobs discovery of peanut butter on toast with a fried egg… even just typing that felt wrong.
Discovering a way to save money in the not so cheap countries was to find a good supermarket with a great deli section and pretty much only eat from there. We never went to any restaurants (the occasional diner and fast food joint maybe) and we would always find food that was easy to throw together. This option opened up my options as a vegan travelling through some not so vegan friendly countries (here’s looking at you China). It’s fun to get creative with your ingredients and learn just how much you can cook in a microwave.
The all important, toilets!
A main concern of mine whilst travelling was the toilet situation. I had talked myself into being a toilet snob by insisting I couldn’t use anything that wasn’t perfectly sanitary back home, but come on; normally you can be pretty picky. I very quickly got over this in China, and then again in the desert in Mongolia. Not only were they all squat toilets (except every hotel I booked in China, some good forethought of mine. Yay me!) but they were very unsanitary and mostly open, we’re talking no doors. Mongolia (and some of Siberia) tended to be a hole in the ground in the middle of no where with just a small shack or piece of fabric for privacy… breezy!
Take my word for it and just be glad I didn’t feel compelled to take pictures of the toilets.
Take only memories… and pictures
Having previously traveled where I felt compelled to spend all my money on souvenirs and gifts for people back home, this time we have had to do the opposite.
Not only do we not want to waste our precious ever dwindling money on such items but they also take up valuable room in our over stuffed packs.
Having no home to store them, we see no point in buying unessential items.
As it is sometimes nice to have a token of a place or country you have visited, I opted for a free or cheap option. From Olkhon Island in Russia I have two small pinecones and a rock from the beach, pressed flowers from Ireland and the Stolby National Park in Krasnoyarsk, Russia and from Koh Phi Phi Island in Thailand I have two small limestone type rocks. My only purchase being a Buddhist bracelet from Beijing. I also received a Russian Doll as a gift from a friend in Moscow. Something I have always wanted and way very happy to receive.
Jacob has the most lasting souvenir though, his scars from the scooter accident.
Every, yes every, surface is a bed
When we began our travels in the popular Thailand, we were surrounded by fellow travelers. We were obviously novices to the ins and outs of travel and had little of our own knowledge to go off. We overspent on some things, we got sick of waiting for some buses and took taxis and had to buy some more suitable clothes for the hot weather.
However, what we really noticed was that an amazing amount of people were falling asleep so easily. I would stare at them with jealousy! On a bus – sleep. On a train – sleep. In an airport – sleep. Waiting for nearly anything – sleep. There was even one girl on an airport terminal bus for a 2 minute ride that fell asleep. She was in such a deep sleep I had to shake her to wake her up. I was impressed with her dedication.
I never thought I could become one of these veteran sleeping travelers, but I can only now say I am becoming one of them. Normally requiring complete darkness and silence to catch a few winks, as with the toilet hygiene fussiness, I have adapted to my new ever changing surroundings. Thankfully light and most noises now no longer disturb. This became necessary on the Trans-Siberian, as there was no control over light or noise and one had to sleep.
Although I haven’t reached the highest level of Travel Sleeper mode (sleeping through snoring and people talking), I can now see the benefits in taking every sleeping opportunity when it comes. It leaves you more awake to enjoy the destination… and less grouchy.
Where do we go from here….?
I know there are many more lessons to be learnt through our adventures, as is with life. You are always learning something new.
I now fully understand the common desire for people to keep on travelling and they don’t see themselves stopping anytime soon. I am now one of them.
Every day is a new and different challenge to overcome in either a small way (from what to eat or saving money) or something more major and life changing (your next destination or a scooter crash).
No two days are ever the same!