Ten lessons learned from travelling and living abroad

December 30, 2011

Adventures and Misadventures

You’ll notice many of my points below start with the same word – don’t. Some of these things may sound like absolute common sense to most people – and they should be. That being said, bad ideas often seem like good ones at the time!

1. Don’t play with fire. You will get burned. And it will hurt. Just because locals on the beach in Thailand play with fire, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea (although it seems like a brilliant concept at the time). Playing jump rope, with a rope that has been doused with alcohol and lit on fire, can lead to very painful injuries. I was lucky and my burn was minor (I still ended up on antibiotics to avoid infection), but some injuries can be much worse.

Playing with fire on Koh Pi Pi

2. Don’t sleep in airports to avoid paying for a night’s accommodation. We were told by a travel agent that the airport in Vientiane, Laos, stayed open all night. As our flight to China boarded at 4:00 a.m., we thought we’d find a bench to sleep on and skip a night in a hotel. Shortly after arriving at the empty airport we were told to leave and escorted off the property (and the gate locked behind us). Left out in the pouring rain, with four hours to kill, we had nowhere to go. This leads me into my next point…

3. Never sleep on the sidewalk in a foreign country, or any country for that matter. With nowhere to stay and only a few hours to kill, we set up camp with out backpacks outside a closed restaurant. The group of Laoatian men who appeared shortly after (with an AK-47 in hand), were not impressed to find us and we quickly high-tailed it out of there.

Out on the street with nowhere to sleep!

4. If you’re planning on settling in a city for an extended period of time, research the neighbourhoods first. When living in Sydney, we were so eager to get out of the hostel, that we jumped at the first decent apartment we found. We had four people crammed into a two bedroom apartment (for four months) located in the notorious Kings Cross Neighbourhood. Prostitutes could be found outside our door and there was a constant police presence in the area. The Cross was home to a vibrant night life, a great place to visit and party, but not necessarily to live. I loved my grimy apartment here at the time, but don’t think you could pay me to live in this part of Sydney again.

5. If you get sick, take care of yourself. It’s so easy to run yourself into the ground when travelling. There’s so much to see and do, you don’t want to sit back and relax for fear of missing something. Sometimes you have to remind yourself to slow down a bit, otherwise getting sick will slow you down instead.

6. Eat with the locals. Throughout Asia, I often found that I had the most authentic experience when I steered away from the touristy restaurants. Half the time you’ll find that you have no clue what exactly you’re eating, but that’s part of the fun!  I remember having dinner at a tiny place in Hanoi, Vietnam. We were the only English speaking people in the restaurant, so we had to go with the flow and see what we ended up with. We sat at a tiny plastic table on the sidewalk, which is quite common here (picture children’s sized chairs). We ended up with a ‘mystery meat’ hot pot with close to a dozen types of ‘meat’. I have no clue exactly what I ate, but it sure made for a memorable meal. That being said, make sure to bring pepto or something similar!

Street food in Bangkok

7. Friends can appear in the most unlikely places. You never know when you’re going to meet someone that could end up becoming a life long friend. On a bus, on a boat, you name it.

I met my friend Shawn on a boat in Turkey. We’ve since met up in Australia, Thailand and Canada.

8. Never underestimate the importance of good communication. While travelling with a friend in Vietnam, we were taking a bus from Sapa to the capital city of Hanoi. I had picked the hotel (based on a stay from a past trip), but only had a general idea of where it was located. She had no clue where we were going. In the middle of the night, she got off the bus to use the rest stop, while I snoozed, thanks to the gravol I’d taken. The following day, she decides to tell me that the bus had left without her and she’d been stranded at the rest stop with no passport or posessions for that matter. Luckily, the local working at the rest stop had the bus driver’s phone number. He called the bus and had the driver stop. He then drove her on his motorbike to meet us. I on the otherhand, was fast sleep, completely unaware that she was even gone. Thankfully, everything worked out just fine, but the situation could have ended quite differently and I literally could have lost her in Vietnam!

9. Keep an eye on your possessions – it’s easy to get lazy. It’s easy to forget about this the longer you’re away, but it can come back to bite you – especially after a few drinks. I’ve had a female friend get robbed by a prostitute ( she’d gotten left behind by the bus only a few days earlier – talk about bad luck) while walking home from the bar one night in a beach town in Asia. When she went to look for her camera the next day it was long gone.

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I think this one is pretty much self explanatory…

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About AdventuressAbroad

adventure seeker.traveling fanatic.food lover.occasional blabbermouth.travel-based PR professional.

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2 Comments on “Ten lessons learned from travelling and living abroad”

  1. unbjames Says:

    Awesome list! Thanks for the follow, I will be following your adventures too, as you seem to be a very interesting person … cheers!


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