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Lessons Learned After a Trip Around the World

Here’s a good post from last month on 8 Mistakes to learn from my round-the-world trip, by a writer at BootsnAll.

Some I agree with more than others. More on that in a minute. But there are a few things in there that most travelers learn the hard way. As in…

– Don’t save the hardest country for last. (I’m talking to you India.)

– Keep your itinerary as open as possible. (Give it a rest you micro-managers!)

– Find a happy medium with your budget (There’s definitely such a thing as being too cheap.)

– Get an apartment for a month in different regions

That last one is interesting because I only really did it a couple times, but it was a great experience and often cheaper than a hotel. Most travelers are in too much of a hurry to tick things off a list, however, so they miss out on the joy of really getting to know a place. Ironically, having your own pad with more room can be cheaper on a nightly basis than the cheapest guesthouse.

I do disagree strongly with #2: Don’t buy “fancy travel clothes.” Most people who take this to heart end up looking like a homeless bum—an overloaded bum at that. I’ve tried out a whole lot of different clothing over close to 20 years of travel and would say that a few key pieces of rugged, quick-dry, lightweight clothing are definitely worth the investment. Sure, a few $3 t-shirts are fine too, especially since you can just replace them along the way, but the good stuff makes sink washing a much faster and effective affair. (And dorky as they may be, those zip-off convertible pants are great for countries where men don’t wear shorts—which is most of the world actually. Pants in public, shorts in the guesthouse.)

For short trips, it doesn’t matter much, but for long-term travel, every piece of clothing counts. Just for kicks, I once packed a bag with what I would wear at home: jeans, lots of cotton shirts, regular underwear, etc. and weighed it. Then I packed it with my travel clothing: lightweight things from ExOfficio, Columbia, Outdoor Research, and the like. It was 29 pounds to 20, as in close to 50% lighter just from better clothing choices. Having said that, here are my additions to the lessons learned list:

– Don’t pack everything you just might possibly need. You can buy much of what you need later on the road if you really need it. Don’t pack a coat if you’ll be in the tropics the first four months!

– Real conversations in the real world are far more memorable to you later than time spent on the web, messaging, or e-mailing with people back home.

– Two weeks spent in one place will be far more fulfilling than five places and loads of bus trips.

– The logistics of traveling around the world are a lot easier than you thought they would be—once you get started.

– When it’s all over, most of the budget-busting adventure splurges you agonized over were worth it.


Saturday 17th of July 2010

Nice post! I am saving up for a trip around the world with my husband and this post helps. Any other blogs about planning a trip around the world, especially deciding on the flight itinerary would be much appreciated.

I am a big fan of travel clothes, especially the travel dresses, which save space.


Wednesday 14th of July 2010

Great post, Tim. Getting an apartment instead of a hotel saves money on food too, because you're able to cook at home. And it's nice to have a homebase.

As far as clothing it totally depends on where I'm going. Sometimes the travel clothes stick out like a sore thumb--although these days you can get some really nice stuff that doesn't scream tourist. Now how do I get my husband to carry my bags for me? :)


Wednesday 14th of July 2010

Haha, I'm actually the one who wrote that article on Boots. Looking back now I wish I would have been more clear about the travel clothing thing. I think a good mix is good, some super lightweight travel clothing and a few things you would normally wear at home. But more than anything, my wife is the one who really regretted most of the fancy, lightweight travel clothing she bought. She ditched almost all of it halfway through our trip.

Thanks for the feedback on this though. I'm always curious what others think. I definitely feel strongly about the "don't save the hardest for last." We definitely learned that the hard way with India. I want a mulligan. Great post, thanks again!


Wednesday 14th of July 2010

Thanks for chiming in Adam. It was a good piece! My wife is less enthused about the travel clothing too, but then again her bags always weigh twice as much as mine and guess who usually gets to carry them?

I never finished up in India, thankfully, though almost. Our trip got cut short because of a medical issue, but thanks to Tarom Airlines I got stuck in Bucharest for three days on the way back to New York. It was probably for the better---civilization buffer between New Delhi and New York. Starting off in India is probably even worse though. Everyone who does seems to get scammed multiple times in their first week.