50 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Traveling

What do you wish you knew when you started traveling?

  1. “I wish I’d known much sooner how feasible slow travel can really be—taking your time makes travel inexpensive and much more rewarding. Every day tends to bring new challenges, but that’s a good thing. Travel is the only thing I know of that will stretch you to your full potential, push your limits, expand your comfort zone, improve your resiliency, and help you grow personally.”
    – Cody from Digital Nomad Academy
  2. “One thing I wish I’d known when I first started traveling is, the importance of a versatile, traveler-friendly wardrobe. A small number of high-quality, versatile, hand-washable and fast-drying garments are always better than a large number of heavy, cumbersome, absorbent garments with patterns and logos. Today, I pack black and gray, for every occasion, lightweight and ready for layering in cold weather.”
    – Randy from Yearlyglot
  3. “I wish that I had gotten a credit card linked to a good mileage accrual program at the beginning of my project so that some of my trips could have been ‘paid for’ by other trips. I did all my travel arrangements flying by the seat of my pants. Had I been more methodical about it, I might’ve saved a buck or two!”
    – Celine from The 30 Before 30 Project
  4. “One Word: Toilet Paper. I wish I hadn’t been so damn forgetful to always have toilet paper with me when I first started traveling because in most countries I’ve been to they’d either charge an arm and a leg for a square, or I was just s*hit out of luck..no pun intended! Always bring extra TP.”
    – Laur from The Mad To Live
  5. “If there’s one piece of advice that I can give anybody it’s that you should find out what’s imported wherever you are going. If you’re traveling to Latin America, be warned that certain electronic items can cost 4 times as a much as they do in the United States. I got a dose of sticker shock the other day when I paid $16.00 for a bottle of sunscreen here in Costa Rica. You’d think that something that people use that much would be cheap, but it wasn’t.”
    – Srini from The Skool of Life
  6. “Coming from a culture where cars are the main form of transportation, we have gone into some countries very unprepared for how the rest of the world gets around town. The amount of walking involved caught us completely off guard. I’m not saying we’re lazy, we just really love our car.”
    – Erica from Over Yonderlust
  7. “I wish I knew how not hard it is. That people around the world really want to help you find a room, or a meal, or the train station. That getting lost; getting really lost, is impossible with all that kindness around. In the end, it just wasn’t that hard to travel around the world…and yet totally worth it!”
    – Gilian from One Giant Step
  8. “I wish I would have brought less stuff. For me, the ideal travel set up is a day pack and a laptop satchel.”
    – Dan from Tropical MBA
  9. “I wish I knew that knowing a guidebook cover-to-cover is no replacement for experience, and having to learn to adapt to every change in motion is something that you’ll learn by yourself. I also wish somebody warned me about the strength of ‘goon’ wine in Australia…”
    – Fraser from Floating Spheres
  10. “I wish I’d known about hypoallergenic pillow covers. I have dust allergies and find many pillows in low-budget rooms scuzzy anyway. With one of these covers, the dust mites (and whatever else might be lurking) are trapped inside, which means I can put my head on any pillow with confidence and get a better night’s sleep.”
    – Lisa from Chicky Bus
  11. “Actually the thing I most wish I had discovered sooner is that travel is a lot more accessible and a lot less intimidating than I had imagined it to be. Ask how you could rearrange your life to make it a reality now, not someday. Prioritize, minimize, leverage your contacts or make new ones.”
    – Lach from The Art of Audacity
  12. “The biggest thing I wish I knew before I started traveling was the different visa requirements and travel procedures involved. I had only been to European and North American countries before I came to Australia, so I’d never applied for a visa before. I almost messed up a trip to China applying for a visa too late and had issues going to New Zealand because my work and holiday visa was recorded in Immigration’s computer, not in my passport.”
    – Lauren from The Life That Broke
  13. “I wish that before I started traveling I knew how to learn Spanish. In retrospect it sounds obvious to say this, but I have learned more Spanish in hostels, restaurants, and bus stations than I ever did in a classroom. If I could do it over, I’d spend more time embarrassing myself as I stumble through Spanish.”
    – Scott a.k.a. Scott Kobewka
  14. “When I was in my early 20s, I think my travel was mostly about hanging out with other expats and having fun in a hostel with the foreign country as a backdrop. I missed out on so many cultural experiences in the world that way. I also wish I had studied and learned more about the countries I visited for more context. Before I travel now, I read books and watch movies- anything I can do to gather information.”
    – Mary from World Curious Traveler
  15. “Before I began my travels I wish I knew that, as you grow older your memories will fade and no matter how vivid the experience, or how beautiful the sight may seem at the time. If I knew this then before I began my adventures, then I would have recorded more of then in a journal, and taken more photo’s (especially of the many hundreds of  people I met along the way). This would be my biggest advice to any young traveler today: record everything, or you will forget!”
    – Jason from DigiDrift
  16. “We wish we knew that one carry-on size bag each is plenty. Now that we travel with small backpacks our life is so much easier – we can take them on planes and buses with us, and we don’t struggle to carry them around when searching for accommodation. Compression bags help to make our clothes fit into a smaller space.”
    – Erin & Simon from Never Ending Voyage
  17. “It never costs as much as you think its going to, its best to make a budget and then add possibly 25-40% to that for the unexpected. There are things you always want to carry no matter what, some of things on my list are sunblock (costs over $20 overseas) and hair stuff (I have a nagging afro). Expect the unexpected, half of my trips were planned with less than a week notice including Antarctica.”
    – Marcello a.k.a. Wandering Trader
  18. “I wish I knew that it is OK to throw caution to the wind and chase your travel dream wherever it leads you. In other words, if you want to make travel your number one priority, there is nothing stopping you from doing it. It took me a few trips and a few years to figure this out.”
    – Scott from The Shirt Off My Backpack
  19. “We wish we had known about the travel blogging community! We have been blogging low-key since the beginning of our travels (almost 2 years ago), but had no idea that this wonderfully informative and supportive group of people was out there until just recently.  We’ve learned so much and made so many great connections that we wish we had been involved right from the start!”
    – Dalene & Peter from Hectic Travels
  20. “Before I started traveling I wish I had known that as a US citizen you can enter the US Embassy by showing your passport and not having to wait in a long line in the hot sun for 3 hours. I also wish someone had told me that the world is not as dangerous of a place as the media makes it out to be. Bad things can happen to you anywhere but you have a much higher likelihood of good things happening to you.”
    – Matt from 1 Year Sabbatical
  21. “It is much easier to earn money at home, so radically cut your expenses and work overtime so that you can enjoy more time abroad. Also, your fears of the unknown are most certainly exaggerated. There is a well worn tourist trail every where in the globe now, so stop fussing about imaginary bogeymen and just go.”
    – John from Jet Set Citizen
  22. “I wish I would’ve known how cheaply it can be done. There’s often been the presumption over the years you can only travel if you have money. Many, many years later, I’ve noticed how untrue that is.”
    – Spencer from The Traveling Philosopher
  23. “I wish I knew that I could take my time, that the world would still be there in another six months or six years. I spent so much of my early days of travel rushing around, trying to see it all, that I wore myself out and started getting “travel fatigue” and everything started to blending together. Now I prefer to travel much slower, giving myself time to enjoy a place and letting my experience unfold naturally.”
    – Christine from Almost Fearless
  24. “I suppose the one thing I wish I knew when I started traveling was how safe it actually was! I’m not saying travelling is the safest thing in the world, but when I first set off I thought all of my things would be stolen in hostels or get damaged on the way around. I didn’t take my laptop with me or my DSLR, but after experiencing hostels and travelling I realized that I didn’t actually have to worry.”
    – Dan from Adventures with Dan
  25. “When I started traveling, I wish I knew that speaking the local language would get you everywhere. I assumed at first that everybody would surely be able to speak and understand a little bit of English. That’s not the case. Speaking (a bit of) the local language intensifies the experience of traveling.”
    – Emiel from The Act of Traveling
  26. “You never need as much as you think. Don’t pack that case of Budweiser… you shouldn’t be drinking that fake beer anyway. You can get the real stuff almost everywhere.”
    – Nick from Locationless
  27. “I wish I had known that it is the people, not the sites or postcard moments that make the trip. I think I too often traveled with a bucket list of places to check off the list – and missed the real joy of interacting and getting to know and be known by the people.  Learning the language of course opens this up in so many ways, so I wish I put more effort into learning even a little bit of the language before going.”
    – Aaron from Everyday Language Learner
  28. “I wish I knew not to plan excessively because your plans change along the way. Be sure and get an ATM card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. And if you’re traveling in central/south America always be sure and ask for the “el menu” which is the daily special; they don’t always advertise this but it will save you a lot of money when eating out.”
    – Alisha from Small World Pursuits
  29. “Although being uni-lingual didn’t stop us from traveling and then moving abroad, we both wish we knew Spanish first. Would have made life so easy!”
    – Bryan & Dena from Gringos Abroad
  30. “Less is more. I used to backpack through cities and countries quickly, but now I setup a city base and live for 3 to 6 months.  This way I can also take side trips now and then.”
    – Yev from Maverick Traveler
  31. “Sleep cures everything. If you need too, splash out and get a good room where you are not sharing with twelve other people. You may even need to take a ‘holiday’ from your adventure, that’s ok too.”
    – Sarah a.k.a. Sarah Bond Travel Writer
  32. “Pack light, bring a water bottle with a filter, always eat the street food, and don’t panic.
    – Kit from Seek New Travel
  33. “Walk around the block a few times before you leave with your pack fully loaded. Yes, I know it’s cliche, but seriously, do it! I never realized just how much I had overpacked till I unexpectedly had to hike up a mountain with all my gear!”
    – Aaron from Aaron’s World Wide Adventures
  34. “Travel is not a way of life to aspire to in the long term. It’s just something really valuable to do for some years. Because of traveling I am starting to understand what is most important to me. That is, all the people I left back at home.”
    – Jason from Locationless Living
  35. “I wish I’d known about the joys of being more adventurous and more confident when I first started traveling. Having recently started digging deeper into other countries cultures and particularly local culinary delights during my travels, I feel that I quite possibly missed all sorts of cultural and foodie delights in my earlier years.  Ah well, it’s a good excuse to go back to Sweden and China and Hungary…and…and…and…”
    – Clare from Earth Travel Unlimited
  36. “I wish had done more history and cultural reading before traveling. Although being in the country itself is the best cultural lesson, I think it would have enhanced my first few countries if I had done more research on their history. It gives me a better understand of the destination.”
    – Michael from Art of Backpacking
  37. “I wish I knew I didn’t have to bring so much crap. ‘Seriously? there are stores in other countries?’ True story.”
    – Lindsay from The Traveller World Guide
  38. “Before my first backpacking trip, I wish I’d known how easy it’d be to meet new people while traveling. Hostels, group sightseeing and adventure activities, and local couchsurfing groups all ensure solo travelers will feel anything but lonely on the road.”
    – Dave from Go Backpacking
  39. “I wish I’d known how easy it was to work wirelessly while you travel, and what a great education travel is for a child. I’d have started long term travel a lot sooner if I’d understood that.”
    – Theodora from Travels With A Nine Year Old
  40. “I wish I’d known more about hostels. I am a middle-aged backpacker (d*mn it) and had never stayed in one before. So it took some getting used to staying in them, and finding them, but they are the budget savior for any long-term traveler.”
    – Michael from Go See Write
  41. “I wish I knew that it was okay to travel solo and okay to be a little selfish. My first few trips abroad were either group tours or with less than ideal travel partners because I was hesitant to go it alone.  While they were still great trips, I often deferred to others and missed out on doing what I really wanted to do because I wanted to keep the peace.  Now, I am much more likely to travel on my own or, if I’m with others, to break away if necessary to do what I want to do.”
    – Katie from Katie Going Global
  42. “Always have toilet paper in your bag no matter where you’re going (especially in your day bag). Have a Charles Swabb account for ATMs because they do not charge you fees and reimburse the fees that other banks charge. Lastly, always try to learn at least some of the local language and hang out with locals, they will bring you places you can’t find elsewhere.”
    – Jenny from Where Is Jenny
  43. “Probably the chief thing would be that it doesn’t have to be so expensive to travel. If I had realized that when I was younger, I would’ve done a LOT more traveling!”
    – Talon from 1 Dad 1 Kid
  44. “I wish I had known to take each day slowly and give yourself time to explore. When you pack in all the “must sees,” you miss out on opportunities to see what’s off the beaten path.”
    – Lauren from Lauren’s Road Less Traveled
  45. “I wish that when I started traveling with kids that I knew just how flexible they are – missed naps, tight sleeping arrangements,and snacks instead of meals are all fine as long as everyone is having a good time! It would have saved me money and stress if I had figured this out sooner. Happily it never stopped me from planning trips, and over time I realized that’s it’s more important to have all those wonderful experiences than it is to always have things just so.”
    – Mara from Mother Of All Trips
  46. “When I went on my first solo trip abroad, to France, Germany and the Netherlands, I made the common beginner mistake of over-packing. After struggling with my heavy wheeled suitcase up and down the steps of the Paris Metro and countless cobblestone streets, I learned never to take more than I needed. My next trip was 6 months in New Zealand and everything I took fit into a backpack, which made travelling around much easier.”
    – Kelly from World’s Coolest Cities
  47. “When I first started traveling I wish I knew that destinations were more than just places to check off my list. My first couple trips had me moving to a new place each day, and my lasting memory is simply of movement, of actually traveling. At that speed it’s impossible to grow an appreciation for place.”
    – Keith from Traveling Savage
  48. “I wish someone had told me I could go home whenever I wanted… Sometimes I waited 3 years before stepping on US soil. There is nothing wrong with interrupting a long term travel experience with visits back home. The longer you travel the more you need this to keep relationships healthy back home. I should know, I’ve been on the road for 12 years now… luckily my Mom still remembers by name.”
    – Todd from Todd’s Wanderings
  49. “The one thing I wish someone had told me before I started traveling is this: That it’s not as hard as people make it out to be. Travel doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming or even very expensive. Everyone travels differently and, over the years, I’ve learned that, if I want it badly enough, I can find ways to make even my wildest travel dreams come true.”
    – Amanda from Dangerous Business
  50. “The power of the travel blog community: When I first started traveling I tried to figure everything out myself– things that would have taken half the time and effort if I would have asked an experienced traveler or someone who knew more than me. Also, along with travel advice is local advice. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or send an email about something you’re interested in our curious about– never be afraid of looking stupid.”
    – Gareth from Tourist 2 Townie

How Do You Like Them Apples?

I don’t know about you, but I am totally stoked to hear back from so many experienced travelers. They have offered some really good advice here. If you enjoyed it too, please share with your friends!

  • Wow dude this post is so helpful for me right now! You just blew my mind with awesomeness

  • Fraser

    Really fascinating post! Thanks for featuring me, but thanks even more for putting the whole thing together, some interesting insights.

    • Thanks man, I’ll have to keep an eye out for that goon wine.

  • Hey Ryan!

    TU so much for including me in this roundup! Some really crazy, funny, interesting, and so-true anecdotes here. I am going to save this list and every time a new friend of mine makes that big decision to finally travel like they’ve always dreamed or if they’re having troulbe making that deciison – I will send this to them! 🙂

    Laur 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for including me. Great, great insight and now I’ve a weeks worth of new blogs to check out. Great job with the post.

  • What a great list! I’m happy to be on it, and really enjoyed reading everyone else’s tips. Found myself nodding quite a bit.

    • Ah, The Mother Of All Trips liked my post… I think I can rest well tonight. 🙂

  • All great tips and I agree with every one. Thanks for including me! Sometimes though the best way to learn is to just get out there…then you can add to your own list of ‘if only I had known’…that’s half the fun!! Cheers!

  • What a great list Ryan! It’s always fun to learn from each other, and to know that I’m not the only one that made travel goofs from not knowing! Thank you for including me!

  • Awesome!! Awesome!! Awesome!! Love that you put these 50 things together Ryan. Thanks for including me.

    • Anytime, man… “The world is not as dangerous a place as the media makes it out to be.” –> Good stuff!

  • Oh wow this is a great post! I feel I am slowly learn all of this… find it kinda funny!

    I had to share it on Facebook page.

  • Great post man, definately a great way to learn from the experience of others.

    • Totally, Yev. I really like your approach of slower travel with offshoots to different places.

  • Way to bring this enormous crew together for such an awesome post, Ryan! I certainly share many of the sentiments listed. So incredible how much we learn once we finally get out there and start exploring the world. Thanks for this- kudos!

  • You made magic on this post.

  • So many awesome tips!!! Sweet!

  • So many awesome tips!!! Sweet!

  • Love it Ryan!!

  • Fantastic, sage wisdom, from people who know for a fact.

  • Great post – love reading all the advice from such worldly travelers.

  • Anonymous

    I cannot believe how I’ve just been introduced to 50 new bloggers who like to travel like I do.
    This must have taken you ages to put together. Thanks. Sonia.

  • Thanks for including me! And I absolutely loved reading through everyone else’s advice – some really great tips in there!

    • Glad you like it Katie. I wish you the best on your travels!

  • roy

    Great post and great advice. Personally, I wish I started travel blogging earlier. I’ve been slow traveling for almost 7 years but only started writing last year.

    Anyways, best to live a life of no regrets. Live and learn!

  • Anonymous

    Great job putting this all together Ryan, and of course thanks for including me in it!

    • Thanks for contributing Todd. I really appreciate it!

  • appreciate the mention — well done — great list

    • Thanks Michael… And I really like your avatar. 🙂

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  • Thanks for contributing Lauren!

  • Thanks for including me in this 🙂 It’s awesome!

    • You’re welcome Lauren. Great to connect!

  • I love this list – I’m going to link to it from my blog (when it’s up and running).

    As was said in Clueless: “Two very enthusiastic thumbs up. Fine holiday fun!”

    • Thanks Cynthia!

  • Pingback: What I Wish I Knew When I Started Traveling: The Rest Of The Story | Ryan Goes Abroad()

  • Great list! I would add, I wish someone had told me that it was ok to skip some of the “big” tourist sights if they didn’t interest me. It’s my trip, I’ll go where I want!

    • Good thought there! I share similar sentiments.

  • Yea, it’s really great to hear from a bunch of experienced travelers! Thanks for the comment.

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  • That’s a great list!

    • Thanks Samuel!

  • Kyle Pennell

    Incredible list.  Thanks for compiling!

    • Sure thing! Thanks for reading.

  • Pingback: Traveling Isn’t That Hard « Traveler Ahoy()

  • Great list!

  • George Jaquith

    Great contributions and an interesting writing style are some of the things you share with us. A Minnesota retiree in Mexico, my wife and I plan on going to Columbia and Ecuador in the fall, so I find your posts quite relevant. Thanks for the example you provide.