It’s been 365 days since I packed up my belongings in New Zealand, quit my beloved job and moved overseas on a one way ticket. Up until that point I’d visited 4 different countries and travelled a lot within NZ but in the past year I’ve had the greatest opportunity to adventure through another 14 countries – it’s safe to say that 2017 was a whirlwind!
Since moving overseas, I’ve learnt a few lessons and thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve picked up.
1. You don’t need everything you think you need.
Ever heard the expression, “collect memories, not things”? I’ve travelled with no more than 22kgs of belongings at any one time for more than 365 days. Living lightly is living simply and it teaches you a host of lessons, not exclusive to becoming more practical, knowing the value of items and understanding how uncomplicated life can be. Over the years I’ve become increasingly more of a minimalist and let’s just say, 22kgs is still probably excessive.
2. You’re going to sacrifice the big things – and the little things.
Having an address, missing birthdays and celebrations, sleeping in your own bed, seeing your loved ones often – these are all major things that sometimes come at the cost of constantly being on the move. My baby sister showed me her first wiggly tooth on video chat last night and one of my best friends is getting married this month, and it kills me to be so far from home and unable to be there.
3. No matter where you are, we’re all the same.
You literally cannot run away from your problems or expect life to be this grand, faultless experience simply because you’re somewhere new. We’re all human: we all fall in and out of love, lose our jobs, have money come and go, forget to pack an umbrella and buy petrol. We may speak different languages, but we all understand each other. It’s mind-opening, it’s humbling and it is comforting to recognise aspects of yourself in people born on the other side of the world.
4. Learning a little local language goes a long way!
Not only does it help you immensely with getting around but it helps you to learn a bit about the culture, make friends with the locals and can make your travels cheaper (some shopkeepers and cafes will hike up prices if they see you’re a tourist or make no attempt to ‘fit in’ with local customs). This This is a great segway into the next tip
5. Travel doesn’t have to be expensive!
I am an absolute cheapskate who will try to get away with spending the least amount of money possible. That doesn’t mean that I am stingy, so to speak, but I value my money and try to buy quality. For example, I can’t stand that I pay €4 for a tea when I could buy a packet of 25 tea bags for the same price (my friends will attest to this!), but I’ll happily spend €200 on a solid suitcase.
A lot of budgeting comes down to your priorities. For me, my first priority over the past year has been to travel for as long as possible, so I’ve skimped on daily coffees and having the “new” of everything in order to put that money towards train tickets, flights & accommodation.
Aside from tightening the purse strings, you’ll find that staying in hostels (cheaper option) will help you make friends, and you’ll likely have so many couches to crash on all over the world just from the new friends you make!
It also pays to be flexible: travel off season or look for mid week flights, you can even save a lot of money by being flexible about your destination! This is exactly how most of my 2018 travels have happened!
6. No plan is a GREAT plan.
I believe there is a time and place for everything but my absolute favorite adventures have come from completely in going with the flow. My trip to Thailand in January this year was born from this mentality – I needed a ticket out of Singapore before landing and quickly searched for the cheapest flight out of Changi Airport, so with a click of a button I had an itinerary to Thailand for 3 weeks later!
Being open to plans and, if you have the luxury, time frames, then you’re more likely to have an even more amazing time than you could ever have planned.
7. Your coins are SO much more valuable than their face value.
In new Zealand you can pretty much pee for free but overseas, particularly in Europe, those little coins that weigh you down and seem useless are your key to the golden gates of public restrooms – I’ve probably single handedly funded the South of France train station #HydrationProblems.
8. True love knows no distance.
You know what I’m talking about, those people who are always there for you: your home team. Travelling is a really awesome way to filter out your home team. They’re the kind of friends and family you call when shit hits the fan, and vice versa, no matter where in the world you are. They’re the ones who go out of their way to stay in contact and don’t let silly things like time zones get in the way. And it’s a lesson as to whose home team I’m a part of. It’s been an equally heartwarming and heartbreaking lesson to learn over the past year who really brings quality and value to your life and who feels the same about you. I’ve become a lot more aware of the company I keep and have formed some incredible relationships with fellow expats that are stronger than relationships at home that I’ve had for years.
9. Time is my most precious commodity, and it is always in your best interest to spend it well. Perhaps it’s just a combination of getting older and having a shit load of fun, but time seems to pass far quicker than ever before and I’m a firm believer in milking every. single. second of it.
10. I’m a fuc*king rockstar.
Travelling solo for a year is like the first time you move out of home on steroids – you’re on your own, except you aren’t worried about who’s going to do your laundry, you’re worried about how you’re going to get from the airport to your hostel at 1am. Basically, you swim or sink.
Travelling solo opened me up to saying “yes” more often which has lead to beautiful friendships and experiences; it’s forced me to be more organised (travel is like luxury bootcamp in that way); and allowed me to screw up more times than I account – which doesn’t sound positive but trust me, when you’ve got only yourself to blame screwing up is a little blessing of a learning curve.
And I’m proud of myself. I survived my first year abroad, and have too many lessons and stories to fit into 10 bullet points. Go me.