I Traveled for 101 Days and This Is What I Learned

If you still don’t love to travel, you will

Photo by Lionello DelPiccolo on Unsplash

In 2018, I put my essentials in a backpack and went traveling across Eastern Europe. For 101 days, I crossed the borders of 14 countries, slept in countless hostels, met incredible people, and learned immensely — about the world, travel, and myself.

These are some of my learnings. But one of them is more important than any other: Nothing can replace experience. Reading about other people’s travels is not the same as getting yourself on the road. Still, let this serve as inspiration.

“Better to see something once than to read about it a thousand times”

— Asian proverb


This One Thing Makes the Whole World Yours

I grew up going on road trips with my family in the late 90s and early 00s. There was no Internet or smartphones back then. My dad drove the car while my mom looked at worn-out maps, navigating us through unknown roads.

One day, while driving through the Pyrenees, a part of the map flew out of the car window. We pulled off to the side of the road and ran for our lives, trying to rescue the one piece of paper that could get us out of those mountains.

A couple of decades later, I backpacked solo for three months in foreign countries without taking a paper map with me, and without ever getting lost. A phone and Internet connection are all you need these days to find your way across the world. If you have these, you have everything at your fingertips.

You can check the way to where you want to go, book transports and accommodation, find restaurants, discover attractions to visit, or even arrange meetings with locals. And, think about it: Don’t you do this all the time in your own city? Being abroad became as easy as being at home.

How to Apply

It’s as easy as taking a smartphone with you. Your mobile plan at home might include data abroad, or have some extra you can buy for your trips. If not, getting a local, disposable SIM card when you reach a new country is a good option, as it is a cheap way to always be connected.

If you plan to sleep in hostels, you won’t always have a plug next to your bed. And you probably don’t want to leave your phone charging during the night in a place accessible to everyone. One trick that solves this is to take a cheap power bank with you. You can leave it charging during the night and then use it to charge your phone during the day.

Don’t Visit the Eiffel Tower

Have you ever seen a sunset in Santorini? If so, how many heads were in front of you? How many strangers stealing from the, otherwise, intimate moment with your better half? Yet, Santorini is on so many people’s bucket lists.

I have seen a sunset in Santorini, but I have seen others that were much more special. In Kotor, from the top of the hills. Or in Istanbul, under a bridge, smoking chicha and watching the sun go down on the Bosphorus. Yet, I challenge you to find someone who has Kotor on their bucket list.

The more you travel, the less patience you have for touristic places and tourist traps. You learn that the masses take away from the real experience of a country, and the real vibe of the place. I am not telling you to go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower, but be aware that it will show you nothing about Parisian life. Find a little café in a backstreet of the Marais, that no foreign ever heard about — maybe there you can start to grasp what it really means to be a Parisian.

How to Apply

Do some research before you travel, even the most obscure places in each country are referenced somewhere online. Join travel groups on Facebook and ask the locals for some insider tips. People are always happy to share information about their cities.

When planning your trip, leave some open spots for improvisation. You will meet people on the road who will tell you about interesting places they visited, and you will want to go there too, believe me.

Oh, the People You Will Meet…

There are many not-so-nice people in the world. There are cons who will take advantage of you, lazy asses who could help you but prefer not to bother, and idiots who will make your life hard for no reason. You will meet them all in your travels.

But you will also meet life-saving people who will lend you a hand when you’re lost, kind-hearted folks who will make you feel at home 3,000 km away, and fun-spirited new friends who will live incredible moments with you.

The best part is that most people fall into the second category. And when I say “most people”, I mean 95 percent or so of all your encounters on the road. It makes for a pretty solid case of how great human beings are, right?

How to Apply

Be open: It’s really that simple. People travel for different reasons and, for some of us, meeting other people is not one of those reasons. But keeping an open mind and a ready smile will add spice to your travels. Try it!

But make sure to be careful. As I said, most people are good, but common sense is still necessary. Follow the same basic security rules that you do at your home town, and you should be fine.

The World is a F***ing Exciting Place

The more you travel, the more you want to keep doing it because you realize it would take a lifetime to discover all the wonders of this planet and its people.

There are breathtakingly beautiful places, incredibly interesting people, and surprisingly rewarding experiences to live. There is all this everywhere, even where you live. And you could go all your life eating only bananas, there is nothing wrong with them. But what about the mangoes, the pears, the kiwis, the blueberries, and the passion fruits? What about the smelly, disgusting durian? They are all part of this world, and failing to taste them is failing to truly experience life.

The more new experiences you live, the more you see, the more you learn, the more exciting your life becomes. Incredible things exist everywhere, you just need to be open to them.

How to Apply

In each trip you take, try something you never tried before. Sure, each trip will have a new destination, but if you travel the world and always eat at the same fast-food chain in all the different countries, and stay at the same hotel chain every time, it will be hard to have any truly new experiences. And while they might be scary at first, new experiences are what makes your heart speed and gives you that feeling of awe. Push yourself, you’ll be rewarded.

A Little Downside People Tend to Overlook

Traveling is the best activity in the world! But it is not the only good one, and you need to make room for everything else as well.

Travel is exciting because it takes you away from your routine and pumps a breath of fresh air into your days. But when traveling becomes the routine, you will end up where you were before start traveling.

After a few months on the road, I started getting tired of it, I needed a break from my break. If you do something every day, the excitement fades away quickly, and you couldn’t expect this to be different with long-term travel.

The great thing is that, after a while in your “regular life”, you will feel the travel call again. Once in you, forever in you. You just need to take it easy sometimes.

How to Apply

For most people, this won’t be an issue. If you have a limited number of holidays per year, travel will remain an exotic activity.

However, if you are a traveler or digital nomad, you can counteract this side of long term travel by including some routine activities into your days. Do some work while you travel, stay longer in a place just so you can build some connections, and give yourself time for mundane activities, like watching movies, even when you are in exciting destinations.

Takeaway

I said it, and I will say it again: Traveling is the best thing in the world. There is no other activity that can give you as much joy, excitement, and perspective all at once. Nothing that will teach you as much, in such a short time. Springsteen says…

We learn more from a three-minute record baby than we ever learned in school …

You could replace the word “record” with the word “trip” and the sentiment would still be true. And I bet Springsteen would agree.

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