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10 things to not do while travelling – learn from my mistakes

To make your travels just a little bit easier, here are 10 things I learnt the hard way - are never a good idea when travelling.

10 things to not do while travelling learn from my mistakes

There are many articles out there on what to do while travelling, best practices and backpacking tips. I thought today I would write from a different perspective. Below are 10 things you shouldn’t do while travelling. I have done every one of these, sometimes on multiple occasions and can personally attest to the fact that these practices can ruin a good trip.

Go off the grid without telling someone where you’re going – I’m not talking about tracking your every move but if you’re travelling from A-B or taking part in a high-risk activity, it’s a great idea if someone knows where to look for the body! After a last minute change of location in Indonesia. I wandered down a trail into the national park near my hostel to clear my head. About 45 minutes of walking in, I froze in horror, realising I had just stepped over a snake (I’m from NZ ok we don’t do things that can kill us). Standing for a split second with one foot on either side of the snake, I couldn’t help think how disappointed my mother would be in me. Not only was there no one around but no one in the entire world knew where I was! After that, solo hikes always started with a text home saying something along the line of “if you don’t hear from me by Wednesday I started in x,y,z town and headed east”. Even a casual Facebook post or making a point to mention your intentions to your hostel front desk is a great just in case precaution.

Try local foods

Eat European food –I attempt to eat local where ever I go. Not only does this widen my culinary horizons but pretty much every bout of food poisoning I have had can be traced back to a badly prepared European dish. European food is often unfamiliar to local chefs and stored for a long time between tourists. At best it tends to be bad versions of your old favourites, at worst - well let’s not go there. Eat fresh local dishes cooked in front of you and you seldom have to worry.

Cheap out on activities that involve safety –Would you jump out of a plane with worn gear, or abseil with a novice at home? No. So don’t do it on the road. Check reviews before you book and if the gear is obviously not well kept or the guides don’t fill you with confidence ask for your money back! You don’t want to test your health insurance!

Hand over your passport – Don’t let your passport out of your sight, ever! I once spent my last $2 on a frantic motorcycle ride to the Cambodian border, after our bus driver had collected up our passports, loaded our gear and then taken off ten minutes early without us. It’s a long story but we caught the bus going through the border and I realised how much I did not want to live in Cambodia forever!

canyoning can be risky if the equipment is dodgy

Not double checking directions – Employ the old builder’s adage, measure three times cut once. Even the most trustworthy of advisors gets it wrong sometimes and that’s not counting, cultural customs that forbid saying no, bad translations and tricky egos. Asking a few more people will save you walking round in circles with a heavy pack or getting frustrated. Plus it’s always great to talk to more locals you never know when someone will share a unique experience.

Drink yourself stupid – Drinking is a big part of the backpacking scene and I’m all for a good night out but I have seen countless tourists get hurt while wasted. From broken limbs jumping into rivers, to scooter crashes that will leave scars and even people being rushed to hospital after drinking petrol. Not to mention the increased risk of getting robbed, lost or otherwise harassed and that includes by your fellow travellers. Alcohol makes us all dumbasses, so consider moderation in unfamiliar places or at least take turns being a sober caretaker for the group.

Ignoring your gut – Travelling can be filled with unfamiliar experiences, some of which are hard to process but you will develop the ability to tell the difference between something that challenges you and something that is not quite right. If your gut is saying no, just don’t do it. The tour this guy is trying so hard to sell you doesn’t quite feel right GTFO. The Couchsurfer you had booked to stay with is a bit too intense GTFO. The bus they told you goes to Luxor is heading north GTFO. The diving guide you’re hired doesn’t seem to know how to put on find GTFO. You will be amazed how few bad experiences you will have when you learn to trust your gut.

Drinking makes everyone a dumbass

Try to see everything in three days – I think every traveller in the world starts off this way but you need to get over it, the stress of trying to fit everything in can ruin the joy of exploring a new destination. If you have bad FOMO then try to limit the amount of stops you make. Instead of trying to see all of Japan in a month, just stay in Tokyo and try to see everything there (good luck with that by the way). Slowing down is one of the hardest learnt travel lessons but I have never met a traveller whose enjoyment didn’t go up exponentially when they slowed down a bit.

Not backing up photos – A month in China including amazing attractions, a once in a lifetime world fair, a birthday on the great wall and a dance cultural exchange. Gone. Because of a friends computer error and that’s just a silly error, your camera could get stolen, your phone could get wet, technology can be fickle so back them up. Try a weekly cloud dump or a portable drive that travels with you. Memories are amazing but you never quite get over the loss of the ability to share those memories with others.

Expect returning home to be easy – So your missing your cat, you’ve run out of money and you just can’t stand the thought of another historic site. It’s time to head home. Well, I hate to tell you but a plane ticket home won’t cure all your ills. Remember you're first ever trip where everything was weird and foreign and you didn’t quite know what to do with yourself. That kind of cultural shock can happen when returning home too. You have seen so much and grown in so many ways and back home is well the same, they don’t know you’re different but they do know all about all your old problems. Post travel depression is a real thing. I suggest having a plan to stay busy and a future event to look forward to, to help you through your re-adjustment phase.

don't expect returning home to be easy

There are 10 confessions for you, things I have done and learnt the hard way from. I hope you can learn from my mistakes and instead have an amazing time travelling. Have you learnt from any of your mistakes while travelling? Let me know below, I’d love to hear that I’m not the only one who has been an idiot while mastering the art of travelling.


Author of Stress Free Adventure Planning

If you enjoyed this article check out this one on 13 avoidable mistakes of beginner backpackers or sign up here for my FREE travel budget calculator and monthly tips to save money on your travels.

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