Lessons From a Year of Travel

March 23, 2010 · 37 comments

Today is my anniversary. One Year of Travel is complete!

From stepping off in the plane in humid Kuala Lumpur, my travels have taken me around Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Australia over the past year.

I have experienced culture and friendship from locals of these countries as well as other people travelling through, the experience is irreplaceable, and I hope to continue it. I have learnt a lot, and will try to put my lessons into words…

The first thing that comes to mind is humanity. Being from England, I am naturally miserable all the time. But there is absolutely no reason to be on the road. I’ve met so much… not poverty, but genuine hard working people from difficult backgrounds. I now really appreciate my upbringing and the things I have taken for granted before; from an education down to clean drinking water and a bed. Despite people lacking these things, they still have time to help a stranger out, find happiness, love, be proud, and not complain a bit! It shows material posessions and background mean nothing if you are a shit. I’d much rather hang around with the Thai guy earning $100 a month willing to buy me a beer for turning up lost in his city than a millionairre counting his pennies not seeing outside his own world.

Again with the humans… It doesn’t matter where you are, or what you are seeing; travel is about the people you meet. I’ve already forgotten details on a few of the destinations I’ve visited (bless this blog for being my lifelong reminder) but I’m not going to forget the Brunei man who gave me a massage after climbing a mountain, The Cambodian girl who I took out on her moto, the weird 100 year old Irish guy who told me his life story in 3 minutes and ran off never to be seen again, drunk pals in Laos, and of course Lee Kuns daughter Yanyu for talking to me forgetting I don’t speak Mandarin and exclaiming loudly when I asked her to translate “I SPEAK THE CHINESE” followed by storming off.

Yanyu - future translator

I learnt I am happy in my own skin. After all the self battles every teenager goes through, maybe it’s an age thing, but travelling does tend to make people realise that “normal” is different for nearly everyone, and in which case, there is nothing especially wrong with most people, we’re all just a bit different.

Family is important. I’ve kept in touch with mine through the whole year.  In a weird way, I’ve learnt a lot about family life by being away. Like a lot of things, you can’t see what you have until you take a step back outside of the box.

My sense of humour appeals universally. I don’t know why but I value my sense of humour highly, I find myself funny, and believe this is a great trait to have. However I have been a bit reserved on letting it loose on other people, believing it was a bit niche. But as it turns out,  I should have just been myself a lot more as making people laugh gives me great joy and it was understood a lot more than I thought it would be.

Bunch of drunks in mud pool

As it turns out a lot of people WANTED to be pushed in

The internet is awesome and changing travel. OK I thought the internet was pretty awesome before travelling, but it is even better now I’m on the road. The whole global communication thing has many more benefits than just cheap books from Amazon and humourous pornography. Facebook actually makes sense now as a tool. Skype has saved me a lot of money in phone calls, and will continue to do so. As does websites like hostelworld.com and hostels.com. Which are improving hostels as the bad or overly expensive ones just won’t be getting custom due to user reviews.

Things change, get used to it. I am not the first to jump on bandwagons, and neither the last. This includes myself. Stepping away from old hobbies (for me this is cars and video games) and into new ones (travel, writing and photography) was a bit strange to accept and adapt too, but it just happened. It’s odd knowing you are going through a change in your life, like growing pains as a kid I suppose, learning you are not the person you used to be, but a evolved you is a sensation to be embraced and enjoyed, not feared.

Independant travel is great, but don’t underestimate the benefits of a package. I’ve stuck to and up for solo travel, but as a bit of a introvert I tend to make friends with other indivuals rather than a group of friends. Each has advantages and disadvantages, but it’s worth baring in mind. However this is different when I’m doing a paid tour like jungle trekking or a long boat trip as I’m automatically bundled in a group, and groups like this bond together rather than as individuals coupling off as the experience is shared.

Saying goodbye gets easier, but is never easy. Constant travel means relationships don’t get a chance to develop for long. However they still happen, be it a friend, a lover, a student, or a mentor.

Always wear sunscreen. Sunburn sucks, skin cancer sucks a lot more. With that note, I’ll leave you all with a bit of Baz:

People often say they learn a lot about themselves after travel. So what have you actually learnt about yourself from travel?

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Vi March 23, 2010 at 2:01 AM

Congratulations with anniversary and have fun in your future adventures!
.-= Vi´s last blog – Quick way to buy Sydney ferry tickets =-.

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adam March 23, 2010 at 3:05 AM

Thanks for sharing these! It’ll come in handy for when I leave in a month. I’m in the getting-rid-of-all-my-possessions phase and it’s tough, but I already feel I’ve learned a lot about myself just in the planning stage.
.-= adam´s last blog – Hula Hooping & Comfort Zones =-.

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Chris March 23, 2010 at 3:44 AM

You’ve done a lot in one year, but have not done to much – which is prob the right balance. I cringe when I see peps trying to fit in 20 countries in 1 year of traveling.

Anyway, good luck with your future travels!

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AdventureRob March 23, 2010 at 4:38 AM

Thanks Vi :-)

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AdventureRob March 23, 2010 at 4:38 AM

Adam – look forward to hearing what you’ve learnt after a year of travel too ;-)

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AdventureRob March 23, 2010 at 6:20 AM

Chris – yes, 8 months of this year I’ve spent in Australia. I prefer to give a country justice and spend time rather than quickly pass through. In fact the ones I passed through quickly are the ones I’m most keen on going back too.

I don’t see why people have to cram the world into a year, I mean, fair enough if you’ve got a terminal illness, but otherwise, it’s all going to be there in a decades time (hopefully anyway).

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Denise March 23, 2010 at 4:11 PM

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I don’t like people who travel around, stay in one place for a day, and then feel like they can go home and say that they ‘have been there’, whatever that means. What kind of work have you been doing in Austalia?
.-= Denise´s last blog – Time to say goodbye =-.

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Abbie March 23, 2010 at 4:32 PM

Yay congrats! Funny thing – I’ve only “known” you since you’ve been in Australia – I thought you were from there :)

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Candice March 23, 2010 at 6:29 PM

Awesome anniversary post Rob! Couldn’t agree with ya more.
.-= Candice´s last blog – Man Bounty: Halifax Has It =-.

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Doriana (Traveleze) March 23, 2010 at 9:17 PM

Hi Rob, happy anniversary!
I’ve travelled and travel a lot, for business and pleasure and I share you ideas about what is traveling. Traveling is an attitude of mind, it is about people you meet and be open-minded towards them and their culture. Trveling is about ourselves and what we learn when traveling.
Don’t forget to stop by in Sicily while you are on the road!

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Hotel Bedding March 23, 2010 at 11:25 PM

Just found your blog – love it!!!

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AdventureRob March 24, 2010 at 4:17 AM

Denise – yes, often they have no strong opinion to say about the country either. I have done leaflet distribution, gardening, surveys and fixing guns and vests at a lazer quest/skirmish/tag place as jobs in Australia :-)

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AdventureRob March 24, 2010 at 4:20 AM

Abbie – Thanks, I guess you still have some more ‘knowing’ to do then ;-) I’m from an island in Western Europe not a continent lost in the southern hemisphere. Although some of you foreigners get confused because my accent isn’t like the Queens ^_^

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AdventureRob March 24, 2010 at 4:21 AM

Thanks Candice and the one who does hotel bedding :-)

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AdventureRob March 24, 2010 at 4:23 AM

Thanks Doriana – Indeed travelling may be more state of mind then actual movement across the globe, we all do it differently, no one is wrong.

I will of course have a look at Sicily when I’m in that part of the world :-)

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floreta March 24, 2010 at 4:44 AM

man this is great and congrats!!

but being from england means you’re naturally miserable? hehe

glad you could see so much more!

MAN can i relate to ‘things change’ right about now. it’s been such a mindtrip to accept that what i thought was ‘me’ is now no longer, and i am not this static thing but constantly changing, growing and evolving. it’s EXACTLY growing pains! i have been trying to put my feelings into words and just generally feeling ‘weird’. not in a bad way, because it’s definitely not like being in a rut!! but.. i’m just overwhelmed lately and not used to this feeling of growth! and happening sooo fast! it’s been really hard for me to process..
.-= floreta´s last blog – The Art of Travel, The Art of Life =-.

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Katie Oakes March 24, 2010 at 8:52 AM

Take it you sold the van then! yeyey! You’ve got going pretty pronto as well! was lovely to meet you when you were here! Congratulations on a year of travel! Here’s to the next one…and the one after that! Katie
.-= Katie Oakes´s last blog – Cyclone Ului- from an alternative perspective. =-.

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AdventureRob March 24, 2010 at 9:01 AM

Floreta – Yes, a country where 85% of the days are overcast means we are all miserable, but that helps with the sense of humour thing n_n

Go with the flow, things changing is usually a good thing. It’s unsettling for sure, but worth it in the end. Hey – you could always meditate ;-)

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AdventureRob March 24, 2010 at 9:08 AM

Katie – Unfortunately I’ve not sold the van yet :-( I keep dropping the price but no interest so far.

Was nice to meet you and Richard in person too, cheers!

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Vi March 24, 2010 at 1:37 PM

Rob, how much are you asking for the van?
.-= Vi´s last blog – Create your dream adventure =-.

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AdventureRob March 25, 2010 at 12:02 AM

The van is up for sale at $3200 at the moment (I started on $3900), better to carry on travelling than hang around it in without the money to do anything.

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Shannon OD March 24, 2010 at 4:00 PM

Congrats on making your year Rob! Some really valuable lessons, thanks for sharing :-)
.-= Shannon OD´s last blog – A Little Transportation…You’d Never Do that Back Home! =-.

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AdventureRob March 25, 2010 at 12:03 AM

Thanks Shannon :-D

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Giannis March 25, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Nice anniversary post, i don’t remember which date i began traveling. Learn a lot

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Hotel Bedding March 26, 2010 at 12:59 AM

Really great post – Happy Anniversary!!!!

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AdventureRob March 26, 2010 at 3:09 AM

Thanks Guys :-)

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Nancy March 29, 2010 at 4:27 PM

Congratulations on your year of travel!! What an experience. Thanks for sharing your lessons too.
.-= Nancy´s last blog – Buying a Couch and Meeting the Dude =-.

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Vi March 30, 2010 at 9:14 PM

I hope you sold your “Mystery Machine” already. I was thinking – to buy or rent campervan for my trip around Australia and decided to rent for 6-7 weeks. It makes less hustle.
.-= Vi´s last blog – Australia travel planner =-.

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AdventureRob April 1, 2010 at 1:55 AM

Thanks Nancy :-)

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AdventureRob April 1, 2010 at 2:10 AM

I haven’t sold it yet, I know it’s the biggest hassle of buying rather than renting, but then I’m not paying $2-3k to rent for a few weeks so make up for that in savings on renting.

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Vi April 1, 2010 at 10:56 AM

For me biggest concern with rentals – they don’t allow to drive on unsealed roads. IT is so hard to do in Australian outback.
.-= Vi´s last blog – How much cost taxi from Kathmandu airport to city =-.

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AdventureRob April 2, 2010 at 2:14 AM

The whole place has an asphalt surface where ever you will want to go lapping the place for the usual attractions.

unsealed roads are mainly for things like driving to a winery or beach that isn’t popular (which doesn’t make it bad by the way).

Plus if you take it through a car wash how are they going to tell it’s been on an unsealed road? ;-)

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Vi April 3, 2010 at 10:09 AM

I usually end up driving on gravel road on my trips as a lot of nice places are not accessible on bitumen. Like Mungo National Park in NSW. You should visit it if haven’t done it yet.
.-= Vi´s last blog – What’s on in Sydney in April =-.

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pearl July 3, 2010 at 9:58 PM

I would love to take a year and just travel. I just finished writing about living in Rome since it’s been a year since I stepped off the plane and into Italian life. Quality life lessons in this post, ones that I couldn’t verbalize for the life of me.

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AdventureRob July 30, 2010 at 7:32 PM

Pearl – Thanks very much :-) I’m sure if you put your mind to it, you’d be able to verbalise many things you’ve learnt from being in Rome
AdventureRob´s latest blogpost – A Rant Rules About Using Public Toilets

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