Travelling is truly the best thing you can do to expose yourself to a world of possibilities.
It’s been estimated that travel is the biggest industry in the world right now, at 7.6 trillion U.S. Dollar in 2016 (the latest statistics available at the time of post) measured in contribution to the world economy.
That exhilarating feeling of being in a different place, trying new cuisines, meeting other people, etc. exposes you to fresh ideas and opens your eyes. Coming to a foreign country on the other side of the globe at 19 years of age was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I had never travelled without my parents before, and had never held a job, or navigated my way through a busy city alone. Nor had I ever had to arrange for my own accommodation, or manage to pay the bills. The experience helped me mature 10X faster.
Ever since that summer afternoon almost 17 years ago, I have become addicted to travelling, and have seen many countries of the world. Seeing the different types of architecture in Prague was exciting; looking through the glass-bottomed boat in Cancun made me feel peaceful and happy; walking up the five peaks of the Huang Shan mountain was satisfyingly exhausting, and looking through the windows of the famous Red Light District in Amsterdam made me more curious than ever before. Every journey was life-affirming and intellectually stimulating.
You don’t even have to leave the country or spend a lot of time and money organising things or even bring people with you. It’s really more about being outside of your comfort zone and breaking away from your same old daily routine. The brain gets stimulated when it is challenged. When you move yourself to a different physical place, your brain works hard to adjust to the change in brightness, colour, the language spoken, the scent in the air, and everything else associated with a change in environment. This stimulates the firing of new neurons and makes the brain create new synapses. The more connections we have in the brain, the more developed our brains becomes. So you see, there’s actually scientific evidence that travel is good for your brain. Read this article from Forbes Magazine, which gives Five Reasons Why Travel Is Good For Your Mental Health. To me, one reason is enough!
I have friends who are creative, happy, and full of excitement, simply because they travel all the time and meet new people, make new memories, and go through new experiences all the time.
Backpacking and camping can also be great options for some people. Again, this would not be my personal choice, but I know a lot of people who enjoy being out in the open and fully embrace nature. It’s necessary to plan your trips when you are backpacking and camping. Unless you are a hardcore minimalist, there are essentials that you will need to bring, because they may not always be available at your destination. Things like a proper tent, waterproof clothing, tarp, stove, sleeping bag, a torch or headlamp, chair or stool, strings or ropes, water-proof matches or a good lighter, can opener, emergency kits, etc., can make the difference between and great camping experience and a miserable one. You will also need to be vigilant about wild animals and bugs, depending on what parts of the world you travel to. Water purifying tablets and insect repellents can come in handy too. If you are going somewhere without power outlets for an extended period of time, you might even consider packing a generator or some battery packs to help you keep your options open, should you ever need to contact emergency services or arrange for a speedy return to civilisation. Check out this brilliant article from the Outsider Magazine for the checklist: A Guide to All The Essential Camping Gear.
There’s no need to go overboard with all the preparations, of course. If you are travelling to an organised camping site with security patrol and running water, for example, you won’t need most of the things listed above. Just thoroughly research your intended destination, and decide for yourself what you need.
Personally, I am rather conventional in my method of travelling the world. I travel by airplane and trains whenever necessary. And I love seeing the old world charms of Central and Western Europe.
I have always wanted to go to Florence, Italy. It is such a beautiful city with a long history and amazing architecture. The food in Italy is wonderful in general, so I know I won’t go wrong there. And finally, I’ve made it happen! After so many years of ‘no money’, ‘no time’ excuses, I finally said: “enough is enough! No more excuses!” So this November I am going to Florence!
There are many advantages to travelling within Europe, of course. Everything is available in this part of the world so that all you really need to pack is a good camera. or just use your smartphone. Bring a power bank with you so you don’t run out of battery and miss out on wonderful photo opportunities.
There are many YouTube videos that show you beautiful destinations that other people have already travelled to. They share their experiences and helpful travel tips. These are all very helpful. Obviously not all the tips will apply to you. So just go ahead and search on Youtube for any information you might need to know before you start your journey. Here’s a video I found on Florence. This channel has a lot of great videos about beautiful destinations all over the world. Feel free to check them out.
More and more now people are choosing to make their own ‘a la carte’ travel arrangements rather than taking on one of those pre-arranged travel packages. True, sometimes travelling in large groups can be quite annoying. Images of Japanese tourists posing in front of the same monument for identical photos airing to mind whenever ‘group travel’ is mentioned. However, there are advantages in travelling in numbers. Personally, I like to have my trips planned out in detail, especially if it’s overseas, in a foreign-language speaking country. I want to optimise my trip experience and eliminate the time wasted on finding directions, translating a difficult language, and missing out on great locations because they are not featured in the tour books I have access to.
You can, of course, use Google Translate to help you communicate with the locals, or use a premium voice translator if you need to engage with the locals a lot, conduct or attend meetings and seminars, or make business contacts. For those who are talented with language learning, you might even consider taking a basic course on the language spoken in that part of the world. This can be great fun and adds value to your portfolio. Rosetta Stone is one of the premium courses available for this purpose. You can easily learn some of the major languages such as Spanish, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, etc., which enable to you effectively communicate with a large number of people in the world. They also feature some lesser used languages such as Swedish, Hebrew, Greek, and Vietnamese, for the more ambitious traveller. If you are not willing to invest too much time and money into learning a few simple lines to use on holidays, you can buy a beginner’s book on the language you want to learn or download the free Duolingo App to learn it for free.
For solo travellers, there are many things to consider.
Rest will be an issue since you will need to keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times. There is also safety in numbers. If you are a female solo traveller, the reality is, some countries and regions will be more dangerous to you than others. So you’ll need to thoroughly research your destination and make solid plans B, C, and D before you leave the comfort of your home. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m just saying be mindful of the things that can go wrong, and prepare for the ones that are likely to go wrong. Protect yourself with pepper sprays, luggage locks, self-defence training, etc. A good backpack can protect your belongings from the elements and help you organise your travel documents and electronics. Comfortable shoes will prevent fatigue and leg discomforts, and also enable you to get away from potential danger faster and more effectively. Good nutrition can be vital if you are travelling to a remote area without guaranteed safe food to eat. I always bring durable food items such as nuts and seeds, chocolate bars, homemade fat bombs, protein balls, etc. to ensure that I sustain my energy levels whenever I travel. Pack a good multivitamin with you as well if you are away from home for longer than 2 weeks. The change in environment and diet can cause havoc in your digestive system, causing your immune system to be compromised. So it’s best to be prepared. A good multivitamin should give you enough support and it won’t take up too much room in your luggage.
Here’s an article from the website TripSavvy that talks about the Pros and Cons of Solo Travel. In my opinion, it is well worth a read. Check it out.
The last thing but by no means the least important is to ensure that you have all the travel documents needed. There’s nothing worse than arriving at the border only to find out that you don’t meet the visa requirements. Also, make sure that your passport is valid for the duration of your stay in a foreign country. Different countries vary in their passport validity requirements, so make sure you check the relevant embassies before setting off on your journey.