What four months on the road taught me

As we’ve just welcomed a new year, many will have vowed to “travel and explore more” because there barely is anything more exciting to life, right!? While my days are currently circulating around books, essays and academic journals (yep, that time of year), I spent a good third of last year on the road and thought I’d share some tips with you in case you’re already planning a big trip for summer or just a short weekend getaway.

I’ve been around half the globe, the US, Canada, France, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Germany, often sleeping in a different bed every night and yes, you guessed it, often it’s just been a coach seat. So that was amazing and uncomfortable in all sorts of enriching ways. Here’s what I’ve learned, but feel free to share some of your living-out-of-a-suitcase-for-months tips below.

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1. Let people surprise you

Humans are amazing. It’s easy to forget that when you’re stuck in routines and bored of seeing the same faces every day, but traveling really is eye-opening in the sense that you come across kind, inspiring strangers that are totally up for showing you their hood. Making new friends on the road is best part of being somewhere new, so get out there, ask if you can take photos if someone looks really cool or just listen to their stories. They’ll be worth it.

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2. Get some you-time

Sightseeing ventures during the day time, dancing the night away with old friends? That same procedure for three weeks? It’s a bit of a luxurious problem to have, but if you’re exhausted, chill, even if you’re missing that ‘legendary trip’ to some overcrowded and bland tourist magnet. The experience I made is that especially after the first few weeks when the initial excitement has worn off and you’re slowly getting a bit annoyed by that heavy backpack, long train trips and overpriced sandwiches, then… maybe you should just take a day off, sit by the sea and listen to your favourite album. Tomorrow’s another day.

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3. Cheer up!

If you’re feeling down, chances are you just need to get over whatever it is, because you’re hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from ordinary life and can’t change anything now anyway. Have a drink or two and remember how damn privileged you are to be having those experiences, even if it doesn’t feel like it and you occasionally wish you had opted for a seven-day spa holiday rather than a number of run-down hostels. But trust me, hostels are always the right decision.

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4. Budget

I really hate talking about money (mainly because my budgeting logic is beyond bizarre), but I can tell you one thing: You will always spend more than you think you do on the road, there are so many little emergencies that no one could have predicted and that’s part of the whole adventure, so just make sure you’ve worked some extra hours before the take-off or get yourself a solid overdraft.

Equally, invest in nice encounters and memories, not in clothes. Take time and money to invite people who’ve helped you on the way to say thank you. People kinda deserve a nice dinner if they’ve taken you on a trip through their city or even had you crash on their couch, right? Smiles are more heart-warming than anything material that would only add to the ridiculous weight your backpack already has.

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5. Feel good!

Make an effort to look acceptable and to feel comfortable, no matter how little you slept last night. You don’t wanna bump into Mr. Super-handsome wearing pink socks and red shoes… Although that surely is a great conversation starter. Still, don’t do it. (We all guessed it. I did exactly that and let me assure you, he was very handsome and very amused.)

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6. Laugh (especially) if things go wrong

And try to think that whatever messed up state you’re in, in a few hours or days you’ll most likely have a laugh. When my friend and me were hiking in the mountains, we completely miscalculated the amount of time we’d spend from our starting point to the cabin and ended up walking for 15 hours, sleeping in the mud in one sleeping bag and with no food except from some truly gross organic cake. There was plenty of water around though, so it was all good. Except that we felt like we’ve reached the end of our lives. Now, a few months later, I can say that these few days have been the highlight of my 2013. So, let’s embrace a bit of absurdity and drama!

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