Travel tips: Fifteen lessons every traveller learns in their 20s

For travellers, getting older does have its downsides – missing out on working holiday visas, feeling creepy in dorm rooms – but it also has the advantage of teaching you a thing or two about seeing the world. If only I'd known all this when I was 20…

You don't have to get smashed every single night

There's nothing wrong with boozing when you travel, and it would still take an event of some significance to prevent me from having at least a few drinks every night when I'm away. But there's no need to go crazy. Those daily hangovers start to really catch up with you.

A hot accent is not a legitimate reason to shack up with someone

If you're just looking for a night or two of fun, or to add a flag to your collection, then yes, a hot accent is a legitimate reason to shack up with someone. For something longer term, however, including finding a potential travel partner, you might want to actually consider their personality.

Eating is not cheating

It is not – I repeat, not – a reasonable decision to forgo dinner in favour of being able to afford more of whatever it is that passes for the national drink in these parts. Even if it's just a bowl of cheap noodles, eat something first.

There's no shame in a little luxury

I used to hate admitting to people in the hostel that I'd just splashed out on a fancy meal, or that in the last city I stayed in an actual hotel. People think you're a snob. But the truth is that if you get a huge amount of enjoyment from those little slices of luxury, then you should go for it.

Hat Rin sucks

And so do a lot of "party" destinations. Full Moon Parties might have been fun back in the day, but simply hanging around the increasingly charmless town on Koh Pha-Ngan that hosts them is not my idea of a good time.

Just because you're allowed to do it, doesn't make it safe

What? You can hire a scooter and you don't have to wear a helmet? You can get really drunk and float down a river? You can ride in a speedboat with no lifejacket? Awesome! (Also: terrible idea.)

You don't have enough money

Here's a good rule of thumb for anyone who's going travelling. Whenever you think you've saved up enough money for your holiday, repeat this to yourself: I haven't saved up enough money for my holiday.

You don't have to do everything the guidebook tells you

Guidebooks aren't written specifically for you. They're written for a wide cross-section of people who are into all sorts of different things. And sometimes, the writers' idea of what constitutes a great tourism experience is bizarre, to say the least. It pays to steer clear of guidebook recommendations if they don't sound interesting to you.

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See also: Why you should stop trying to cram everything in

Not everyone is out to scam you… But some people are.

When you first start travelling, particularly in Asia and North Africa, if can feel like everyone is out to scam you, or rip you off. It takes a while to realise that that isn't the case. On the flip side, however, there are certainly some dodgy characters out there, and the only way to spot them is with experience.

You will be back

It's tempting to try to fit the absolute maximum into every holiday you ever go on. But slow down there cowboy – if you really love a place, you have a whole lifetime to revisit it. You will be back. It's worth just relaxing and taking things in, rather than attempting to tick every single box.

See also: Why you should always go back

All those people you think you're going to see again? You won't see them again.

This is a sad reality that you just have to accept. You make amazing, intense friendships when you travel, and every time you part ways with these people you make a solemn promise to come and visit them soon. But you won't. There will be a few exceptions, but for so many people you'll just never see them again.

Everyone can hear you having sex in the dorm room

It's true. You might have once thought you got away with no one noticing, but trust me, you didn't.

You should definitely learn another language

You can get away with only being able to speak English, easily. But you're missing out on a huge part of the travel experience if you can't have a meaningful conversation with anyone who lives in the country you're visiting. Obviously you can't learn every language in the world, but it is worth the effort to pick up one more.

See also: The one thing that will make you a better traveller

No one wants to hear your stories or look at your photos

As you get older you realise the futility of even trying to get people interested in the things you've done and seen in foreign, exotic places. No one cares. You just have to console yourself with making Facebook albums of your photos and waiting for your parents to like them.

Always enjoy the "moments"

I travelled for a while with a guy who would always stop everyone when something amazing was happening, or even when something that we just accepted as run-of-the-mill but was actually truly great was happening, and announce to everyone: "I'm having a moment!" I've never forgotten that. You might not have to mention it publicly, but it's always nice to recognise when you're having the absolute time of your life, to take note of it, to appreciate it, and to enjoy it.

What do you wish you'd known in your 20s?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

​See also: 20 must do experiences for summer in Europe

See also: Things you'd only know if you travelled in the 90s

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