The 16 lessons every traveller learns

It's a big wide world out there. A scary world. A world filled with dodgy taxi drivers and bad food, dirty hostels and shady locals.

When you first step out into that big world it can be a little daunting, but as time goes by and you settle into the travel scene, you very quickly begin to love it. And that's because every traveller learns certain lessons, lessons about themselves, about travel, and about the world in general. Lessons like these.

You're far more resourceful than you think

This. This is the number one thing every traveller soon realises. You might have previously thought you'd struggle with the language barrier, or that you're terrible with directions, or that you're shy around new people, or that you can't cope in a crisis, but once you throw yourself in the deep end and have to survive on your own in the world, you'll come to know: you're far better at this stuff than you ever realised.

You can get used to pretty much anything in about three days

Every time I go camping, or stay in a hostel, or even eat dodgy street food, the feeling is the same on that first day: urgh. I can't get clean. There are people making noise in my room. This food is going to poison me. But after about three days of anything – any level of discomfort, of grot or grime – you just get used to it. And then it becomes fun.

You can survive with less food and less sleep than you thought

Couldn't find anywhere to have breakfast this morning? No worries. Stayed up all night boozing and now you have to catch a bus? She'll be right. Blew your budget on a dumb souvenir and now you have to survive on packet noodles? No dramas. See the point above – it'll take about three days to get used to it.

Your version of grotty is not really grotty


What you may have once thought was incredibly disgusting – showering in a mouldy bathroom, drying yourself with the foul hostel towel, wearing the same T-shirt four days in a row, never washing your socks – becomes kind of run-of-the-mill once you've been travelling for a couple of months. Hygiene? It's a first-world problem. 

You will not get robbed. (Although, maybe you will.)

First-time travellers tend to obsess over security, but after a while you realise that the world isn't actually out to get you, and if you just take a few easy precautions the odds are high that you'll never get robbed while you travel. (Although you still might, so don't carry anything you can't bear to lose.)

Large groups of any nationality are annoying

You've seen it with Australians, just as you've seen it with Russians, or Indians, or Americans, or anyone, really. Travelling in large groups of the same nationality tends to bring out the worst in people – it gives them the confidence to complain, get rowdy, be rude or just drunk. Try to avoid them.

Weird food is good

It's a bit of a milestone the first time you eat something truly foreign, the first time you open up and stuff in a deep-fried scorpion, or a sheep's eye, or the leg of a guinea pig. But just because we don't eat it in Australia, doesn't mean it's not good.

Air travel is convenient, train travel is romantic, and bus travel sucks

My golden rules of travel. An aeroplane will get you there quickly, but it's not much fun. On a train you get to meet people, you get to dine at a proper restaurant, and you get to watch the world go past your window as you soak up the fun. And on a bus … Well, you'll get where you need to go. Probably. Eventually.

You need far more money than you thought

Draw up a budget for your trip. Think about all the money you'll spend on flights and transfers, and accommodation, and food, and drinks, and souvenirs, and entrance fees, and insurance, and all of the little miscellaneous costs that will pop up on your overseas adventure. Tally all of that up, arrive at your total – and then double it.

McDonald's is an invaluable resource for toilet stops

You don't have to eat there, but plenty of countries lack decent public toilet facilities, and in those cases it's McDonald's to the rescue. Maccas toilets are usually free, they're usually clean, and they're usually close by.

The first price is never the right price

This holds true for anywhere that the price isn't stamped onto the object or clearly labelled in some way. While haggling doesn't come naturally to most Australians, it's something you have to get used to if you don't want to be ripped off over and over again.

Patience is a virtue

Things go wrong when you travel. Lots of things. The train is late, the cab driver gets lost, the money exchange place is closed, the hotel has lost your booking, and you can feel a rumble in your stomach that means last night's street food was a bad choice. But you have to be able to roll with the punches when you travel, or you'll quickly go insane.

All underwear is two sided

Desperate times call for desperate measures. You'll come to know this.

Always – always – remember to book an aisle or a window

Unless you fancy the idea of spending 14 hours locked in a vicious battle for armrest space with the two hulks sitting either side of you, make sure you book an aisle seat or a window when you pay for that ticket.

Somewhere, at some time, someone will successfully rip you off

There's no point getting too upset about it. These people are professionals, they make a living, sadly, from taking tourists for a ride. It'll most likely happen when you've just arrived, when you're jet-lagged and tired and freaked out by the foreign land around you. You'll get ripped off. And you won't be the first.

People are essentially the same

This is something I've noticed over many years of travel to many places. It doesn't matter where you are, whether it's Ethiopia or Estonia, Guinea or Guyana, the Middle East or the Mid West – people are essentially the same. They want the same things. They want a comfortable, quiet life with a decent job and a family to love. They want to be distracted by a sports game, and filled with a good meal. We all have our differences, but deep down, we're the same.

What are the lessons you've learned from travelling? Share your thoughts below.