Travel tips: Ten basic skills every traveller needs

Travel should be easy. It should be fun. It shouldn't require specialist skills or any specific qualification. And for the most part that's true.

It doesn't, however, mean you shouldn't try. To get the most out of the travel world, you do need qualifications. You need skills that will open you up to a whole range of experiences. You need to take things to the next level.

If you want to do travel right, if you want to see and feel and experience everything the world has to offer, then these are the simple skills and qualifications you need.

Drivers' license

It sounds obvious, but there are still people out there who don't have a drivers' license, and who are missing out on one of travel's great experiences: the road trip. Often, a car means freedom. It means joy. It means discovery. It means getting around in the same way all of the locals do. If you love to travel and you can't drive a car, it's time to change that.

Motorbike license

Aitutaki, Cook Islands - September 18, 2013: Cook Islander woman rides a motorbike. Aitutaki is the second most visited island of the Cook Islands. It has a population of approximately 2,000 people. SatSept28CookIslands - Atiu and Aitutaki, Cook Islands - Craig Tansley
iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted.

Don't miss out on seeing Rarotonga by scooter. Photo: iStock

Here's a handy little add-on to your drivers' license. If you want to ride a scooter or a motorbike overseas and you're not licensed in Australia, you won't be covered by travel insurance. So that might mean missing out on puttering around Rarotonga on a little scooter, exploring the madness of Vietnam by 110cc Honda, or cruising the wide-open roads of the US on a Harley. Get a motorbike license. It's the best.

Boat license

So, you enjoy exploring the land on your own. How about exploring the sea? Get a boat license – or learn to sail – and a whole new world just opened itself up to you. Suddenly you're hiring a little cruiser and exploring the coast of Sardinia. You're going bare-boating in Turkey. You're seeing the islands of Fiji at your own pace.

4WD experience

4WD passing Red Rock along 75 mile beach on Fraser Island/file_thumbview/7607447/1 iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. 10 travel skills Ben Groundwater column tra26-online-skills

A 4WD will allow you to explore parts of Australia you couldn't otherwise reach, like Fraser Island (above). Photo: iStock

Most of the best campsites on Earth aren't accessible by normal car. In fact, the best of Australia isn't accessible by two-wheel-drive. Like the boat license, this is your chance to see more of the world. Get yourself some experience in a 4WD and you can access those out-of-the-way places, you can take yourself off to game parks in Southern Africa, you can see all of Australia, you can tackle deserts and forests and dusty outback tracks. You won't regret it.

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Second language

I sometimes think the hardest part for many Australians – aside from English speakers' notorious lingual laziness – is deciding which language to learn. How do you narrow the world down to one foreign tongue? The key, though, is just to learn something, anything, and begin your journey. Just the basic understanding of the way languages work – which you'll learn through studying another – will put you ahead in any country in the world.

First aid training

If you want to travel the developing world or get out into true wilderness, this is a no-brainer. You'll make yourself a very handy travelling companion indeed if you know how to perform basic first-aid on the road. Sign up for a course now.

Open-water scuba certificate

Again, another world. You've covered land. You've covered travelling on the sea. But how about underwater? There are some incredible experiences to be had under the ocean's surface, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Red Sea to the Blue Hole, from wrecks to caves to sharks to coral. Every traveller should have an open-water scuba certificate.

Cycling experience

Khardung La, Jammu and Kashmir, India - July 3, 2011: Young girl while cycling stop at Khardung La pass to have a some rest. iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. tra12-online-pass

Bicycles can get you places other transport can't go. Photo: iStock

Every now and then, you get an offer to do something amazing. Maybe jump on a mountain-bike and blast down a forested track. Maybe traverse beautiful countryside in places only bikes can go. Maybe just pootle around from winery to winery on a tasting day. Whatever it is, when those offers come up, you want to be able to take them. So make sure you can ride a bike, and ride it well.

Ski skills

Who wouldn't want to go skiing or snowboarding? (People who want to save for a mortgage? Fair call.) For everyone else though, the chance to hit the slopes at a ski resort should not be passed up. Not only will you see some of the most beautiful places on Earth, but you'll have a lot of fun doing it. And the better you are on skis or board, the more of the mountains you'll be able to see.

Photography skills

You go to all these amazing places and do all these amazing things, and what do you have to show for it? Some grainy iPhone photos? A couple of selfies? Photography is another skill that can add something extra to your travel experience. It could become a passion, or it might just help you frame your Instagram shots a little better. Regardless, it's a good idea to do a course and gain a bit of knowledge.

What are the skills you think travellers should learn? Are there any classes you've taken or qualifications you've earned that have changed your travel experience?

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

See also: Ten things you need to know before your first trip overseas

See also: Don't be a 'begpacker': Nine jobs you can do to fund your travels

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