If you’re someone like me and you decided to hop on a plane at 18 before you knew left from right, then this is for you. People can tell you what to expect, but there’s just some things you have to experience by yourself.. so I collated together some of the golden knowledge I accumulated on my travels.
- People will think you’re older than you are.. or younger
You may find that people are surprised at your actual age, because it often takes a lot of courage and maturity to travel around independently when you’re in your teens. The majority of people who were were doing a season in the Alps when I was were in their twenties, and it was assumed that I was too; I enjoyed being treated as if I were. However, when I left and went to Hong Kong, the opposite happened and I got regularly taken for a 14-year-old (I still try to comfort myself with the old ‘I’ll look young when I’m old’).
2. You’ll want to visit everything. All at once.
Once you get your first taste of what travel is like, and you get past your fears of travelling
alone like I did and realise you’re capable of doing so, the world is your oyster. Every other day I come up with a new plan for a trip and what used to be my biggest limitation ( my own fear) is now replaced by simply needing to gather enough funds to visit the 100+ places I want to go to next!
3. You’ll get attached
This is possibly the hardest aspect of constantly moving around, especially if you spend a season or so living in each place. You’ll meet many amazing and interesting people, people you aren’t used to seeing in your hometown and who you’ll hit it off with instantaneously.
They will be incredibly hard to say goodbye to, but they’ll pop up all over the place; you’ll become part of an international network of friends all over the world!
4. You’ll face major setbacks and challenges- and overcome them
Being independent is one thing, but in a different country it’s a whole other ball game. There’s a whole host of things to consider, like what do you do in an emergency and can’t contact your family because of the time difference? How do you find accommodation? How do you cook a meal that isn’t cereal and ketchup?! It’s only when you’re put in these situations by yourself that you realise you’ll always find a way around it, and in doing so, you realise how much you’re capable of.
5. You’ll need to call home for help every now and then
I get it. You’re 18 and you’re determined to do everything yourself, but there are just some things which are best paired with calling home for advice. You might want to get a second opinion on going on that dodgy looking tour, for example. Either way, make sure you keep in contact with your family because you never know when you might need them!
6. You may not relate to your friends back home anymore
You’re off having amazing experiences, seeing different ways of living and these things change you as a person, so it may not come as a surprise that you find you can’t relate to your friend’s experiences at home anymore. This doesn’t mean the friendships will fade; it just means they’re living a life you may not relate to anymore and vice versa, and it just takes some getting used to.
7. Age really is a number
When you’re travelling, you’ll find it doesn’t matter if you make friends with a 29 year old or someone your age, either way there’s things you have in common and they will often treat you as equals. I found this refreshing, as in the UK there are certain attitudes towards age gaps; people are often shocked or surprised by gaps in friendships or relationships.
8. Your future plans will change
Before I left for my gap year, I had everything planned out; season in the Alps, two internships in Hong Kong, off to Uni and head straight into an office job. In no less than 4 months my perspective had completely changed, and I even reconsidered going to Uni so I could keep travelling. The people I spent my season with taught me that it’s possible to spend a few months at a time, albeit on a small amount of money, in various countries.
I saw that it was possible to live a life that differed from the one society teaches us to lead; getting a degree and heading straight into work may be perfect for some people, but it’s not the be all/end all of life, and you are certainly not a failure if you chose not to go down this route. You’ll learn that plans change and nothing is set in stone.
9. You’ll learn to be more comfortable in your own company
Obviously theres nothing wrong with travelling with friends, but sometimes you may find yourself travelling alone. Solo travel is far from lonely as you’ll meet plenty of people along the way, but it just means getting used to doing things without your close friends. I learnt how to do this when I moved into my new apartment alone, and I’ll admit I had to teach myself to be comfortable with my own thoughts and the silence that comes with not having friends around (although this was made worse with no wifi- never again).
10. You’ll learn to live modestly
Unless you’ve gone straight into working full time, uni students and travellers alike are fairly short on cash. If you’re living in the place you’re visiting for a few months then you have the chance to work (you can always qualify with a TEFL course to teach English abroad), but the majority of the time you’ll learn to live without the commodities and accept basic accommodation- for the thrill of being somewhere new!
11. You’ll become more self aware
Seasoned travellers will tell you the same thing; you learn a lot about yourself when you’re out on the road. You’ll see how you cope with new situations, you’ll get a sense for the kinds of things you do and don’t like doing, and what kinds of people you like spending your time with.
12. You’ll meet amazing people you wouldn’t meet at home
One of the best things about travelling is the people you’ll meet. Everyone has incredible stories about where they’ve been and where they come from. I was astounded at the variety of people I met, making close friends with well over 10 different nationalities, and all of them were one the main reasons I want to keep travelling now.