Lessons Learned Travelling

Mui Ne, Vietnam

I’ve just been lucky enough to spend the best part of a month travelling around various parts of Malaysia and Vietnam.  I’m still suffering a little jet lag as I type!

It was an amazing trip filled with lots of adventures, great company, great food and incredible sights.

Travelling always gives me time to reflect and a new perspective on life at home.  With this in mind, here are some lessons learned and general thoughts from travelling.


1)      Don’t Over Plan

For this trip we did some research and had a long list of ideas of what we thought we wanted to do before going.  However, some of this was must do and some of it was it might be nice to do.  This led to a degree of flexibility where we didn’t feel tied to a set schedule.

Personally I don’t like my trips to be like military operations so a little planning is fine but not too much.


2)      Explore

Part of the allure of travel is exploring and stumbling upon some interesting finds.  Having a guide book along for the ride is fine but it is a guidebook not necessarily a “I must tick off everything in the book and not go anywhere not mentioned” book.


3)      Walk, Walk and Walk Some More

Closely aligned to no 2 is walking.  It’s our preferred mode of transport when possible and we’ll often spend days walking and exploring various parts of where we are.

Walking can lead to some interesting discoveries along the way.  An example for this trip would be an incredible tea and coffee house in Hoi An, Vietnam that is run and staffed by hearing and speech impaired employees.  It was the most amazing, tranquil place to have a coffee and just sit for a while.

Ordering tea and coffee at the Reaching Out Teahouse in Hoi An, Vietnam
Ordering tea and coffee at the Reaching Out Teahouse in Hoi An, Vietnam


How much we walk really hits home when others with us mention how much walking they’ve done in a particular day or complain of sore feet.  It’s also probably a reason why we love New York so much as a destination that we return to often.


4)      Pack Light

I must admit, we didn’t this trip!  We had a carry on each and a checked bag each.  We could have quite comfortably done away with the second bag and packed more selectively.  A few of my packed clothes never saw the light of day!

The lesson, you don’t need as much as you think so pack lighter.  I know I will be next time.


5)      We Have a Lot to be Thankful For

Travelling, especially in less developed parts of the world, helps give us fresh perspective on how truly blessed we are in many areas of our lives.  It’s easy to lose sight of this at times (I know I do).

If you know where your next meal is coming from and that you have a roof over your head for the night that is considered rich in some parts of the world!  It’s a sobering thought.

Life could and would be a lot tougher had we been born in a different part of the world.


6)      Less Can Be More

It might sound clichéd but there’s a whole lot we think we need that we really don’t.

Travelling to some parts of the world highlights how hard life is for some.  However, it also highlights how people in these countries focus completely on the important (food, shelter, time to sit with family and friends, being of service to those around and the community).

They do not have the luxury of too much time on their hands being able to distract themselves with stuff that doesn’t matter.  They understand what is important to them and just focus on that.

Life after all is not all about having the latest 3D TV in your living room or latest smartphone.


7)      Cultural Differences

What you think is displaying good manners is not necessarily in some parts of the world.  Equally, what you perceive to be rudeness might not be considered so where you are.

We are the ones travelling so it would be a little redundant expecting everyone to behave in a way we are used to.

This area is definitely worth a little groundwork pre-trip depending on where you plan to go.


8)     Eating Well Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

The local and street food on offer on our travels was pretty amazing and diverse.  Some of the very best meals we had were either home cooked or from basic restaurants offering amazing food.


Vegetable curries served on banana leaf - Inexpensive and very tasty
Vegetable curries served on banana leaf – Inexpensive and very tasty


9)     Pack Healthy Snacks for Long Flights

I am not a fan of food on planes.  My solution is to now request fruit platter meals for the flight itself and pack a few healthy snacks (unsalted nuts and/or some sort of bars full of quality, natural, pressed ingredients).  Occasionally I’ll also just water fast.

I feel a lot better for this change post flight and I’m sure you will as well if you give it a go.


10)      A Few Key Phrases Can Serve You Well

At the bare minimum being able to say hello, please and thank you with a smile on your face in the local language can serve you well and mean others are more receptive to helping you.

This is where your guidebook can help.


11)   Get Your Exercise In

During this trip we used a combination of hotel gyms, playground bars (for chin ups), beach sprints, long walks, swimming and some mobility and stretching drills along the way.

Exercise doesn’t all have to be done in the gym or require extra equipment (your body is after all a walking dumbbell).

If you’re on the move you can still get some quality work done and it doesn’t need to eat into your day. Make it part of the day.


12)   It’s Nice to Come Home

I often feel I could spend a bit or a lot longer wherever I am and this trip was certainly no different.  Wanting to spend longer or wanting to return is the sign of a good trip after all.

However, there is also a part of me that enjoys coming back home to family, friends and the many creature comforts of home life.  Even the routine of home life can be missed after a while.


13)  Travel Broadens the Mind 

Travel gives us fresh perspective on our own lives, goals, hopes and ambitions.  It can refresh tired thinking.


14)   It’s Nice To Plan the Next Trip

The more you travel the more you want to travel.  That’s certainly my experience.

There’s a long list of places on our travel wish list that keep getting added to after we return from a trip or have travelled somewhere new.

Planning or just thinking about the next adventure is all part of the fun.