40 Lessons Learned in Three Years of Travel

40 Lessons Learned in Three Years of Travel

Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled.

On solo travel

You’ll never regret introducing yourself to that stranger.

In fact, making friends while traveling solo is often easier than making friends while traveling with others.

Solo travel will make you fiercely independent, even if it feels like you’re failing miserably at the time.

And you will feel like you’re failing sometimes.  Solo travel can be extremely lonely.

But you’re never really alone.

When you need to cry, let yourself.  The bad moments will always be overshadowed by the good in the end.

Solo travel is the most challenging, enriching, mind-expanding, liberating thing in the world, and everyone should do it at least once.Solo travel is something everyone should do at least once.

On traveling with others

There’s no better or faster way to get to know someone than to travel with them.

There’s also no faster way to become best friends with someone than to travel with them.

No two travelers are alike, and that’s okay.  It’s all about compromise.

And there’s no shame in going your separate ways if it’s not a good fit.  It’s better not to force it.

A friend you travel well with is worth their weight in gold, and you should hold onto that person tightly.

Traveling with friends

As good as gold!

On packing

Packing cubes.  Use them.

In fact, compartmentalize as many things as possible.  Electronics accessories, toiletries, everything.

I’d rather bulk up my biceps dragging around a rolling suitcase (or a wheeled backpack) than break my back with a backpack.

Bringing along a deck of cards (or, even better, Cards Against Humanity) will earn you instant friends.

Bringing along a corkscrew will do the same.

Shoes are space wasters.  Bring as few pairs as possible, and wear the bulkiest pair while traveling.

The best way to pack light?  Lay out everything you want to take, and then put back half.


Too many shoes, not enough packing cubes

On money and budgeting

Generally speaking, if I have it, I will spend it.  Retirement?  What’s retirement?

No matter how many countries I visit, converting currencies never gets easier.

It’s better to overestimate your budget, because emergencies WILL happen.

Cooking for yourself is not only a major money-saver, but a great way to socialize.  Hostel dinner parties are the best!

You’ll never regret splurging on a once-in-a-lifetime experience (like this, this, or this), even if it means cutting your trip a little short in the end.

On relationships

Distance makes the real relationships stronger and allows the false ones to unravel.

There’s no substitute for seeing someone’s face and hearing their voice to feel connected again.  Skype can do wonders for a relationship.

No one understands a traveler’s heart better than another traveler.

But dating while traveling can be equal parts euphoria and heartbreak.

In life, it’s not the quantity of friends you have that counts, it’s the quality.Quality of friends is more important than quantity

On food

Street food can be the best OR worst decision ever.  It’s a crapshoot, but that’s half the fun.

Travel long enough, you WILL get food poisoning.

I could easily live off of fresh fruit in the tropics.  Mango, guava, pineapple, papaya, coconut, what more do I need!?

I might be one of the only people I know who never misses foods from home.

Trying local food is an integral part of the travel experience.  Even if you think you’ll hate it, try it anyway, just once.

Trying local foods is an integral part of the travel experience

If you don’t eat the arepas, I will

On going home

Home will never feel completely like home again, because you’ll have left little pieces of your heart in so many places.

Home might even feel like a completely different place, because you will see it with new eyes and notice things you never did before.

You’ll appreciate the little things more, like how polite people are or how easy it is to find your favorite foods.

Or the fact that cars actually let you cross the street, or that you feel safe walking around at night.

You’ll spend time with friends and family more wisely, because you know that it’s limited.

The best part of a life of travel is that you develop the ability to feel at home anywhere.

40 Lessons Learned in Three Years of Travel

Home is where the pants aren’t

What lessons has travel taught you about life?

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  • Reply Sky February 18, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Love this! I’m only a few months into my trip and I’ve already learned several of these. Finding people you travel well with is fantastic and cooking in is definitely a great way to meet them!
    Sky recently posted…Travel Tees – A New Business VentueMy Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera February 19, 2015 at 11:56 am

      Thanks Sky! There’s nothing better than finding a compatible travel partner! Hope you’re loving Central America!

  • Reply Christie of The Butterfly Editions February 19, 2015 at 1:42 am

    Great post, its definitely given me a bit of a boost in one of those moments I feel like I’m failing, so thanks for that 🙂 Totally with you on that retirement comment, I choose to ignore thinking about that for the time being!

    • Reply La Mochilera February 19, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Haha I know the feeling Christie! I’ve wanted to give up a time or two…but then the thought of actually going home stops me in my tracks. Glad you liked the post 🙂

  • Reply Justine February 19, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    I had all kinds of wonderful and insightful things to say. But why did you have to post that gorgeous photo of arepas? Now I’m sad because I miss arepas dearly…Clearly I am definitely one of those people who constantly misses food from home. Or maybe I just always want what I can’t have!
    Justine recently posted…Is Koh Rong Worth Visiting?My Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera February 20, 2015 at 9:57 am

      Ahhahaha I’m sorry! Those arepas were delicious, by the way. Filled with ooey, gooey cheese…yum. But, ahem, I’m sorry for giving you hungerlust. The thing I do miss when I can’t have it? Good wine, obviously. I don’t envy your situation in Jakarta…but Colombia’s not much better! I get excited when a $6 bottle of wine is drinkable. Not even good, drinkable.

  • Reply Alana - Paper Planes February 27, 2015 at 12:42 am

    Great list! So true on converting currencies…
    Alana – Paper Planes recently posted…7 months later…My Profile

  • Reply Brenda February 28, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Wonderful advice for every type of traveler here. I love your tip about food “Trying local food is an integral part of the travel experience. Even if you think you’ll hate it, try it anyway, just once.” – so true!
    Brenda recently posted…Beaten Not BoiledMy Profile

  • Reply Dave Briggs February 28, 2015 at 10:54 am

    Having started backpacking pre-Skype, its one of the best ways to keep in touch with friends and family. There’s a paid version, where you pay a yearly fee, and all landline calls to that country are free. I can’t tell you how much this has saved me over the years when I have to talk to my bank !!
    Dave Briggs recently posted…SleepPhones Wireless Headphones : Bluetooth Headphones ReviewMy Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera March 2, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Hmm, I don’t call landlines very often from Skype, I usually just keep some credit on my account for when I need to call cell phones, and my bank has a toll-free number. I wonder if your option would be cheaper than what I spend calling using my credit? I’ll look into it! Skype is awesome 🙂
      La Mochilera recently posted…Month in Review: February 2015My Profile

  • Reply Ana O February 28, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    I’m with you on the backpack thing. A big no no.

    I like the list you’ve compiled although I may not agree with some items just because I’m older and have a different outlook on life 🙂 If I were in my twenties again, I’d probably travel solo, at least once!
    Ana O recently posted…Córdoba’s Natural History MuseumMy Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera March 2, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Haha you think it’s possible to be too old for solo travel? I’d have to disagree! I hope to still be willing to travel solo in my later years, anyway…I certainly don’t want to travel that way exclusively, but for an introvert like me it can be really liberating!
      La Mochilera recently posted…Month in Review: February 2015My Profile

  • Reply Delia February 28, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    I couldn’t agree more about friendships made on the road! I have met some of my absolute favorite people that way. It’s also amazing that we can go years without seeing each other or being in touch, and as soon as we’re together again it’s like no time has been lost. Keep traveling and learning, it sounds like you’re getting so many amazing experiences out of it!

    • Reply La Mochilera March 2, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Yeah, travelers can be such kindred spirits! And I have many of the same type of friend…those I met while on the road who I can pick up with as if no time has passed! No plans to stop traveling anytime soon! 🙂
      La Mochilera recently posted…Friday Snapshots: A Town of a Different ColorMy Profile

  • Reply Natalie Deduck March 1, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Great Post Leah!
    Everything is so true, I would add just one more thought: When you become a long term traveller, homesickness is part of your life, because you will always miss the places you discovered and the people you met on the way… Say goodbye is a constant, but never easy!!!
    Nat 🙂
    Natalie Deduck recently posted…Boracay, Philippines – Rediscovering ParadiseMy Profile

  • Reply Brianna March 1, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Travel is hands down one of the quickest ways to enrich your life.
    Brianna recently posted…My Perfect Road Trip Bag- Blog Hop and a Giveaway!My Profile

  • Reply Vicky and Buddy March 1, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Wow. I’ve learned so many of these things too, I felt like I was reading my own writing. And I loved the layout, so simple and easy to read. 🙂
    Vicky and Buddy recently posted…Peach Blossoms At Schnepf FarmsMy Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera March 2, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      Always nice to know others can relate 🙂 And thanks for the compliment!

  • Reply Jenna March 2, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Great lessons! I love packing cubes, too–they are so nice to have! I need to start carrying cards more often too I think!
    Jenna recently posted…Cliff Hanger Hummer Tour through Sedona’s Red RocksMy Profile

  • Reply Valerie March 2, 2015 at 12:42 am

    Solo travel is super intimidating to me still! Thankfully I have my husband I can drag along on most trips though 🙂 Skype was a life-saver though when we he was deployed our first year of marriage; long distance relationships can totally suck!
    Valerie recently posted…A Day in Astoria, OregonMy Profile

  • Reply Local Adventurer March 16, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    yes to packing cubes! and you’re right. i get sad when i go home sometimes bc it doesn’t quite feel like home anymore.

    • Reply La Mochilera March 17, 2015 at 11:10 am

      Haha aren’t packing cubes THE BEST? I will never travel without them again, even for short trips. Home for me is so many places now, but probably least of which is the town I actually grew up in.
      La Mochilera recently posted…Explore the ElementsMy Profile

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