Friday marks the second anniversary of my first steps into the world of travel. Last week, a full year had passed since I began my first solo adventure. At times this is a little bit depressing, they both seem so long ago and I’m not still out there living either of them, but at the same time it’s incredibly refreshing to know how much I’ve accomplished in two years and the progress I’ve made.
There’s a lot to be said for learning through action and travelling is no exception. No matter how many guidebooks you read or people you talk to, you’re never going to know what’s right for you until you do it for yourself.
If there’s one thing though, no matter how many times you see it, that you won’t pay nearly enough attention to it has to be: pack light.
Carrying a bag full of things I didn’t really need and didn’t really use around Europe made me realize that you really don’t need all that much to get through life, considerably less than you’d believe anyway.
I was carrying a bag almost as big as I was around Europe and I learned fast that I had over packed. Sure, you might have room for one more pair of jeans, but that doesn’t mean you need another pair. If you’re carrying your life on your back, keep it simple and minimal. Honestly, you can wash your clothes anywhere, anytime and most likely they’ll be dry by the time you need to put them on or pack them away. Everyone’s in the same situation and nobody is treating travel like a fashion show, although some people do pull the vagabond look off a lot more successfully than others.
I downsized for America, and I was still probably carrying more than I needed but now I’ve pretty much got it down to what I need, rather than what I want.
There’s no quicker way of learning this than to get out on the road, with your backpack weighing you down, full of regret because you don’t need that third pair of shoes you thought you just had to bring.
I’m not going to pump out all of the same advice that you can find on any self respecting travel blog though, I genuinely believe the experience is personal. There are things that have worked for me that won’t necessarily work for you.
One thing I will go into though, is what I consider one of the most important questions.
The most commonly asked question I get when at home is “isn’t it scary travelling alone?”
Yes, oh god, yes it is the scariest thing I have ever done but that’s what makes it so incredible. One of my favourite cliches is “the magic happens outside your comfort zone.” Pushing yourself, challenging yourself, putting yourself in a situation where you have to act is, for me at least, a healthy experience. It’s easy for other people to forget that you’re not really ever alone, there are always a few people in exactly the same situation willing to reach out to you, or just waiting for you to put your hand out say “Hello, I’m Chris.” and go grab a beer.
In contrast travelling with a friend is completely different and no less awesome. You’ve got yourself a wingman, a drinking buddy, whatever you need. They’ve got your back, there to be man enough to take on the beard challenge, and who’ll always be there afterwards when you get home to talk about that time in Vienna, or that night in Stockholm.
I’ve never been away with a group of friends for an extended period of time, but I can only imagine this being incredible in it’s own right. I’d like to think that it’s only a matter of time before I get together with some buddies of mine and we hit the road together.
Even on a personal level, travel has taught me a lot be it about myself or others. I’m pleased that no matter what happens in the future, I’ll never look back on my youth and say “I wish I had traveled when I had the chance.” I’ve had the chance, time and time again and I’ve grabbed at it with both hands.
I can’t wait to get back out to there.