Signing off – five lessons I’ve learned about travel over the past six months

So, this is it. After 168 days, 56 different places and 11 countries, our time away is finally coming to an end. Today we leave Kuala Lumpur for dear old Blighty. This is my last blog here and rather than focus on any one particular experience, I wanted to share a few thoughts on what I’ve learned about travel since we left London back in January. They’re perhaps not revelatory, but they’ve certainly helped in framing my experience. Hopefully, they might just push a few of you over the edge into deciding that a hefty holiday is for you. Hope you’ve enjoyed the blog and thanks for reading.

If you want to go, go

This is perhaps pretty obvious, but the number of people who I’ve spoken to about our trip who say, ‘I’d love to go, but…’ is seemingly endless. There are always reasons not to go and there is never a good time to go. But the fact is, if you want to go away for an extended period it can be done. You just need the wherewithal to save a few quid and have the guts to make the change. Planes leave Heathrow for destinations all over the planet every day. With some cash and a PC, you can sort yourself a seat on one. Which leads me onto my next point.

It’s not that hard

Travelling in 2012, especially if you’re a native English speaker, has never been easier. Everyone wants to speak your language (for good or ill, especially as this encourages linguistic laziness), the preponderance of decent wifi almost everywhere makes forward planning and staying in touch breezy and transport links in most countries are decent enough (yes, even the long distance buses in Burma). The idea that going travelling is impossibly tough is a myth.

Judge for yourself

Some people would rather moan about modern travel than actually get out and experience it for themselves

Ever read the Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum? I’ve had the misfortune of scouring its pages regularly in the last six months, sitting agape at my iPad as stuck-up travellers slap down newbies asking relevant and excitable questions about their planned trips to exotic destinations. Travel snobbery is very much alive and well (yes, we can all be guilty of it), but those moaning that ‘it’s not like it used to be’ should always be discounted when weighing up whether to go somewhere. You can judge a place once you’ve been and the only way to do that is to go.

Make it easy on yourself

This is perhaps better for those who have a big chunk of time to spare. But there really is no point in trying to cram your days so full of stuff that you don’t have time to sit back and take it all in. For me one of the biggest joys of extended travel is the chance to do a few things really well and digest them properly. As opposed to spending 14 solid hours touring temples, palaces, museums and gardens and not actually paying attention as the heat gets too much to bear. The same goes for transport. If you can take your time and not bunch up transfers and connections so everything becomes a mad dash, you can appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

Finally, have fun

Travel should not be a chore. We’ve met a few people on the road who said they ‘just wanted to get the next few weeks out of the way so they could get to X’. In that case, do yourself a favour and go there. Just because there’s a set trail through a region doesn’t mean you have to follow it. If the idea of somewhere else, be that another country or even home, excites you, then go. Travel should be fun, not an endurance test.  

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