I’ve been traveling a lot to many different places for the last few years (Iceland is still my favourite). After living out of a 10 kg 35 L backpack for an average of 6 months per year and ending up in a lot of strange places, here is a list of the 10 most valuable lessons travel has taught me (#10 is especially true for travellers to Iceland).
#1. Time Management: I figured out flights can't wait for you if you're late, and they're expensive to re-book; I learned how to guess what time is by looking at the sun; and seeing London in 3 days is impossible, so save sleep for some other time
#2. Math Skills: different numeric systems and currency values have made me good at calculating exchange rates off the top of my head, as well as translating kilos to pounds, Celsius to Fahrenheit, km to miles, cm to inches, and using a 24 hour clock is much more straightforward than that am/pm business.
#3. Lower your hygiene standards – drink dirty water, eat street food, shower less, and poop in poopy holes in the ground. Your immunity just gets better, and you will realize you’re much less susceptible to contagious diseases or an upset stomach.
#4. When your pee smells bad, you’re dehydrated. Drink more dirty water.
#5. Have incredible patience and tolerance for things that, in any other situation, would be crazy and cause for incredible alarm.
#6. Pack less stuff. The more luggage you have, the more your material world starts to weigh down on you, figuratively and literally. You start to realize you have too much, need much less, and that your back freaking hurts.
#7. Leave your guide book at home; you will just end up going, eating and staying at the exact same places as every other backpacker does. And, by the time its published, it’s outdated anyway.
#8. If you are really brave, forget a map too. You will realize how strong and reliable your sense of direction has become. Besides, it’s more fun getting lost in strange places than in a place where you are supposed to know where you are or where you are going.
#9. Do not get stuck behind your camera lens. It’s much more impressive to stare at the Pyramids of Giza with your own two eyes than through a viewfinder or 2 inch LCD screen.
#10. You will always run out of time and money before you are ready to go back home, so embrace homesickness as a good sign that you have managed to stay travelling long enough not to run out of either, and keep on going till you do!
Text by Katrín Sif