Personal
Nov 15, 2023

10 Things I Learned After Travelling For a Year

Here are 10 things I learned after travelling for a year. Personal stories about life, work, and discovering who you are as a person...

10 Things I Learned After Travelling For a Year

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Consider how much you want to earn

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Choose your pricing strategy

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Every project is different

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Create rate charts

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Conclusion

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I left the UK in July 2021 to travel for a year. A year later, I wanted to reflect on what I’ve learned and share this with you. Much of this will sound cliche, but sometimes it needs to be lived to be understood, no matter how often you hear it said. If any of these experiences or lessons resonate with you, leave a comment or send me a message and let me know, I’m always up for swapping travel stories. With that, here are 10 things I learned after travelling for a year.

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Invest In Yourself

Investing in travel is an investment in self. It’s an investment in discovering who you are as a person, who you are not, what you will compromise on, and what you won’t. How thin is your patience, how strong is your bond, how many hours does it take to make a friend for life, how much coffee is too much coffee, how to say no, and how to say yes. What foods do you like, and what foods do you hate. What’s more important to you, good wifi or good socks? There’s no better lesson you can learn than learning who you are as a person. This sense of self and identity changes weekly; it’s in constant flux. Keeping a finger on your pulse, checking in with yourself and seeking your happy heart isn’t something we should confine to time away or time off but should be a guiding compass in our everyday lives.

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Connections Over Things

It’s not what you have but who you have that makes you happy. And, sometimes that ‘who’ could just be you, and that’s OK; you are enough. I’ve spent the last year with only what I could carry on my back; five t-shirts, one jumper, one pair of trousers, three pairs of shorts, sandals, hiking boots, trainers, a laptop, a camera and a journal—a far cry from a flat full of possessions and trinkets. Did I need more? Sure, a few more t-shirts would have helped me smell better occasionally, and my quick-dry, anti-smell clothing wasn’t exactly high fashion in Canggu, Bali. Ultimately, I discovered that good conversation, plastic chairs, street food, and cold beer trump a flat-screen TV and a flashy car. Now excuse me, as I move back to London and fill my life with things I don’t need.

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Hitting Puberty Or Not

I can’t grow a beard. At least anything I would wear happily on my face to the office; it’s just not meant to be—stubble, just about, a beard, nope. If you’re 29 and wondering what would happen if I tried to grow a beard for two months, and you don’t already know that it would look great, it’s probably not going to look great. Sorry to be the beardless bearer of bad news.

Here's my attempt at growing a beard while travelling
Isn’t she a thing of beauty? My beard that is.

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Keep Going; It’s Worth It

Beauty is often on the other side of pain. The best views are after the most challenging hikes; the best waves are behind the whitewash; the more extended the layover, the better the beer taste. Sometimes you need to roll up your socks, take a board to the face, and sleep on the airport floor to discover what makes you happy.

Beauty is often on the other side of pain - cloudy view after long hike
It’s views like this that make the nine-hour hike worth it.

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It’s OK To Be Scared. We All Are.

Do things that scare you. It’s good to be afraid; it’s a natural response to something your body wants you to avoid. The problem is, we’ve become too comfortable. Too comfortable shying away from a challenge, we bury our heads when we’re scared. Learning to stand up and face what scares us is where we grow. Jumping off of a 50-metre platform in the Costa Rican jungle, trying desperately not to slip to my demise as I clambered down waterfalls in El Salvador, attempting a turtle roll in 6ft waves with an angry Australian riding a short-board on the top of it in Bali. These are just a few times I’ve been scared on this trip, and I’m a better person for each one of these experiences. I’m still afraid of what feels like nearly everything (f**k you wasps), but I lean into it now, not away from it.

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Sometimes You Need to Look Down

Always check the toilet for bats. I don’t know when I’ll need this in the UK, but it’s an excellent habit when hiking in the jungle, and you never know. YOU NEVER KNOW.

Growing up, people tell us, “look up, look ahead, eyes on the road”. Sometimes, though, that road is riddled with holes, some big, some small (I’m looking at you, Nicaragua). Take your time. Take the time to look down, slow down, and choose your path. Just because you’re not looking ahead doesn’t mean you’ve taken your eyes off the prize. It means you’re evaluating your options and weighing the level of risk you’re willing to take to make it to your end destination.

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You Do What You Prioritise

It’s cheaper than you think to travel full time. I fully appreciate how lucky I am to take a year off and have the funds to do so, but I believe it’s in reach for most of my network if they prioritise it. I used a great app, ‘Travel Spend‘, to track every penny I spent this year, £0.05 for water, £500 for a flight, and £9.99 on Netflix; every penny was accounted for and tracked. We stayed with friends and family in the USA, which helped drive down accommodation costs for two months, but if you stick to less expensive countries, you could do it even cheaper than I have. The total cost per day, without compromising on any activity I wanted to do, and staying in the best ‘value’ accommodation for an area was: £60.08 per day, per person. For one year, this equates to (£60.08 * 365) = £21,929. Less than the UK average house deposit, slightly more than the cost of the average UK wedding, and less than a year’s rent in central London for a one-bed flat. Naturally, this doesn’t account for the opportunity cost of not working, but like every choice, there are hidden costs in life. As more and more jobs go fully remote, the prospect of UK workers who earn the UK average wage ‘travelling’ full time (while working in the evenings or mornings) is well within reach, and I think it’s only five years away from being the norm for many.

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We All Want The Same Things

Meeting people from all over the world, locals and fellow travellers alike, you realise how similar we all are. I’m sure globalisation has played a heavy hand in nudging us all towards the centre, eroding culture and making the world more vanilla. But it’s also enabled us to mix and share ideas like never before. To experience ancient and local customs and traditions and see firsthand how ways of thinking translate into ways of living. Fundamentally, I saw how everybody is just trying to make the best of their situation. You have the 21-year-old backpacker travelling alone in a hostel from Germany, making friends in the dorm room, to the 45-year-old Spanish teacher earning $1.50 an hour trying to keep food on the table in Nicaragua, or the 33-year-old Balinese surf instructor trying to rebuild after the pandemic. People put one foot in front of the other in search of something better. There’s a great book I read by Hans Rosling called Factfulnes (thanks, Rayene). The book describes, using real-life data and statistics, what I’ve seen firsthand, and opens your eyes to the current state of the world. It shows that when a country meets certain developmental thresholds, the general population makes very similar decisions to other countries at an equivalent developmental level, irrespective of culture, religion, and other prejudices we believe may hold a nation back.

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Life Is For Living. Enjoy It.

I spent too much time living in London worrying about the cost of having fun. Even if I knew I would enjoy an activity, its cost would weigh on my mind and often put me off doing it, even if the price was relatively small and I had the means. When you travel for an extended period, and you find yourself bored, you realise that your happiness is very much dependent on you deciding what makes you happy and going after it. Happiness means different things to different people. I’ve found it in surfing, hiking and deep chats. For others, it’s a coconut and a sunset. Once I started to pay for activities that bought me joy (ignoring for now that the best things in life are free), I had this mindset shift that it’s OK to spend money on something that makes you happy. Others reading this will be like, “urgh, duh”, but for me, it was a significant mental shift, and I’m happier for it and living life with more intent.

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The Fork In The Road

Many of you will wonder what my plans are now that my year of travel ends. This question is something I have been grappling with myself over the year, trying to find some direction in life as I lay in a hammock. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that nothing is permanent. Life moves, and so should you.

I still have a few more waves to catch, sunsets to see, and fish to swim alongside. I’ve created memories that will last and learnt more about myself in one year than six years in an office has ever taught me. I’d encourage everybody, if you can, to take some time away from work to explore; you never know who you’ll find. And remember, always check the toilet for bats.

Ash