I just got back from a 3 week trip to Taipei, Bali and Sydney. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken! My visit to Australia marked the 50th country and 4th continent that I’ve been to thus far on my journey.
I just turned 23 and I achieved 2 lifelong goals during my vacation. First, I filled out every single page in my passport. Second, I visited 50 countries before I turned 25 years old.
Life has been so amazing in the last 3 years that I just can’t stop doing what I’ve been doing. Since I studied abroad in Prague in 2012, I’ve explored 43 Countries and I feel like the party is just getting started.
Looking back since 2012, I have grown and matured in more ways than I ever imagined. In my mind, traveling and experiencing new cultures is the best education possible. It has taught me about the world, how to interact with others, but most importantly, about myself and who I truly am.
With that being said, here is my list of “50 lessons that I’ve learned from the traveling to 50 Countries.” Please comment below with your thoughts! I hope you enjoy 🙂
1. You’ll make incredible friends
Meeting new people is my #1 favorite thing about traveling. I have made some amazing friends spanning over 40 countries and 6 continents. I’ve cherished every single friendship and fun memories that I’ve shared with these new people. Having interactions with people from different cultures is what shapes me as a person. And much thanks to Facebook, I can easily stay in touch with my new friends.
2. Traveling is easier than you think
Seriously. Get rid of all your negative thoughts and stop procrastinating. It takes me no longer than 5 minutes to book a flight, and airplane tickets are more affordable right now than I’ve ever seen. I’m tired of hearing excuses for why you can’t travel, because you have no one to blame but yourself! The world becomes more and more connected everyday, and traveling has never been easier than right now.
3. Always go on a new adventure
Although every new territory I discover is a “new adventure,” I am specifically talking about doing something that is extreme- something that required me to step out of my comfort zone. My best experiences on the road are bungee jumping in Switzerland, Hitchhiking in Bosnia and exploring Christiania. Going on adventures like these is where my best stories and memories come from.
4. Overcome your fears
Are you scared of heights? Go skydiving.
Are you scared of the dark? Explore a new city at night
Are you scared of boats? Take a cruise somewhere
It’s as simple as that. Traveling gives you the opportunity to overcome your fears and carry on as a more confident person.
5. Life is all about the memories, so create them.
My advice to you is to take a million pictures, film lots of videos, and do as many things as you can. Because these memories are the most important things that you will have forever when you’re older. When I am older, I can’t wait to look back at all the fun times and experiences that I have had around the world.
6. Don’t be too cheap
I have seen too many people who will do anything to save an extra dollar on a hostel or an extra quarter on a food dish. Sure, you are traveling on a budget (everyone is), but 99% of the time it’s worth it to spend an extra few dollars on a nicer hostel room or a better meal so you won’t get food poisoning. An extra dollar goes a long way. Trust me on this one.
7. Relax a bit
Many times I force myself to do too much. With my fast-paced travel style, I am always on the go because I want to make the most of my limited time. But time and time again, I’ve realized that it’s so necessary to take a break and relax when you can. Even if it’s for an afternoon at the park or for a few hours on the beach. It’s a great way to recover from the lack of rest that your body needs!
8. Learn how to speak more languages
Wow, I cannot stress the importance of this one! Being able to communicate with locals is one of the most rewarding feelings that I can get. When I lived in Prague, I studied the Czech language everyday and I was able to communicate my way around town. I could strike up a conversation with anyone, order in a restaurant, get home in a taxi, etc. It felt rewarding.
These days, I am conversational in Korean after only living here for 1 year. I have put the time and effort into learning Korean, and my experience here wouldn’t have been the same if I couldn’t speak the language.
If you don’t have time to study the local language, then at least memorize the Top 10 Words so you can get the basics down. People really appreciate it when you can simply say “please” and “thank you” in their language.
9. 99% of local people are good people
If you remember one thing from this blog post, then please remember this one. 99% of all the locals that I have met around the world are kind, friendly and warming. People go out of their way to welcome me into their country. They help me when I am lost. They recommend their favorite food place to eat. They genuinely want to get to know me and want me to experience their culture. And more than likely, the person will gladly show you around their town! It’s awesome.
10. Most joy comes from the simplest moments
It’s true. Some of my best travel memories are just that simple like:
– Sitting on top of Sri Pada mountain in Sri Lanka and gazing out at the landscape during sunrise
– Hanging out at the King’s Garden in Copenhagen and watching the locals interact with each other on a beautiful summer day
– Sitting on a bench in Old Town Square in Prague, all by myself, taking in the precious scenery
– Laying a hammock overlooking the entire island of Koh Samui, Thailand
– Being stunned by the beauty of the fjords in Norway from the boat tour. I couldn’t blink it was so amazing.
Sometimes, it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to create amazing memories.
10. You don’t need to pack a large wardrobe
When I first started to travel, I packed my backpack full with unnecessary things like extra underwear, socks, shirts that I never wore, and stupid accessories. It’s all nonsense!
After going on several backpacking trips, I’ve learned to pack super light. If I forgot something, then I can just buy it wherever I am. I learned to wash my underwear and socks in the sink, wear dry-fit shirts (because they are easy to wash and dry fast) and buy toothpaste on the road. It’s SO much easier, and my backpack is so much lighter.
On my recent 3 week backpacking trip, I packed enough clothes for only 1 week. Did I survive? Hell yeah I did.
11. Sometimes, a smile is all you need
One of my favorite quotes is, “Everybody smiles in the same language.” And it’s SO true! Most of the time, I cannot speak the local language other then a few words or a basic “please” or “thank you,” so I just smile. I smile as big as I can, and almost everyone reciprocates it back to me.
Basically what I am saying is that, if you are friendly, others will treat you with respect. It’s a pretty easy theory to understand, and it’s proven to work every single time.
12. Don’t overplan
This is another thing that I was guilty of when I first started planning trips. I would do hours of research online to find the exact places to eat, to sleep, to visit, and more. It’s just a waste of time.
Nothing is going to be easier to figure out until you are physically in the place yourself. When you are at your destination, you can easily talk to the locals, ask your hostel and get a map and figure it out for yourself. In fact, it’s actually fun to land in a foreign city and try to figure it out for yourself. It’s like a puzzle. You learn to go with the flow, and that’s really the best way to do it.
13. Everyone wants the same thing
All people, no matter where they are from, generally want the same things. Everyone wants to be loved, they want to spend time with their family, they have hopes and dreams just like you do, and they hope for a better future. We have the same basic desires- but most of the time, we are much more fortunate then others. It’s easy to relate to people if you look past the superficial things that stand between you and them.
14. It’s now or never
I love this sentence. The only thing that is relevant in your life is NOW. Don’t wait for tomorrow. The only place where life exists is in the present, so do what you want to be doing!
15. Traveling is the #1 best education that I’ve had
I can’t stress this enough. I’ve learned more from traveling than any college textbook, National Geographic documentary or Vice video has taught me. Being in a place and seeing the reality of it with my own two eyes has taught me so many things that I never knew. Before going to Rome, I didn’t know much about the Roman Empire or the Colosseum, but now I can write you a novel about it. Before I came to Korea, I had no idea what Korean culture was like, and now Korean culture is in my veins.
Furthermore, I have discovered things that I never knew existed- Like Magellan’s Cross in Cebu City, or some beautiful beach towns along the West Coast of Sri Lanka. You just gotta get out there, and let life take you along the journey.
16. Don’t be jealous of anyone
Who cares if your friend is becoming the CEO of a fortune 500 company. Who cares if your cousin has made a million dollars at his investment baking job. Who cares if your buddy won the lottery and is now trekking around Antarctica. Why would you let it affect you? You do what you want to do, and whatever makes you happy. Enough said.
17. Don’t watch too much TV
Do you want to be antisocial? If you answered yes, then watch all the TV you want!
To me, watching TV is just a distraction. I don’t watch a minute of TV unless it’s a big sporting event or an occasional movie. I just find watching TV a waste of time. I’d rather spend my time getting outside, exploring something or going on an adventure of some sort. Okay, maybe I am taking this to the extreme… But the point is to watch less TV because it’s usually wasting your time.
18. Outdoor activities are amazing
I wasn’t always the most outdoorsy person until I started traveling. It didn’t take me long to realize that nature is the coolest thing that exists. Period.
Some of my favorite things to do when traveling are hiking, cliff jumping, snorkeling, bike riding, kayaking and swimming. Even just sitting in a beautiful park and having a picnic with my friends is so much fun. Basically, I try to do as many outdoor activities as possible. It is a great way to appreciate nature, get a taste of the local environment and appreciate life on earth.
19. Step out of your comfort zone
This is so important to me, that I have written an entire blog post dedicated to this. And it goes along with many of the themes that I’ve already talked about in this post.
Step out of your comfort zone.
This can mean many things to different people, but to me, it means approaching random strangers and asking them questions, doing an extreme sport like bungee jumping, and exploring that abandoned building. It’s the only way to live life. Be alive. Be active. And take advantage of these incredible opportunities that you may only have one time to accomplish!
20. It’s good to make mistakes!
The best way to learn is to make mistakes. Fail once, fail twice, and then figure out how to succeed the third time.
For example, one of the biggest travel mistakes that I made was showing up late to my flight in Serbia because I misread the departure time. I showed up to the airport 15 minutes before my flight, and somehow made it after a LOT of stress. You can read more about that story here. I learned my lesson to never show up late for a flight again.
21. Always check in with your family
Some of you might not realize it, but your family cares about you a lot. I know mine does!
I always make it a point to contact my parents, just to tell them that I am safe when I am in a new destination. Whether it be a Facebook message, a text, an email or a skype phone call, I always try to keep them aware that I am alive and well. This is very important to me, and I hope it is to you too.
22. Stop trying to impress people
Nobody likes to hear from people who have big egos. If you are just meeting someone for the first time, there is no need to show off and brag to them about how “accomplished” you are.
I am saying this only because I’ve met some other foreigners, who are arrogant assholes. Nobody likes you, bro.
23. Mingling with foreigners is also fun
Traveling is not only about meeting locals and experiencing local culture. There are also lots of foreigners that I’ve met in hostels and other places that have become my good friends! It’s fun and it also forces me to step out of my comfort zone. I can think of about a dozen quality friendships off the top of my mind that I have made on the road.
Try it the next time you walk into a hostel or a foreign bar. All it takes is a smile and a friendly “hello.”
24. Wear sunscreen
This might not apply to everyone, if you aren’t a ginger or as fair toned as I am. But, I have learned my lesson. WEAR SUNSCREEN!
I don’t know if Asian sun is stronger than American sun, but I have gotten burnt to a crisp lately on some of the beaches in Asia. Literally fried. Now, I always carry sunscreen with me and put extra on when I go to the beach. Because it just takes one sunburn to ruin your trip (trust me, it’s happened to me).
25. Go the extra mile
There is no such thing as too much.
If there are 10 things that you want to accomplish in one day, then try to accomplish 11. Why not explore that town that is 20 kilometers away from the city center? Who cares if it’s a bit dangerous to get there! When else are you going to have the chance to see it? Go the extra mile and do it.
26. Eat it, even if you don’t like it
You should really open up your eating habits and try everything. Even if you are a vegetarian, a vegan or your have allergies, then there are still ways that you can explore some new food items. But for everyone else who isn’t a picky eater, then you must realize that eating is the best part about traveling! Try local foods that you can’t get anywhere else in the world. Even if you don’t like it, then you at least know what the locals enjoy eating. And I think you’ll be surprised by the delicious foods that you’ll discover on the road 😉
27. Have courage
In Webster’s dictionary, courage is defined as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
To me, “Mental strength” is the key part to this definition. You can do anything you want. It’s all inside your head. Set your mind on something, and just do it. It might be challenging at first, but it comes easier with experience.
28. Have respect for other religions
This should go without saying. Always remember that you are a visitor in their country. Therefore, you must respect their customs, values and religion. If you need to protect your head in a temple, then protect your head. If they require you to take off your shoes, then take them off. Don’t even think twice about it.
29. Use a city map
iPhones aren’t always the only way to navigate around- and something you don’t want to be flashing it in public places. How about getting your hands on a physical map and figuring out how to get around town? Most likely, the map will also have good suggestions and recommendations for things to do around town.
Side note: I hate looking like a tourist and whipping out a giant map in public spaces. So, I usually fold up the map as small as I can so only the important places are showing, and use it without causing a scene.
30. Blend in with the locals
One of the easiest ways to draw unnecessary attention is your attire. Leave all your crazy designer clothes, favorite American football shirts and plaid shorts at home. I pretty much only wear solid color shirts, shorts and simple shoes. It just makes life a lot easier.
31. Eat street food
You are a fool if you don’t eat street food!!
Many times, the best local dishes are only available from street vendors. I can’t even tell you how many meals I’ve eaten on the corner of the road. It’s quick and it’s a great way to save money. Okay, so it might not be the healthiest option, but who is counting calories on the road anyway?
32. Air BnB is legit
I only recently started using Air BnB and it is AWESOME. It’s so much better than staying in a hostel.
If you aren’t aware, Air BnB is a free website where you can rent out places to stay in over 33,000 cities and 192 countries worldwide. Basically, friendly people let you rent out a room in their house or apartment for really cheap. All you have to do is register an account, create a profile, and then you are free to search for places to stay. I’ve only had incredible experiences using Air Bnb, where I’ve met friendly locals who go out of their way to show me around and provide me with a comfortable stay. If you are traveling with friends, then this is DEFINITELY the way to go, because you will save lots of money. It’s much cheaper than a hostel when you split the price with your friends, and the quality is so much better.
33. Respect people in your hostel room
This one is pretty important in my opinion. When you are in a hostel room and you are sharing the room with several people, don’t be obnoxious. Respect their own space and sleep.
I’ve stayed in rooms before and has people light up a cigarette inside, play their music really loud, turn on the lights at 5AM when they come home drunk, and talk loud on the phone when people are sleeping. These are rude and disrespectful, so don’t do it!
34. Bad karma exists
What goes around, comes around.
I am a firm believer in Karma, and I can almost prove that it exists. If you are nice to people and you respect the customs of a country, then you will have a pleasurable experience in the future. However, if you are an asshole, you are causing trouble, and stealing things, then expect the worst to happen.
35. Sometimes, beer is cheaper than water
In Prague, beer is literally cheaper than water. What do you think I drank with all of my meals?
The point of mentioning this is because you never know what specialties you can find on a menu! I have come across many cheap alcoholic beverages in foreign countries- especially in SouthEast Asia. Always check and see what you can discover.
36. Always carry medicine with you
Getting sick on the road can be a disaster. Unfortunately, I have been sick several times and it’s not fun at all. Going to a foreign hospital or doctor is my nightmare, and I will stay away at all costs.
So, I highly advise you to bring a bag with every medicine that you think you’ll need. When I travel, I carry cough medicine, stomach pills, dayquil, couch drops, sleep medicine, vitamins and a lot more. Trust me, it can be a pain in the ass to find medicine that you trust in foreign countries…
37. Buy souvenirs
I might take this to the extreme, because I am obsessed with all of my travel collections. Buying physical souvenirs from around the world is important to me. Most of the time, I find super cheap things from local markets and buy them. In the future, whenever I look at the item, it will bring back lots of memories that I have from that place! In my future home, I plan on decking out a room in all of the things that I’ve bought from around the world.
38. Get a good travel backpack
If you are planning on going backpacking or doing long trips overseas, then it’s imperative that you have the proper gear. I have a backpack that I bring with me for all my travels, and it’s extremely necessary. I bought it at REI for $150. You can get any decent travel backpack in the $100-400 range- depending how nice you want it to be. These backpacks also last forever, so your money will go a long way!
39. Be adventurous
I have repeated this message about 10 times so far. Be adventurous.
Traveling opens up some amazing opportunities to do awesome things, so do them! Do thing that you normally wouldn’t do. Explore a random cave, jump off a cliff and go skydiving. This is where all the fun and thrill comes from traveling.
40. Most people don’t care about America
It’s true. I’m not necessarily saying that everyone hates America (although many do), I’m simply saying that people just don’t really care about Americans. They aren’t into American culture, they don’t want to know about America and they give us a bad reputation. This might be due to the fact that some Americans are arrogant, ignorant and loud. But who knows. Of course there are some exceptions, like where I live in Korea– but not everywhere is like here.
41. Traveling with one likeminded friend is a good idea
I’m not a fan of solo travel. I’ve done it once, and I realize some of the benefits from it, but overall I am not a fan. I’d much rather team up with a good friend, who has similar motives and goals as me, and travel together. It’s so much better to experience the world with another person, so you can laugh together when something is funny and help each other out in certain situations. This is just my preference, so don’t take it too seriously. I know lots of people who prefer to travel solo.
42. If you’re going to travel, then just travel
It’s hard to work efficiently on the road. If you are trying to run a business and travel at the same time, then good luck. Most wifi connections around the world are horrible. You should just focus on having the most fun as you can. Explore as many places as possible, and don’t stress about work. Save it all for when you get home.
43. Learn about yourself
Before I stated traveling, I didn’t really know who I was. I didn’t know what made me happy, what made me sad, and many other things that I preferred to do. Now, after visiting 50 countries, I have a much better idea of the real Drew. I have a MUCH clearer picture of what I want in life, and how I want to spend my time. I can assure you that traveling and exploring new places will do the same for you.
44. Make new friends, but don’t forget about old ones
Never stop making friends everywhere you go, but don’t forget about your old ones. Stay in touch with the people that know you best. Your childhood friends. Your college friends. These are the most important people in your life, so don’t lost touch with them.
45. Go with the flow
Don’t spend too much time planning a trip. Just go with the flow. You can plan along the way by talking to locals and figuring it out. It’s much easier and more fun this way. And you will come across more interesting things along the way.
46. If you help others, they will help you
This goes along with my “bad karma exists” post. If you help others, then others will help you. It’s just how the world works. I have seen it time and time again. I always try to help others, whenever I see the opportunity. Even just smiling and making friends with strangers will go a long way. Believe me!
47. Almost everywhere is safer than home
I try to explain this to my parents all the time. I think every country I’ve been to (with the exception of a few places), are safer than at home.
In the U.S., there are shootings, robberies, and crimes that are committed every minute. Just turn on any news station or read any newspaper. When I am around the states, I frequently feel unsafe at night. If you’re not from the U.S., then I’m sure you can still relate to this somehow from your own country. When I am in a foreign country, I generally feel more trust in people and the environment. That being said, there are always sketchy areas that you want to avoid in any city, so use your brain and don’t be dumb.
48. Question everything until you get an answer
I remember one of my elementary school teachers telling me, “The best way to learn is to ask questions.” To this day, her advice proves to be 100% correct.
What am I talking about? Asking locals if you don’t understand something about their culture. Asking the chef which amazing ingredients he used to make that dish. Asking your hostel how to navigate around the city. Basically, using your mouth to find things out. You can learn SO much more by just asking simple questions. I can’t stress the importance of this!
49. Everything happens for a reason
I realize how cliché this sounds, but it’s the truth. In the end, everything will work out, so don’t be stressed.
Just looking back at my life, this has proven to be correct. I am in Korea right now because I decided to go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I discovered this program to teach English abroad. Whatever happens in the future is going to happen because it’s the right thing at the right time. It’s not just optimistic thinking- it’s reality!
Ever heard of the butterfly effect? This is the kind of the same thing!
50. Trust your gut instinct
Trust your gut, and do whatever it tells you to do. Don’t second guess yourself, because it has been proven that your first instinct is the most trustworthy.
If your gut tells you that this hostel is too sketchy, then don’t stay there. If your gut tells you that this area of town is unsafe, then avoid it. If your gut tells you that you should approach that smokin’ hot girl (or guy) at the club, then you better do it!
51. Do what makes you happy
I realize that I just went beyond 50, but this is the final one. And thank you so much if you’ve stuck around to read this entire post!
Do what makes you happy right now. I am living a very happy life, because I always am doing what I want to be doing. If something isn’t going right, or I am becoming sad, then I will make adjustments and change my lifestyle. There is no reason to be unsatisfied with your life.
Thanks for reading! Please comment and let me know your thoughts 🙂