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7 Lessons I’ve Learned From 7 Years On The Road

Hang on tight!

I’ve traveled my entire life. My first memory is, no joke, of a hotel room. My childhood had a lot of waking up in random hotels and coming up with a plan to explore and entertain myself for the day, as my parents regularly traveled for work. The love of adventure stayed with me, and I’ve always found ways to keep it a significant part of my life. Over the last 4 years, I’ve spent more time traveling than home, and a year ago I got rid of “home” entirely, just traveling place to place.

When nowhere is home, you begin to see the world in a different way. There is no vacation to escape to, and no place to hide and stagnate. Every day is a new adventure as you figure out how to survive in a different culture. There are some undeniable truths that I’ve slowly figured out along the way, and they are useful whether or not you are traveling. I’m going to share these secrets with you in the hope that you can use them as well. Some may seem like common sense at first, but pay attention for the new twist.

So much cookie!

Smile at children

It doesn’t matter the culture or language, I have never encountered a child that doesn’t light up when you smile at them. Even parents light up when they see their children happy. Nothing is a better icebreaker or friend maker, and it will brighten the rest of your day.

Introduce yourself

It’s easy to hunker down into your cocoon during travel and interact as little as possible. Introducing yourself makes the person crammed against you human, and makes you human to them. You want a human next to you when you need their help to awkwardly slide past to get to the restroom. And who knows, maybe you will have something in common.


Every chance you get. Take the stairs. Walk to the restaurant. You can’t interact with the world from behind the shatter-proof glass of a car, you need to get out there and experience it.

Hold 'em, Fold 'em, Run? Give me some answers, Kenny!

Play games

Card games, board games, limbo, dodgeball, it doesn’t matter. When people are focused on playing a game, everyone forgets about the awkwardness of making new friends. I once used Monopoly Deal (one of my favorites) to break the ice with some bunkmates on a train, and we ended up spending the next two weeks together, traveling through different countries every few days. Each night we would play a few more rounds as we learned each other’s strategies and shared stories, our friendship growing tighter as we subliminally picked up each other’s worldview.

Accept that you can’t do everything

Don’t try to squeeze something into every second of your trip or you will just end up burned out and exhausted. Fit sleep into your schedule, a full night’s worth without setting your alarm. You will be amazed at how you make better, faster decisions and have more energy to take advantage of your good fortune. It’s far better than missing everything because your brain is churning away on low fuel and too much stimulus.

Take every opportunity

“When are you going to be back?” became a mantra between a friend and myself whenever we debated whether to do something. Even the little things become much more significant when you put them in the perspective that you may never be able to do them again.

Make every opportunity

Don’t wait for the $10 pubcrawl to start. Go to a hostel lounge and start one yourself. Walk down unfamiliar streets and loudly proclaim the historical things that happened there with far more assurance than you should have when you are making something up. When you make your own fun, you start the momentum that causes everyone else to follow instead of mindlessly flipping through guidebooks looking for something that doesn’t seem boring.

Dancing in the snow, just daaaancing in the snooooow!

Don’t wait to travel to view every day as a new opportunity. The city you are bored by is someone else’s dream vacation. Make it yours, too.

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