One of my secret (hopeful) goals of traveling for a year was to improve myself in a Julia-Roberts-Eat-Pray-Love kind of way. I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking at the time, but I figured there was a good chance I’d have an epiphany while viewing the Great Wall of China, or a greater insight into myself while practicing yoga on the beach somewhere in Thailand.
Utter crap, of course.
If anything, I think I’ve come out of the experience a little more sure of who I am, and what I’m about: a sarcastic bastard in his early 30’s filled with a strong desire to maximize everything.
Nevertheless, while I didn’t learn anything new about myself, I did learn a lot about who I am when I travel and a little bit more about the world.
1. It is possible to get travel fatigue.
Walking 5 miles at 10,000 ft. in Machu Picchu was no joke.
Planning a 10 day trip for 2 cities is all fun and games, especially when you’re doing it from the office. Planning a trip for 370 days for 95 cities is exhausting, as it turns out. Especially when you factor in the fact that you’ll be changing rooms (and beds) on average less than once every 4 days. We probably spent a good 2-3 days of the trip just packing and unpacking our bags!
2. You will lose weight.
Waterfall Repelling in Da Lat, Vietnam. I fell. A lot.
Most of our friends and family (secretly) thought we’d gain weight while traveling for a year. And while we did cook whenever we had a kitchen, we probably ate more than 2/3 of our meals out. So how did we lose weight? As it turns out, simply being on your feet 4-8 hours a day goes a long way.
Back in Orlando, I’d probably sit down for all but 2 hours a day, and hardly any of that was spent walking. Traveling there were days where we’d be on our feet ALL day, and I’d go to sleep strangely exhausted, though I hadn’t done anything strenuous.
Oddly, the country where we gained the most weight was America – even with all the gym time.
3. You can get by without seeing friends and families for several months at a time.
Mrs. Selfish and her cousin barely survived a monkey attack in Bali.
We were fortunate to be able to meet up with friends and family several times throughout our journey, but there were months at a time where I’d only see Mrs. Selfish. Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of the internet, we managed to stay in touch with loved ones.
4. After a few days, you no longer miss TV.
Mrs. Selfish never misses a photo-op. Taken in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Mrs. Selfish and I used to turn on the Food Network or TBS almost immediately after coming home from work. As soon as we hit the road, we stopped watching TV immediately, and I didn’t miss it. There was just too much to do. Now that we’re home, we still don’t watch TV.
5. Have smartphone, can do anything.
My iPhone was the singularly most useful thing we brought on our trip.
Thanks to my phone we rarely got lost, and we never lost contact with the outside world. In fact, out of 25 countries, it only failed to work in one: Morocco. If you’re planning on traveling extensively I highly recommend getting one.
6. The Internet is everywhere.
With the exception of the boat hut in Thailand, and the Ryokan in Kurokawa, Japan we had internet everywhere we stayed. The internet is everywhere these days – and while it’s often slower than it is at home, it’s just as useful.
7. Know English? You’re good to go.
Almost everyone in Nha Trang, Vietnam spoke English… and Russian.
Thanks to the prevalence of English speaking tourists (and probably colonialism), English is basically everyone’s second language. The upside is that you can travel all over the world with a combination of English, hand gestures, and local phrases.
The downside is that people trying to scam you also speak English.
If you think you’re being scammed, it’s hard to talk to your fellow English traveler without alerting the scammer. So if you only speak English, make sure to agree on some common code terms, just in case.
8. Pickpocketing and scams are overhyped.
There were also signs that read “Beware Non-Thai Pickpocket Gangs.”
Any time we travel anywhere, we inevitably have a friend or family member warn us about how dangerous that place is. In Barcelona, we were supposed to get pickpocketed. In the Philippines, our plane was supposed to crash land into the side of a mountain. In Chicago, we were supposed to get beaten to death by gangs.
Unsurprisingly, none of these things happened.
While it’s possible that Mrs. Selfish and I are just extremely savvy travelers, it’s much more likely that these events are blown way out of proportion. If you’re careful, the world is not as dangerous as it seems.
9. A good shower has: hot water, pressure, and good drainage.
Our Madrid apartment had an awesome view, but no hot water!
I never knew the value of a good shower until we started showering in dozens of different locations. The worst offender was our rental in Madrid, Spain, which ran out of hot water after only 3 minutes of showering. Not the best way to wake up to a cold December morning!
10. Western Stores are everywhere.
Ronald McDonald is even more disturbing in Asia.
Western stores are just about everywhere, which thankfully means so are (mostly) clean bathrooms and free napkins. The surprisingly most prevalent brand?
Kentucky Fried Chicken. Somehow the Colonel had a presence in all 25 countries we visited, and his chicken was still finger-licking good!
11. If it’s a major site, there will be people selling crap there.
“You want t-shirt?” is something you’ll hear all across SE Asia.
Machu Picchu. The Great Wall of China. Chichen Itza. Angkor Wat. The Coliseum. Stonehenge. View pictures of any of these magnificent structures online and they are the quintessence of serenity. DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE.
If there’s something ancient and awesome to see, there will be throngs of people trying to sell you something cheap and crappy. Try not to let the over-commercialization ruin your travel fantasies. Just be glad you’re there.
More observations tomorrow, folks!