As you may have read, when I was 19 I left for the UK from New Zealand. I didn’t have a plan and I pretty much jumped on a plane and left. I did have a security blanket though. My family met me at the airport and I stayed with them for a few months. In many ways my time in the UK was very rewarding, I made some amazing friends, I did some amazing things and I learnt a lot about myself. But, for 8 years away I didn’t really do much in the way of travelling and I feel that was a huge mistake for me. Here are the 5 mistakes I made that got in the way.
Save Save Save!
It sounds like an obvious one, but if you have read ‘My First Solo Journey: England Here I Come’ then you will know my travels started with very little notice. I had no money to my name and I didn’t get time to sell my car before I left. Not having money to travel with was probably my biggest mistake as it put me on a major back foot and had to work hard while I was in England to even make a start. I had accommodation with family at the beginning but after that I crashed with friends I made along the way until I got a bar job that supplied accommodation. I was always struggling with money and although I was only supposed to stay for four months I ended up staying for eight years and in that whole time I was always burdened with financial difficulty. Saving is not just something you should do before you leave, it’s also something you should do while away. Sometimes opportunities arise that you never even thought about and if you haven’t got a little kept away then you often miss out on once in a lifetime opportunities. On top of that there are always emergencies that arise both big and small and a further travel costs too. Be wise. Have fun. Just don’t waste your pennies away on the normal stuff you could have done at home.
Why Are You Traveling?
My First Solo Journey I went to England to do some digging around in my past and my family connections. I set myself four months for this and then I was supposed to go home. This didn’t happen. At that point I floated and just went with the direction I ended up on. I didn’t sit down and work out what I wanted, what my goals and dreams were. I got stuck. I ended up living a standard life, one not much different from what living back home in New Zealand would have been like. Essentially I stopped travelling and just existed. Now this may suit you, but if like me you had always wanted to travel the world then this was an opportunity missed. My advice: decide what you want to do and have a plan in mind, don’t be afraid to change the plan as you go but at least have one to begin with. If it is to live somewhere then that’s fine, but if like me you wanted to explore and see the world have an idea on how you want to do it and make the hard choices that will put you in that direction.
A real rookie mistake, and to be honest one I am still likely to make, don’t take too much with you. I’m a bit of a boy scout and I like the “be prepared” motto. Unfortunately, I am a very imaginative person so I prepare for a lot! Realistically I need to reduce what I take and so should you. Do you really need that many pairs of shoes? T-shirts, pants, why take loads when realistically you wont wear them all, you have to carry them all and you will probably want to buy new ones at some stage anyway. This last one is the key. Pack reasonably light for the journey you are taking. If you need something else you can always pick it up along the way.
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
It’s easy to be nervous or scared. When we were kids we would grab a blanket, teddy bear or mum for reassurance that we were ok. The familiarity meant we were safe. Realistically we were safe most of the time without any of those things. This is still common past childhood, but instead of teddy bears or mums we grasp on to lifestyle. Well at least I did. I was in the deep end and with no money behind me I worked my ass off. I made new friends and I had career prospects, whether it be in hospitality or sales. That was my downfall. I got sucked in to trying to further my career prospects and I stayed in one place too long. I became comfortable. I was safe. Like I said earlier I am very grateful for the friends I have made with a few of them being the best friends I have ever had and are still, but I ended up living a life I could have lived anywhere in the world. I worked full-time, I went out to bars with my friends after work hours, I shopped for a weeks groceries and paid rent. I could have done all these things in New Zealand, there really wasn’t much difference. Looking back maybe what I should have done, considering the travel dreams I have always had, was to move on. Push myself out of my comfort zone and leave for somewhere else. The saving money bit comes into this too but if I was serious I would have made a plan and stuck to it.
Stay In Touch
I’ve talked about putting yourself out there, being out of your comfort zone. Well you wont be the only one doing it. You will meet a lot of people doing exactly what you are; having an adventure. It may not be the same style but the basis is the same. Get to know them and locals, make friends. Some people you just wont click with, others you will have fun with and then there are those that once you get to know become lifelong friends. When I first went abroad the internet was not readily available for everyone, email was not available let alone social media. I carried a notebook with me. In that notebook I kept all relevant information as to my travels. At the back I started a contact list, not just for emergencies but to try keep in touch with the people I met along the way. Sadly I was not the type to write to people and phone calls were expensive. I lost touch with so many really cool people from the beginning of my adventure and that makes me sad. I still look for some of them now using the internet. I have found some but there are still people I was really close to when I came home eleven years ago that I can’t find even on Facebook (which when I first came home was only just gaining momentum). Don’t make my mistake, keep a contact list of the people you want to stay in touch with and then make contact with them. They can be amazing friends for life, people to visit when traveling and maybe if you’re lucky even offer you a bed. Surely you would do the same, I know I would.
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