8 Lessons Learnt From Long-Term Travel


For me, long-term travel was a huge learning step. The day I left home for a whole year was literally the biggest day of my life, and I think it always will be. I feel I’ve learnt a lot since that first big trip. When 22 year old me, in my cheap bulky hiking boots, fake tan and too much make up, left  London Heathrow Airport, excited but terrified, struggling to carry the terribly packed 60L backpack on my back.

I cried as I hugged my family goodbye. And I struggled to stop myself crying on the 32 hour flight to the other side of the world, because I already missed them. And because I was scared and worried. Because I didn’t know if I was making the right decision; is long-term travel really for me?

Looking back, crying and feeling terrified was pretty normal but unnecessary really. Yes I stepped into the unknown, away from my family and everything I had ever known, with all my savings and a man I had only known for a year. But it was 100% the right decision. I came out a new, better person, with memories that will last a lifetime.

It’s cringe and so cliché but yes, travel did change me. And now, I’m looking back at everything I learnt in that year.

And how next time, I want to do it even better.

Here’s 8 things I learnt from long-term travel and what I would do differently next time!

Me in Northen Thailand, April 2014.

1. Reduce the size of my backpack to just one 40L, carry-on backpack

For me, this point just has to be number 1. I cant stress enough how much pain I went through backpacking with over 60L on my back and 20L on my front. I have already chosen my new backpack – the Osprey Farpoint 40, which I can’t wait to try out on our upcoming 3 week trip to Morocco! It’s also carry-on sized, so it will save money on checking in luggage.

My new backpack! The Osprey Farpoint 40

2. Pack more carefully

Following on nicely from the last point, I would pack way less unnecessary items. Especially clothes! Minimalistic is the way forward for me. I now know I do not need things like, a sleeping bag, 3 bikinis and 4 dresses.

Me and my backpacks, Bangkok (November 2014)

3.  Plan a little less and don’t book things too far in advance

So I planned every little detail for my last big trip. I also typed it all up into a seriously humongous Word document, printed it all out, and took it with me in a folder.

And then I didn’t even look at it once.

Still, I’m a big believer in planning for trips (that’s just me) but I have learnt that planning for travel is one thing, but I shouldn’t have actually booked things that are far in advance, as a lot of our plans actually changed. For example, we booked a flight from Chiang Mai to Vientiane, 6 months in advance. And because our plans changed in Southeast Asia, we didn’t even end up taking the flight. So that was a waste of money…

4. Allow more time. Travel slower

I don’t want time to be a constraint in future. I want to travel with the ability to just stay for another week or month in a place, if we wanted to. The world is huge, and looking at a map it’s easy enough to think you can just get from A – B in a few hours, that you’ll see enough of a place in 2 nights and experience all that you want from a country in a few weeks. But in reality, long-term travel is tiring and can involve very long journeys and many nights spent on buses and trains, you may also really love somewhere and want to spend way longer there. Next time I want more time.

So what if I want to stay here for another week, or a month, longer than planned?

5. Go with a bigger budget

Following on from the last point, one of the reasons we had to travel with time constraints was due to a very strict budget and limited money. What I would do differently next time (as well as having a bigger budget) is to have a completely separate budget, aside from the daily costs budget which is all we budgeted for last time. This separate budget would be for our activities (whether it be a tour, sky diving, scuba diving, safari’s etc.), situations where more money is needed. Obviously money doesn’t just grow on trees, so a way to do this is save money at home for a little longer before rushing off too quickly.

6. Be more adventurous with food

I really wish I had been more adventurous with food. It took over 7 months of long-term travel before I actually became interested in trying new, more adventurous types of food. Before that, we generally ate the same type of food every day. In India, our diet was mainly chicken curry, bread and rice. In Southeast Asia, it was generally chicken, egg and rice or egg and bread. Although at the time even that was an achievement for me, as I wouldn’t even eat egg before I started to travel… next time, I want to explore new cultures more through food!

Egg, chicken and rice every day!

7. Understand that plans can (and probably will) change

This is a big one for me. I’ve never been very good at being spontaneous, but travel has taught me that although there’s nothing wrong with a plan, plans will change. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a really good thing. We ended up travelling for longer than originally planned and spent 4.5 months working in Australia. Travel has taught me to be free.

Brisbane – The city we lived in during our time in Australia

8. Finally…. Know that I am making the right decision

Discovering my love for travel was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I have learnt more about the world through travel than I ever imagined and I have so many stories and memories that will last forever. It’s my choice to spend my money on travel rather than on nice clothes or a car. But that’s my decision, and right now, I know it’s the right decision.

Shaun and I in Cambodia, June 2014.

Posted by

Hi, I'm Zoe. Welcome to Zo Around The World! I have an obsession for travel and exploring new cultures. Myself and my husband Shaun have travelled to over 50 countries in 6 continents around the world, including long term budget backpacking trips around many amazing places in South America, Asia, The Caucasus, Australasia and more. In this blog you can read all about our travels, including detailed itineraries and how we managed to travel so cheaply! Travel is my passion, let me help it become yours too

136 thoughts on “8 Lessons Learnt From Long-Term Travel

  1. Traveler slower I find very important. That is when you really learn about the country and such, that way you become more than a vacationer. I always stay somewhere longer if I like the place.
    And the bigger budget is a good one to. It is a great experience and you want to be able to do everything you want!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great post! I can identify with almost everything here. I, too, left home when I was 22 with my boyfriend and I can remember crying as I hugged my family goodbye at the airport. I was away for 8 months. I truly do not regret a thing, but I’ve learned a lot that will help me better plan my next adventure! I specially agree with packing less. What a pain was carrying all the unnecessary stuff around!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you! Aw sounds like we did a really similar thing! I truly do not regret a thing either 🙂 and yes it’s definitely good to learn from the past to improve future adventures 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re so right! We can relate to almost all of those lessons. We also want to pack less and travel slower as constant rush makes it harder to explore everything. And we also learned that things change and sometimes you can’t do everything you planned (we learned that especially that we planned to be in Vienna and Budapest last week and we couldn’t do it). The only thing that we can’t agree is the money one, but that’s because we simply don’t have any 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Definitely agree with planning less and just going with the flow, something I need to learn to do! My boyfriend and I are going to Australia next year to work and travel (he’s also called sean haha) x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha I’m still learning how to plan less and go with the flow too! But I’m getting better at it! 🙂
      oo that’s exciting! I hope you and Sean enjoy Australia when you go 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Zoe! Did you know your name means ‘Life’ in Greek? 💖
    I really related to your beginning paragraph about crying and hugging family. It doesn’t get easier – but it is important to live your life for you as well. You just learn so much about the world and can come back and share your stories with your family!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh I didn’t know that no! I love that my name means Life! 😀

      And you are so right that it is so important to live life for you 🙂 no matter how hard it is missing family, travel is definitely worth every second 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m in week two of a three month trip across Southeast Asia and I already relate to this so much. I definitely should have saved more, and DEFINITELY should have packed less clothes. I think we have the same Osprey rucksack, though – if you just got the one I have, it’s great – fits a lot of stuff but not too heavy (unless you accidentally put too much shit in it, anyway…). 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Zoe! Thanks for tips. I’m also from the UK, and also currently preparing to travel long term, and can’t be more excited. It’s like dream comes true. Please Have a look at my first post, and subscribe! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I really agree with this post 🙂 Especially number 7. Sometimes I prevent myself from fully enjoying my travels because I try too hard to stick to the schedule or plan.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Love this post! I’m dreaming up a trip to Europe in the future and I can’t wait to spend quality time just immersing myself in each country I travel to. Thanks for the advice!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I 100% agree, the first thing I did when I went on my second trip was buy a different backpack! I went away to a cold country but even then, nobody really needs that many layers. Excellent points! Loved this post 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This is such a great post and so helpful! im at uni at the moment and really want to travel but after reading your blog i think it might be better to save more money, so I can experience as much possible! x

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Many “likes” for your post!! Really important and useful information for those who plans to travel for a long time. A question about your backpacks: is it really comfortable to walk with them and what about a weight you carry in them? It is important for me because in all my travels I took the suitcase. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I much prefer a backpack to suitcases, but I personally wouldn’t travel with more than my 40L backpack in future, I find my Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack very comfortable but I wouldn’t carry more than 10KG maximum in it. I have previously carried over 15KG with my old backpack and this was so uncomfortable even for short walking distances! Hope that helps 🙂


    1. Thank you! I’m so excited for Morocco, where abouts did you go when you were there? 🙂
      And wow thank you so much for the nomination!! 😀 I haven’t heard of that award before. Thanks!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome 🙂 Such a fascinating country! I went to Marrakech with family for a week, lots of interesting sights – although tbh if you go I would recommend spending just a few days in the city itself and the rest of the time exploring the nearby mountains or visiting another city 🙂 Do you have any particular plans yet?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sounds nice! Yes it looks amazing, only 1 day to go until i’m there and I can’t wait! Yes we are planning just 3 nights in Marrakech and then we will explore other parts of the country like the High Atlas Mountains, Sahara Desert, Fes, Meknes, Rabat and Casablanca 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Awesome post! The more you travel, the more you learn how to pack 🙂 I brought so many things I didn’t need with me on my 3 month trip to Southeast Asia. The one thing I wish I brought though – my hydroflask water bottle. Nothing beats cold water on those hot, humid days in Thailand!

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Hi! How are you? I follow your blog because it is very interesting and inspiring. I really love it. How’s your day going? I hope we could be friends. I can’t wait to read your upcoming blog post. Have a good day ahead!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. The fact that you’ve come away with these great pointers to share with the rest of us is great. I’m sure there were many more personal lessons relating to yourself, challenges you faced and things you discovered about the wider world that perhaps you’d one day be able write about! Great post 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I’m going to Thailand in April and everyone from friends to doctors are discouraging me from eating street vendor food. I’m feeling torn between being my adventurous self and not getting horribly sick for the entirety of the trip. Any suggestions from the travel community? Help!


    1. We travelled to Thailand a few years back with three kids so I was extremely worried about the same thing. There were some really dodgy looking venders that we passed up but we found many on street “food halls” (a collection of venders in permanent locations under one roof) we figured that if the locals were eating there then it should be fine. We had no problems. Just make sure you only drink bottled water and we also made sure we used bottled water to clean our teeth.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. I agree with the above in that if it’s busy with lots of locals eating there, you can be pretty sure it’s good! 🙂 I didn’t get any food poisoning in Thailand. And yes 100% stick to bottled water not tap water! Thanks for your comments 😀


  17. Good lessons. Im agree that travel is spontaneous, somehow we have to learnt from our mistakes, my lessons : make the itinerary, I have traveled 10th countries and never had one. So I missed many things,but travel is still great things to do..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I google the crap out of the location before I go so I know exactly what there is to do and see. I make a list and take it with me. This doesn’t mean I see it all but it allows me a more informed choice when on the road

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Not having an itinery give you time to enjoy the space you are in. Not feeling rushed to see it all. Sometimes being led away from the beaten track is the best thing about travelling. But if you have very limited time then I agree an itinery is important.


  18. Great post! And all of this is so true, especially the first one! When I first traveled I had so much luggage as well and I was horrified every time I had to put on my backpack again and move locations. Now I just travel with a lot less and switching locations isn’t so bad anymore 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  19. P-L dit :La présence des grands centres urbains, a fortes concentrations de population et utilisation plus faible de l&bqiuo;automrsle pour les transports en commun, peu expliquer une partie de cela. Essayez de ne pas avoir d’auto en Saskatchewan Pourtant c’est très possible à Montréal, Toronto et New-York..!


  20. I can really relate to this! I left London Heathrow back in December 2016 with my boyfriend and I honestly wasn’t sure if i was going to board that plane! I felt so many different emotions i had never felt in my entire life. 6 months on I still really miss my family but I feel like such a more free person and look at life in such a more clear and positive way!

    Enjoyed this read 🙂 xx


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