The ability to sleep anywhere
If you’re travelling on a budget you’ll quickly realise that soft, comfortable beds with plenty of pillows and blankets aren’t all that common. You’ll sleep in beds that feel like park benches and stay in rooms that should be labelled as saunas. At the other end of the scale, I recently spent the night in a freezing tent with 6 other people in the Sahara desert – it was one of the most uncomfortable sleeping experiences of my life, but you do get used to things like that. I haven’t even mentioned sleeping in airports, which you’ll probably end up doing from time to time. The ability to sleep anywhere can’t really be gained without experiencing rough sleeping conditions first hand, so the next time you have no pillow, no sheets and are stuck sleeping next to 10 other (loud) people, be glad that you’re on the way to learning one of the most important travel skills.
Having an iron stomach
Some people always seem to be getting sick while travelling, while others can eat all the dodgy Asian street food they want and feel fine. It’s another skill that is tough to learn without going through some pain, but my advice would be to dive straight into street food, get sick a few times and you’ll eventually be immune to all the bacteria. I’m not a doctor or a scientist, so this could be terrible advice, but it has worked pretty well for me so far (just don’t blame me if you get really sick!).
The ability to read people
In some countries, just being a tourist makes you a target for scams, overcharging or even violence. The ability to read people is important, as you don’t want to write off an entire country’s population just because a small minority are out to get you. It’s a hard travel skill to learn, but some people don’t trust anyone who wears a tunic, or anyone that has 2 first names – those systems probably aren’t all that accurate though!
If you’re travelling in third world countries and want to buy some souvenirs, take a taxi or even book a hotel room, you’ll have to get good at bargaining. Prices are very rarely listed and the first price you’ll be quoted is often over 2 times what it should be. The right price is what you think something is worth, but shop around, ask someone impartial for the price (maybe someone who works at the guesthouse you’re staying at) and use your people reading ability to make sure you don’t get ripped off. Read a full post on bargaining in Southeast Asia here.
You’ve slept through your alarm and now have a matter of minutes to pack up your things and run to the bus/taxi/train – it’s time for a bit of speed packing. You’ll want to make sure don’t leave anything behind while also fitting everything in your bag – so you’ll still need to fold your clothes. I’ve got my packing time down to around 10 minutes, but I’m constantly leaving things behind in hotel rooms, so this is a skill I need to fine tune. Once you master speed packing, try speed cooking – watch the video!
Being able to speak another language
This is obviously useful for navigating a country and getting to know its people, but I recently found another use for speaking another language. We were walking on the streets of Chefchaouen, Morocco with an American guy who started speaking Russian to palm off the advances of touts and “guides”. Anyone who has travelled in Morocco will know that you can’t walk more than 10 metres in most tourist towns without someone attempting to extract some of your money, and speaking a bit of Russian made them give up far quicker than normal.
The skill of selecting good photographers to take pictures of you
Your family and friends will probably want to see some photos of you next to famous landmarks, so choosing random strangers to take good photos of you becomes a skill that comes in handy quite often. Choose someone who has a decent camera – chances are if your chosen photographer usually uses a tablet then even your $2000 camera won’t improve their work. Try and choose someone who has the same kind of camera that you do, that way you won’t have to tell them how to turn it on and zoom in and out. Age is also important – you don’t want someone too young – experience is good in these situations, but you also don’t want someone so old that they can’t work “this new technology”.
Which of these travel skills do you think is most important? What are some of your unique skills that make your trips easier? Let me know!
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