9 Lessons I Probably Should Have Learnt While Travelling the World

I’ve started feeling self conscious lately, both as a traveller and a blogger. So many others are writing about how much they’ve learnt while travelling and how much the experience has changed them. What have I learnt? Well, I did learn how to snorkel, and to explain, in Spanish, how delicious the meal I just ate was. I also learnt that Dracula probably wasn’t actually a vampire and that eating pupusas (deep fried corn things) for 4 days straight will lead to sickness. All these things that I’ve learnt seem so shallow compared to other bloggers though, so I thought I’d share some of their lessons with you and give you my take on them.

I, as a travel blogger, am basically responsible for saving the world from a (cubical) Armageddon

Superman saved the world all the time and he didn’t even blog, so it should be even easier for me (and I’m not allergic to kryptonite, although a bullet to the face might be a different story). There seems to be a real backlash in the travel blogging community against the “cubical” lifestyle. Soul destroying is one phrase I’ve seen to describe it, which is a little harsh if you’ve chosen that as your life. Is it really that bad? I’ve never worked in a cubical myself so I have no idea, but I’m sure a lot of people who work in them have functional souls.

Further reading: 5 Reasons why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job to Travel

It’s about the journey, not the destination

After about the 20th long distance bus ride you’ll start to realise this isn’t always true. “Travel days” have quickly become my version of Mondays – they are often days to dread and get through than to really enjoy.


We spent almost 2 days on this boat – our longest “travel day”

Everybody can (and should) travel

Try telling that to slum dwellers in Guatemala City. Travel, especially long term travel, is a luxury that so few of us will ever get the opportunity to do. In the quest to appear inspirational, a lot of travel bloggers say that everyone should travel and their lives will have no meaning unless they do.  They say that those who don’t travel are just “scared” or making excuses. Travel is great, but some people will never get the chance to do it, they have far more important things to spend their money on.

Further reading: What is Long-Term Travel Really Like?

Travel is about becoming a better person

Does travel really need to be about learning and becoming a better person? Can’t it just be fun? A lot of people seem to think you become “better” when you travel, but I think it just makes some people more arrogant. If you constantly have to tell people how much better you are now that you’re travelling it probably means the opposite.

Further reading: 7 Tips on How to Be a Real Traveller

You absolutely need travel insurance

Every time I’ve seen this on one of these lists there’s been an affiliate link attached (so if you click on it and buy something that person gets money). If I ever bother to get into affiliate links this section will change to something like “You definitely need travel insurance or your trip will end in tears so click on this link so I’ll get money” – stay tuned for that!

There is no such thing as a mistake

Well, except for that time I drunk the tap water a policeman gave me in China and got really sick while sleeping in a dorm. No good came from that.


I got sick soon after seeing this amazing place

There is beauty everywhere

People that say that clearly haven’t been to Medan, Indonesia. That definitely isn’t an attractive city. Sure, there are friendly people in Medan and I didn’t entirely hate the short amount of time I spent there, but there are better places in Indonesia to travel to. Travel writers tend to skip writing about places they didn’t like and heap praise on destinations that might not be so deserving of it. We’ll never be able to see the whole world, and skipping the dull, unattractive towns doesn’t mean you’re a bad traveller.

The world is full of good people

I recently read a statistic that said 37% of men in Guateng Provence, South Africa admitted to raping a woman. Are they all “good people”? A lot of travel writers paint the picture that the world is full of love and peace and everyone just wants to be happy. The whole notion of “authentic travel” and befriending locals is great, but we shouldn’t forget that there are bad people out there, and whether you’re travelling in New Zealand or Mexico, you should try and avoid them.

Further reading: The case of travel blogger Harry Devert is a good example of this.

It’s my job to inspire you

I could do this by posting endless photos with quotes in the hope you’ll wake up from your sad existence and travel like me. Every good blogger knows it’s all about inspiration. I don’t do nearly enough in that regard, but does the world need another inspirational blogger? Aren’t people sick of being told how to live their lives? Is seeing yet another travel quote going to inspire you to do something you probably don’t really want to do anyway?

Further reading: How to Make People Jealous with Your Photos from the Road

What have you learnt while travelling? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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  1. Lisa N.
    September 20, 2015 at 6:11 am — Reply

    You speak so many truths in this blog post. I came to the realization a few weeks into my long-term trip that there is a monotony to travel like everything else in life. It’s not to say that my trip afterwards was horrible, but it’s simply life in a different perspective.

    I completely agree about your point about the mantra EVERYONE can travel. I know of people in the US who work 2-3 jobs to survive and take care of dependents, so this will never be an option. When I travel to distant lands to see people getting by on the currency value that I crave for the exchange rate, I feel a twinge of guilt that the same exchange rate is what keeps them trapped and most likely unable to travel. However, I think that travel bloggers are getting better about showing people who have them means to travel that they don’t need $5,000 to do a two-week trip with your friend. That’s their target market.

    And lastly, I’m the strange person who managed to stay five days in Medan and a week in Jakarta while traveling across Indonesia. I had no idea about the negative backlash until I got home and read travel blogs. For me, Medan was the start to my trip, some local trips with my Couchsurfing host, and the start of learning the Indonesian language at an elementary level that paid off immensely.

    Last two points, I’ve never understood the cubicle-life hatred of travel blog posts and bad people are everywhere. People like travelers from the curiosity and novelty of them, but that changes when you become a resident (or so I’ve heard from expat friends when mixing with locals). Also, not everyone is your friend or cares to host you in their home because you weren’t better prepared and expect it because of your western privilege.

    Everyone has their own journey is the one thing that I learned during my months of travel in Indonesia.

    Again, great post.

    • September 20, 2015 at 9:42 am — Reply

      Thanks for the kind words Lisa. It’s good to hear some love for Medan, you’re probably the first person I’ve heard that has praised it! I spent a few days there after visiting Lake Toba (one of my favourite places in the world) and it was quite a big comedown.

      • Lisa N.
        September 20, 2015 at 5:10 pm — Reply

        Haha, I wouldn’t go so far to say that I loved Medan. 🙂 However, it was my first stop in Indonesia and I learned a lot about cultural norms, food, and neighborhood badminton matches. Plus, my Couchsurfing host setup a day trip to check out Air Terjun Dua Warna (Google for awesome photos) and some local hot springs with her family. Both are common destinations for Indonesian tourists but off the radar to most foreigners. On the flip side, Lake Toba was okay but left me desiring much more due to the hype. But like I said before, everyone has a different experience in the exact same place. It’s the beauty of travel.

        • September 21, 2015 at 6:39 am — Reply

          Looks like a cool place – there is so much to see in Indonesia, can’t wait to go back!

  2. Lexi
    September 20, 2015 at 9:15 am — Reply

    I agree with a lot of these points except the one on travel insurance (which I feel very passionate about and I couldn’t not reply to that point).

    If you get injured seriously while overseas and you don’t have travel insurance 99% of the time its up to your friends and family to raise the money to pay for your medical bills. This means they may have to sell their houses and go into debt just because someone decided they would spend 20,000 odd dollars on a trip but didn’t want to pay $500 for travel insurance (as an example for a year long trip).

    Getting seriously injured is unlikely but I would NEVER want to put my family through that because I think that’s incredibly selfish. But that’s just my opinion and I’m not trying to attack you, its just something I feel very passionate about after seeing many, many news stories on the topic of families who have gone bankrupt over lack of travel insurance and how heart breaking it is for them.

    Apart from that I completely agree with the points about not having to quit your job. Not every one wants to be a full time nomad, there are things that come with nomad-ism that most people wouldn’t want to give up.

    • September 20, 2015 at 9:46 am — Reply

      I’m actually with you on the travel insurance and I do usually have it (except when I forget to renew it). It just annoys me when people go on about it in a heavy handed way when one of the reasons they are doing it is so they get money – my issue definitely isn’t with travel insurance itself.

  3. September 20, 2015 at 11:51 am — Reply

    Great post. I find myself gravitating towards somewhat…cynical posts these days. I’m tired of reading why everything is awesome when we all know it’s not. But cubicle life is pretty depressing. So is not having money. It’s all a trade off.

    • September 20, 2015 at 12:02 pm — Reply

      Thanks Katrina, I figured the internet didn’t need another “What I learnt while travelling” article!

  4. September 20, 2015 at 3:24 pm — Reply

    Love this post Jon and just how no-nonsense and no-fluff it is. You tell it like it is and not through some overly optimistic rose-colored glasses. It makes me think of this quote by Thomas Fuller- ‘If an ass goes travelling, he won’t come home a horse.’

    • September 21, 2015 at 6:43 am — Reply

      Cheers Natasha – that’s the kind of travel quote I like!

  5. September 20, 2015 at 10:05 pm — Reply

    I really liked this post – make a very refreshing change from the endless inspirational stories that all end up being very much the same…

  6. September 22, 2015 at 1:10 am — Reply

    Very nice and positive post!

  7. Bryan
    October 21, 2015 at 2:15 am — Reply

    Totally agree. Myths are debunked endlessly every time you set off. You realise how wrong or how right you were which is completely necessary. Most important thing though, is making the good out of the bad!
    Nicely done post.

    • October 22, 2015 at 8:37 am — Reply

      Cheers Bryan, thanks for reading!

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