Lessons Learned from a Year On the Road
We’ve been traveling for a year now, and while every place is unique and offers different adventures, food, and culture, there are some universal rules we’ve come across to help make your life that much easier.
Find your Travel Pace - Nomading can come in many different form factors so it’s up to you to decide what you want your trip, and trip length, to look like. If you’re ‘one-bagging’ it and want to put emphasis on meeting new people, you can stay for shorter durations without getting burned out. If you want to stay longer in destinations and have more items with you, longer stays, or ‘slow travel’, will help you stay sane. While there’s no right or wrong here, and an entire spectrum exists in the middle of the two extremes, Michelle and I prefer the slow travel method. We’ve found that staying in one spot for 1 month each time is the ideal way to travel. This is why slow travel works for us:
“It is better to travel well than to arrive…“
- It gives you flexibility when trying to do the tourist activities of that area. You don’t have to rush to sign up for the local tours or immediately get in line for the museum. Rather, you can plan ahead and if one week is extra busy, you can plan for the following week.
- Airbnb accomodation is much cheaper when booked by the month. Most hosts have a pretty large discount (up to 70%) when you reserve their place for a month. The downside of this though is that once it’s booked, you can’t cancel your reservation for a full refund, so be sure you have your dates locked down!
- Because you got your accommodation discounted, you don’t have to feel bad about booking a weekend away on the fly for a mini trip. And you’ll be able to keep your suitcase and most belongings back at your ‘home base’.
- It gives you enough time to make a routine and really soak up the local culture. You can even make some local friends along the way and be able to meet up with them multiple times.
Become One With your Destination - You’re not going to leave a place as a local if you only stay there for a month, but you can definitely become more familiar with their culture, history, and traditions. This helps you grow while also being respectful to the place you’re visiting.
- I like opening up a Wikipedia page to where we’re going on the destination there and read up on some basic facts. Do you know the capital city, estimated population, and religion? Are you familiar with some of the basic history of the region? Do you know what to call the local currency when you land?
- Go where the locals go, don’t ask for the best restaurant, as for their “local” go-to pub by your house and get to know the people in your neighborhood.
- Talk to people. Strike up a conversation with a random stranger, you might learn something you didn’t know, or get a great recommendation you won’t find in any travel book. Cab drivers are great people to talk to as they know the area quite well and are usually friendly, even to tourists.
- Try to learn a few of the very basic words in the local language, like ‘thanks’, ‘please’, ‘cheers’, and some common greetings. If you’re there for long enough, even numbers will help. Michelle got pretty good at her numbers in Croation and even managed to barter at the local market!
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Know How to Handle Stressful Situations - You will be out of your comfort zone for much of your day while digital nomading. It’s important to know how to bring yourself back to earth.
- Staying healthy in general can help keep you level-headed in bad situations. Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, and eat (mostly) healthily.
- Try to plan for basic shortcomings. If you’re in South East Asia, there’s a chance the Wifi might not be great, or there won’t be toilet paper in the bathroom stall, or you’ll get lost and no one speaks English. Try to play out these scenarios in your head ahead of time and prepare for it in whatever way will help you make lemonade.
- When traveling with a partner, talk about what stresses you together so you can help each other manage it. If one of you is better at asking for directions and the other is better at reading a map, play to your strengths, not against them.
- Are you hungry?? When I’m even the slightest bit hungry and things don’t go my way, I can become a real downer real quick. Try to be aware of this, bring snacks when appropriate, and make yourself aware. You can even tell yourself (and the people you’re traveling with) ‘I’m hungry right now, and this is not a great situation. I need to get some food in me and I can calm down’.
“You’re not you when you’re hungry”
Find Your Work/Life Balance - Depending on your vocation as a digital nomad, your work life will differ, but it’s best to find out what that balance means for you and stick to it.
- Are you comfortable working from your Airbnb for the duration of your stay? I try to find a local coworking spot and get a month-long membership there. That creates a clear physical separation for me between work and play, while also giving me an out to meet people and have social interactions I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
- Plan ahead when you’ll need to work and when you want to explore/do tourist activities. This is especially difficult when you have a friend visiting or meet some local people. Have your boundaries ready and stick to them. You can’t travel as a digital nomad if you can’t work.
Bring a Partner in Crime! - Whether your spouse, partner, or just very good friend, traveling with a Parter In Crime (PIC) can help make it that much more meaningful.
Partners In Crime
- Choose wisely! Just because you can handle a weekend at the beach with them doesn’t mean you can travel together. You have to have a pace you both agree on and have similar travel interests.
- Having your PIC with you along this journey will help strike a balance. There’s a division of responsibilities, and when things can seem overwhelming, you have your rock to ground you.
- If one of you gets sick, the other person will be able to try and take care of you, and make sure everything else is going smoothly.
- Traveling the world with your PIC will test your relationship. But if you know you can make it, you relationship will grow stronger and your bond will grow deeper.
- You’ll make countless memories, from running through airports, eating amazing foods, getting locked out of your Airbnb, losing old items, or buying new items. Through the good and the bad, both of you will be able to cherish and reminisce about these memories for a long time.
Feel free to share!