(originally published on December 10, 2016 on dazuck.com)
I’m now ~1 month into hopping around Asia, and losing my bag in Malaysia has forced me to confront the mounting evidence: I might not be so good at this whole travel thing (yet). So, instead of a list of ‘pro tips’ I’ve put together a series of my early missteps learning opportunities for travelers from a bumpy-but-still-phenomenal first month:
- Day 0: this is too late for detailed budgeting. Vaccines, meds, delayed credit card bills, insurance, goodbye drinks…if you don’t plan well, your budget ends a lot smaller than expected
- Day 1: don’t forget to sweep the bathroom. Always nice when you leave your toiletries behind before your journey has even started.
- Day 3: don’t book anything ahead of time… That just locks you into plans when better things might (will) come up, and very little ever books up in a way that shuts you out of something important.
- Day 4: …except when there’s a festival. When there’s a world-famous event, okay yes then you should book and not be stuck on a roundabout bus instead of the well-regarded sleeper train.
- Day 7: don’t screw with budget airlines. That moment when you show up 58 minutes before departure to find out the counter closed 60 minutes before? And when that flight included a connection? And then the one you get on the next day is delayed 12 hours (another missed connection) and has a near-mutiny onboard because the AC doesn’t work? Yeah, not worth the extra 15 minutes of sleep, no matter how early the flight.
- Day 9: disorganized stuff = lost stuff. Without a packing system, hats and shirts and eyemasks disappear at random stops in a hurry
- Day 16: when you hear a country has a cash issue, plan accordingly. Otherwise you end up trying to stretch 180 rupees (~$2.50) across 3 days of travel through India and booking an early flight out.
- Day 19: don’t just buy a cable lock, USE IT. Otherwise you might wake up at 5am in Kuala Lumpur to transfer buses to find your bag has vanished from the checked luggage compartment. Silver lining: if you keep your most important stuff on you (passport, wallet, phone, computer) then everything else doesn’t actually matter that much
- Day 25: don’t count on island time. When you think about booking an 8am flight when the optometrist has promised your contacts will be delivered the previous evening, trust that instinct that it’s a stupid idea. Or be prepared to travel blind a bit longer.
- Day 30: check weather. Or you might be navigating the most beautiful city in the world by boat instead of scooter, with all the shops shut down from floods.
So, plenty to learn from in the first month, and things are starting to go smoother now. More importantly, while there have been quite a few bumps early on they haven’t come close to defining the ride so far. They are inconveniences in what has been an amazing start to the journey.