Motorcycling aside, what’s your best piece of travel advice ever received? I was a traveller before I became a rider, and for me, a lot of the overlanding stuff came naturally – it was the bike stuff that was tricky at first, which is why I focused on the best piece of ADV advice I could get. But looking back, what about travel advice – especially now, as the world is still filled with uncertainty and open borders aren’t a given?
Here’s my collection of pearls of wisdom collected from other travellers over the years:
This one is obvious to anyone who’s done any traveling at all, but it’s so easy to fall back into a cycle of fear and mistrust while at home, and it takes time to just go with your gut and trust people when you’re on the road. And yet, from new overlanders to experienced vets, most travellers tell the same story: 99.99% people in the world have good intentions, are willing to help, and treat foreigners as guests. Kindness of strangers is the one constant discovery all new travellers soon make, and trusting people becomes easier and easier as you go along. While stories of corrupt officials and tourists getting in trouble abroad abound on the mainstream media, the stories that do no make the headlines – stories of locals helping out travellers, inviting them into their homes, sharing food, and recommending safe routes – far outnumber the negative ones.
…And Your Instinct
That said, trust doesn’t have to be blind, and it’s always best to go with your gut. When I first hit the road hitchhiking across Europe at the age of eighteen, the best piece of travel advice I received was from a fellow female hitchhiker – if something feels off, put some distance between yourself and the situation or the person that doesn’t feel right. Even if it turns out to be nothing later, it’s best to err on the side of caution, and whenever your gut tells you something’s not right, just get out of there – trying to rationalize and ignore the first instinct just isn’t worth it.
Haggle for Everything
On to more mundane matters: when traveling on a budget, negotiate for everything. More often than not, hotel or guesthouse owners are willing to offer a discount – you only need to ask; buying food at markets, asking for a better price of a whale watching tour, or trying to score a group discount for a guided hike up a volcano can all add up quickly and save some costs.
Speaking of costs: there’s safety – and discounts – in numbers. Buddying up with other riders to share a shipping container can save hundreds of dollars, and partnering up with other overlanders for tricky or remote sections of your route can offer some safety and certainty, especially when you’re traveling alone.
Adapt and Conquer
The number one most important tool when traveling, especially these days, is flexibility. Being dead set on certain routes or destinations means your entire trip can fall apart if just one border remains closed, or if there’s some unexpected obstacles arising last-minute. On the other hand, if you’re willing to adapt, pivot, change course, and go with the flow, your travels will never end in failure, only in more adventures.
Point of Balance
Travelling, especially on a motorcycle, means accepting a lot of uncertainty. You’re never entirely sure where you’ll sleep the next night, what the roads are going to be like, what the border crossing will be like, and so on; add in the current challenges of pandemic-related restrictions and changes, and there’s a lot of unpredictability and precariousness that you’ve got to balance while on the road. To even this out, have one point of absolute stability during your travels – this can be staying in constant contact with your loved ones back home, once-a-year trips to visit family and friends, a What If fund, a plan B, or anything else that gives you a sense of security and balance. Without it, its entirely possible that all the uncertainty will amount to too much stress, making the adventure part of the travelling less adventurous and more frustrating or downright taxing.
Even if you’re already traveling slow, slow down even more – or stop altogether from time to time. With our ever-increasing pace of life, it’s easy to get carried away and try to jam-pack your route with as many highlights and must-see locations as possible, but the more you rush and cram the itinerary, the closer you get to travel fatigue and burnout. Slowing down and stopping more often doesn’t mean missing out on the next hot destination, it means appreciating the here and the now in more depth and layers.
What’s the best piece of travel advice you’ve ever gotten? Share in the comments below!