What I Wish They Told Me Before I Traveled

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My face is covered in sweat and my quick dry shirt feels like it's permanently glued to my back. It's a hot and humid day and I'm wearing cargo pants, hiking boots and over 10 kgs on my back. I walked in circles outside our house, getting accustomed to carrying all that travel gear. Oh the many ways I had prepared for that journey!

Lois Backpack

Fast forward to 4 months later when I'm actually traveling in India

I was on a sleeper train after 3 days of traveling nonstop from Jodhpur to Goa- over 1559 kilometers! We didn't stay at any hotel along the way. The only chance I had to wash myself was in a dirty, flooded bathroom at a train station. My entire body was hurting from carrying my backpack and sleeping on cement floors. I did what any person would do in that situation: I broke down.

No amount of preparation could get you ready for the worst case scenarios of travel.

Months before our 6 month trip in India and across Southeast Asia back in 2011, I had researched like a maniac, scouring travel forums, blogs and guidebooks for advice. And I got exactly that- tons of advice.

But the one thing I needed couldn't be found in the Thorn Tree Travel Forum. Nor was it in the budget excel sheets and alphabetically organized how to's that travel bloggers had painstakingly put together. It wasn't even in the discreet money belt, assortment of malaria pills, or first aid ointments that I stuffed into my brand new North Face backpack.

7KG Challenge - Toiletries

The one thing that would prepare me the most for my first long term trip was a moment of honesty.

I wish that before I traveled, someone held me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and tenderly said… "What the hell were you thinking?"

And then calmly continue.. 

Dear girl, there will be days when you are terrified. There will be days when you will have no idea where you will sleep that night, who among those drunk couchsurfers you can trust or how you'll be able to pay for another flight after you've just missed the last one. You will ask yourself again and again who gave you the insane idea to travel in the first place. You will visualize that person's face and you will want to smack them with the Southeast Asia on a Shoestring guidebook.

SE Asia on a shoestring

But it’s going to be okay.

Some days you will be filled with doubt. You will doubt yourself and your decisions. Especially that last one where you stuffed a few pizza slices down your throat after it was offered to you. Only to realize half an hour later that they were the "happy" kind.

You will worry that you are doing it all wrong to begin with. 

You will obsess on whether your backpack should have a lock or whether you should buy some travel insurance. (Locks are not necessary since it's easy enough for someone to pick up your pack and take off anyway. Yes on the insurance if you're going to be away for over 3 weeks.)

Travel Blogger Money

You will worry about which currency to carry and if they will have money changers in your destination. (US Dollars are good and most cities have money changers. Exchange a few bills at the airport where the rates are usually low. Use this for cab fare and a meal. Then go find a money changer that offers a better rate elsewhere.) You will check and recheck and triple check to make sure that all your cash is still in that hidden pocket in your bra. (They are. But next time, don't put all your eggs in one basket.)

It may take time to get used to this backpacking thing but you won’t always feel so overwhelmed. 

Travel Blogger Battle

One day, you will be looking over your shoulder, but you won’t let fear dictate your trip. You will realize that most people are not out to harm you. You will learn to haggle in the local dialect and get a free bracelet for your efforts... I can do this! You will sleep soundly on the bus and wake up just in time to grab your belongings, order a bowl of noodle soup and wait for the ferry to the next island... I'm doing it!

So yeah, there will be days of worry and doubt, but it’s going to be okay…

You're the best person for this journey. Not because you picked the perfect hiking boots or the best BPA free canteen. (Someone will eventually steal those or you will leave them behind at an airport somewhere, anyway.) Not because you had meticulously planned your itinerary down to the last flight number.(You will most probably miss a flight or forego the return flight home.) Not even because you sold all your worldly possessions just to bankroll this trip. (Including grandma's family heirloom that you were supposed to pass on to your children.)

You're the best person for this journey because you stayed true to who you are and what you love. 

Because you listened to what only you know inside. It doesn't matter if you feel like a frightened beginner. You didn't choose this dream. It chose you. And you said YES. You said yes to your only reality and unimaginable adventure. You said yes to the ride. You belong in the life of your dreams. 

No one belongs here more than you.

Do what you love

Lois is the Editor-in-Chief of the female travel blog wearesolesisters.com. She's currently in Manila waiting for the birth of her first child. She hopes to have a healthy baby and resume surfing and traveling very soon. 

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2 sole trails

  1. It was like yesterday (at the PTB's Christmas Party) when I first met you and Chichi, and you're just about to quit your job and embark on that epic 6 month ASEAN backpacking trip. Looking back that was like a ton of amazing experiences in between at a short time. You really upped the influence of travel to a lot of people (most girls I've met were like "We wanna travel like the SoleSisters too, you read their blog?") so I'm looking forward to your upcoming adventures with a cute toddler in tow :)

  2. That's a great memory Marky! Ang saya nga nung Christmas party na yun. I'm not sure about the influence part. But it's really great a lot more Filipinos are traveling. I'm inspired by a lot of them. I mean we did India and Southeast Asia. But now you see Filipinos going to places like Fiji, Maldives, Mongolia, Costa Rica. Drool haha. And yes, hopefully we will still get to travel together as a small family. Peg ko lang si Pinay Travel Chunky.


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