Ultimate First Time Travel Lessons from 24 (Really Lovely) Leading Travel Bloggers
Mentorship is a phenomenally beneficial tool when it comes to learning something new. I mean, having someone with a depth of knowledge and expertise to share their insight and expertise is a truly awesome way for a newbie of any discipline to develop within their field.
Mentors help facilitate understanding, boost confidence and develop awareness. They protect us from failure, educate and guide us towards greater success. At the simplest of levels, having help, well...helps.
The same is true for first time travellers (FTTs).
After all, travel can be a daunting prospect and is an undertaking that requires knowledge and guts. And, though it’s undoubtedly true that the best learning happens on the road, it’s undeniably helpful to begin proceedings with at least an iota of understanding and awareness.
Who better to learn the ropes of travel from than those who travel day in and day out, exploring the furthest reaches of the world, sampling new adventures and documenting their travels every step of the way; who ‘live the dream’ and make travel their profession as well as a vocation?
With this thought in mind, I decided to reach out to leading travel bloggers from all over the world.
My aim was simple: to see if anyone would be willing to draw from their experience and offer some inspirational and advisory travel lessons for FTTs. What they came back with was simply awesome.
For absolutely every blogger that contributed, thank you. For all aspiring travellers, I hope this brief taste of travel mentorship will serve to inspire and guide your future adventures!
Based upon the Coddiwomp focus on inspiration and advice, I wanted this piece to be both educational and actionable for a FTT- an intention that I hope comes across in the questions I asked. For consistency, I asked everyone the same three things.
The questions were as follows:
What was it that inspired you to go travelling for the very first time?
What’s your top piece of advice for someone excited by, but undecided about travel?
If you could go back in time to the night before you first went travelling, what advice would you give yourself and why?
Answers are written in full below!
I’ll warn you now, this post is fairly long! So, I decided to put together a highlights reel for anyone in a rush.
The following two lists constitute what I consider to be the take home inspirational and advisory pointers for FTTs, which I whittled down from each bloggers’ answers.
I encourage absolutely everyone to read all the amazing answers in full, but if you’re short on time, here are the bare bones of all the great stuff that stood out.
The key inspiration for first time travel
- It’s in the genes! The inspiration to travel was present and burning from an early age.
- To satisfy an unknown, ineffable (but concrete) urge to travel.
- To lean into fear.
- To jump on opportunities.
- To indulge a compulsion- often felt intensely from a young age.
- To rebel from the norm.
- To appease an ultimate desire to expand one’s horizons and enhance life.
- 'Trickle down' inspiration through coming from a family of travellers.
- Reaching a fork in the road of life and taking the path less travelled.
- To scratch an itch (bucket-list busting style).
- To test one’s limits and push past personal boundaries.
- To simply explore the world and have an effing adventure!
The key advice for first time travellers
- Cut down on the kit! Less is more when it comes to packing.
- Figure out why you’re undecided as a means to overcome the obstacles.
- Just do it.
- Be open minded and willing to test yourself.
- Be present (check out my articles on travel, mindfulness and the present moment)
- Learn through doing- trial and error is crucial & there’s joy in the unexpected.
- Learn from other travel bloggers.
- Try new things.
- Take fewer photos; endeavour to take the experience in through natural lenses.
- Just do it.
- Travel with the right people.
- Try it at least once.
- If you’re daunted by the idea, try something smaller (home town, shorter trip...).
- Only worry about what you can control.
- You are not alone.
- Be aware of, but unconcerned by, the challenges and unknowns before you go.
- Just do it.
- Don't let money struggles stop you.
- Look after your physical and mental health.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- There’s no one way to travel; it’s about figuring out what works for you.
- Take things one step and one day at a time.
- Travel for as long as you can.
- Don't plan too much.
- “Just f**king book it”.
Answers in Full
Derek from Wandering Earl
I had spent a semester studying abroad in Australia back in 1998 and this one experience created my genuine interest in travel.
During that semester, I met so many people from countries that I barely knew anything about, such as Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Costa Rica and Slovenia. As a result, I started to wonder what life was really like in all of these places and I knew that I would have to figure out a way to find out through first-hand experience.
So, when I left Australia to return to the US in order to finish university, I promised myself that once I graduated, I would take 3 months to travel around Asia and visit all of the places that I had just started learning about.
I had no idea that my travels would last for over 18 years and counting but it was this experience in Melbourne, Australia that truly got my travels started.
Try it out. And remember that there is no right way to travel.
Figure out what kind of style suits you best, what budget works for you, which destination(s) excite you the most. You don't need to follow anyone else's path or go to destination simply because everyone else is going to those locations.
Take some time and figure out how you will be happy on the road and then start putting together a plan. Also, while this might sound crazy, travel can get boring if you don't have a purpose.
So it's always a good idea to have a reason why you want to visit a certain country - to learn the language, to study the history, to try all the food, to spend time in nature, to explore cities and so on.
Whatever it is, having a purpose as the foundation of your travels will ensure your trip is a success! (At the same time, if you go out there and travel and you discover that it's not for you, there's nothing wrong with coming back home.
I guarantee that even if you cut your trip short, you won't regret making the decision to travel!)
It's all about saying 'hello'.
I was quite a shy person when I started traveling so it took me some time to get comfortable talking to strangers and really connecting with people. But if I went back in time, I would tell myself over and over again how important it is to simply say 'hello' to as many people as possible, to other travelers and locals that I came across.
This is how travel becomes truly rewarding as it's all about the interactions you have with the people you meet. Also, the more comfortable you are talking with strangers, the more people you'll meet, the more experiences you'll share and the more fulfilling every day on the road will be!
Emily from Emily Luxton Travels
That's such a long time ago I'm not even really sure anymore - it feels like I just always wanted to go travelling!
I think the very first inspiration for me came from reading a travel book about Africa that my Granddad gave me (In the Shadow of the Sun). That was the first time that I realised that travel could be as much of an adventure as the ones in the fantasy books I usually read.
Ever since then, I'd always known I wanted to travel - it was just a case of saving up and making it happen.
My very first "big trip" was just a two week visit to Malaysia. I went out there to meet my boyfriend of the time, who was travelling for four months with some of his friends. I took a backpack and stayed in hostels with him, so it was like a little taste of the backpacker lifestyle - and I knew I was hooked!
Having that little "practice run" showed me I could do it... so I started saving to make a longer trip a reality, and I've never looked back.
I don't think I would give myself any advice.
Everything that I went through on that trip, even the really bad stuff, was important to me in some way. It taught me to be strong and taught me what I could do.
I think too much planning and advance knowledge can ruin travel.
If you really want to learn something about yourself you have to be on a journey - and that means taking the bad with the good.
Nick & Dariece from Goats On The Road
We went on a typical 1 week all-inclusive vacation in Mexico and although it wasn’t a “local” experience, we had a blast and we knew that we wanted to explore more of local cultures together.
Our favourite part of the trip was when we left the resort and went to some local villages nearby. From then on we were hooked.
After a particularly bad day at work about 2 months after returning home, I asked Dariece: “If you could go travelling somewhere for 1 year where would it be?” and the rest was history.
My advice is if you’re passionate about travel, you need to make it happen.
Excuses are just that, excuses. If you don’t get enough time off from your job, quit. If you can’t save money but you have enough to pay for cable TV, home wifi, plumbing etc., then you have enough for travel.
Start sacrificing some of your pleasure items, put money in the bank and go.
I would tell myself not to worry. That the trip never has to end.
I would tell myself to Start a Travel Blog and that within a couple of years I’d be making 6 figures from it. I’d say to continue to follow the passion and follow the path that’s easiest.
I’d remind myself that the universe has a path laid before me and if I don’t resist and follow the signs, everything will work out.
Amanda from A Dangerous Business
I've always been interested in the wider world "out there”; travel was always something I wanted to do. My first passport stamp came from New Zealand, which I visited after I graduated high school. The inspiration for that being my first big trip abroad was actually the "Lord of the Rings" movies - I was obsessed with them and wanted to see where they were filmed!
I think sometimes you just have to go for it - but your first trip doesn't necessarily have to be to the other side of the world. Just like with anything new in life, you might just want to dip your toes in first before you fully commit. Plan a weekend away closer to home to see how you like it. Believe it or not, you don't have to go far to travel!
To not sweat the small stuff. Don't stress yourself out about how you'll get to your hotel or how you'll find a place to eat or how you'll adjust to a time change; take one thing at a time and enjoy the experience! Everything tends to work out in the end.
Christy from Ordinary Traveler
I've always felt drawn to foreign lands. I love the idea of learning about cultures that are different from mine, stepping outside of my comfort zone and just experience something different from my everyday life.
Just take the first step. It seems scary at first, but you won't regret it.
Leave your expectations at home. It's so important not to have an agenda or get tied to an idea of how you hope things will go. Some of my favorite trips are the ones that didn't go according to plan.
Caz from YTravelBlog
My brother moved over to London to play cricket when I was 18. A couple of his friends moved over soon after. I loved hearing their stories of their adventures living in London and traveling around Europe. I knew that was the life I wanted too. So, three days after I graduated from University in 1997, I moved over to London, spending three months backpacking through Indonesia first. I was hooked from the very first moment and have been traveling ever since.
One of the reasons I was inspired to create our travel blog (and keep working on it) as I know the power of stories to inspire people and help them believe if someone else is doing it they can too.
Figure out why you are undecided. What is it holding you back? Once you know what those fears are you can work on creating a plan for them. Most of our fears never happen.
You can think of everything that can possibly go wrong before you travel (and there is a lot) and then you get on the road, have an immense amount of fun and completely forget what those worries are. They are so insignificant and you can easily handle any of them when they happen.
But, it is a good idea to come up with your worst case scenarios for your worries before you travel. That way you'll know exactly what to do if they happen and you'll feel more confident and excited about going and having a great time.
Don't stay out in the club until 2am!! It was a fun farewell party but made for a rough flight.
Seriously my advice would be to stay open to new experiences, be willing to listen and learn, be present and absorb it all, believe in yourself and always listen to your inner voice. The only time you can go wrong is when you ignore it.
I think if you follow this advice you will experience every moment for what it is, you'll learn and grow in so many ways, you'll always be in control and you'll have incredible adventures.
Michelle from Mishvo in Motion
My first big travel adventure was when I moved to Sydney, Australia for five months as an exchange student in 2010. It's hard to remember what my motivations were at the time...I think I felt like I had gone to college (university) in my home state with a lot of people I knew already so I was looking to have an adventure and explore new places and people.
As far as choosing the destination, I wanted to pick an English speaking country since I needed to take the courses in English, so that narrowed down the exchange options with my school to England or Australia. Then I chose Australia because the weather was better!
If you're afraid, lean into it and do it anyways. We waste a lot of time living in paralyzed fear. Go have an adventure. Go alone and go for a while and go with an open mind.
Or don't! I think there are a lot of ways to learn about yourself and the world - travel is just one of them. Travel isn't magical in and of itself: it's about the connections you make with people and places and moments. If you want to explore yourself and the world in other ways besides travel, then do that.
Don't pack so damn much!! I brought SO MUCH stuff with me when I moved to Sydney - and had my parents ship me even more things once I got there! I didn't use half of it and when you're traveling, extra things really weigh you down physically and emotionally
Sandy & Vyjay from Voyager
Come to think of it travel seems to have just happened to us, nothing dramatic, first we were traveling for work and then slowly it turned into a hobby and then metamorphosed into a passion and now it has become a craving!
If you are excited, then you are bitten by the bug, just pick up your backpack and go do it!
Even if we went back to the time when we were just starting traveling and learning by trial and error, we would not like to change anything or give ourselves any advice. The beauty of travel lies in the unexpected which needs to be experienced.
Arianwen from Beyond Blighty
I'd been working in the same job for a few years and was starting to feel like my life wouldn't amount to much. I felt trapped and unsatisfied and was worried people might judge me for being uninteresting. Then I lost my mum and it was a harsh reminder of how fragile life is.
I remember sitting in my old flat thinking about ways I could alter my life to allow me to spend more time doing the things I'm passionate about. I decided that solo travel and blogging would enable me to have some incredible life experiences while developing skills and confidence.
Just do it. I've never met anyone who regrets travelling, but one of the most popular regrets of the elderly is not having seen more of the world.
Whatever's holding you back, realise that it's not insurmountable. If you're in a relationship, persuade your partner to come with you or keep it going long distance for a while. If you can't afford it, start saving or look into house swaps, skills exchanges or volunteering. If you're nervous about travelling alone, join a tour group or stay in sociable hostels.
Travel really does enrich your life and there's always a way to incorporate it.
I think I'd tell myself to join the smart phone revolution sooner! My first long-term backpacking trip was in South America and, although I'd read up on a lot of the places I was visiting and taught myself a good amount of Spanish, there were a few moments when GPS or a translation app would have been incredibly useful.
Having said that, not being able to rely on these things meant I interacted more with the people I met and practised the language more frequently. These days I'm sometimes so obsessed with following the little blue dot on Google Maps that I forget to pay attention to the world around me!
Ed from RexyEdventures
I come from a family who have travelled a lot particularly my parents and my uncle. My uncle has been an influence as he has visited places that's far beyond the beaten track, for examples - Yugoslavia before it broke up, Faroe Islands, communist Spain and more. I simply loved hearing his stories and his writings which made me want to go travelling too.
Think about what you particularly want to see and do. Take a look at other travel bloggers and read their adventure stories and be inspired.
Everything will be fine. Stop 'pooping your pants' thinking it's going to be so hard. It was in fact so easy that a month later into travelling, you couldn't believe why you were getting yourself stressed out. A smile will go a long way wherever you are.
Laurence from Finding the Universe
I've been travelling for as long as I can remember, something I put down to my parents love of travel. So I would say that my parents probably inspired my travels!
I think the best thing to do is to try a shorter trip. Often people will espouse the need to chuck it all in and travel forever, which is quite a daunting proposition, and not something for everyone. My suggestion would be to plan a shorter trip, maybe even a weekend break, and see how you like that, and that work up to bigger and more adventurous trips.
Don't worry, everything will be just fine. I guess for this question we can look at when I gave up my job and set off on a one way trip from the UK to Australia in 2009, after quitting a secure job / life.
Nearly a decade later, and I'm now living a life built around my love of travel and my passion for photography. I met my wonderful wife whilst travelling, and we now run our two blogs together (Finding the Universe & Independent Travel Cats). I couldn't be happier I made the decision I did.
Abigail from Inside the Travel Lab
It seemed like the natural thing to do. I was aching to move beyond the country I’d grown up in and to see more of the world.
Go! You’ll return knowing you can handle yourself and you’ll understand so much more about the world we live in and why things work they way they do (or don’t.)
Get some sleep ;-) Double check you have your essentials, give everyone you love a hug and enjoy the excitement.
Cory from You Could Travel
Both G and I are outdoorsy people who love walking. After about 3 months of continuous rain in the UK, we had enough and decided to book a trip to Rome, so we can enjoy some good weather, good food and epic walks in the city. Sure, it's not the same as being in the mountains, but we very much enjoyed our strolls.
To write down the pros and cons. As I am pretty much a full-time traveller, it's easy for me to just "hey, just go for it". In reality, there are a lot of unknowns which should probably be written down, researched and understood.
Some may be irrational fears, but ultimately, one must be excited about the idea of travelling in order to be able to fully immerse in the trip. Just write everything down, think about it and take the leap once you are ready. Travelling will change your life!
Never, ever, board a plane without taking at least 1000mg of vitamin C supplements. I used to get ill all the time from travelling on a plane. Since I started taking vitamin C before my flight, I stopped getting sick.
Oh, and top it all up with at least 2 litres of water for every 4 hours in the air. Yup, that's a lot of Vitamin C and a lot of water, but your body will thank you.
Alex from Lost With Purpose
I've been traveling from childhood, as my father was a professor, and my family got to occasionally tag along when he went to conferences. It also helped that my mother is from the Philippines and my father is from England. My life was international from the start!
You should try everything in life at least once. Travel is no exception, and I promise it's not as scary as it may seem at first!
"Take half the crap out of that suitcase, girl. You definitely don't need it." Because you never, ever do!
Jenn and Jack from Who Needs Maps
Jack and I both come from very international families. We have always started traveling while we were young so it was a natural thing for us. But when we were able to make our own decisions on traveling, Jack first moved to London when he first finished high school.
He worked as a coach and traveled around the UK and Europe. I took my first independent trip around Europe when I graduated high school as well with two of my girl friends. Ever since, we have been traveling around the world together!
Just go! There will always be something stopping you, a different excuse will always come up. If you just book your ticket, it won't be a decision you will regret. And if money is the issue, book the ticket and sort out money after. The flight is usually the most expensive part and everything else will sort its way.
Don't be afraid to try new things. I was always very sheltered so I traveled with 2 suitcases over 3 weeks, and never ate local foods, never stepped out of our comfort zone. The way I travel now is just so so so different to the way I travel then. I try to always say yes and at least try as much as I can. You never know if you will like it!
Emily from Dirty Gourmet
I was lucky enough to have opportunities present themselves for my first few times. I had no idea what to expect but I went ahead and accepted the offer. It was nice to have a whole list of new things to think about and plan for at the time.
Yes, you should go. You never regret putting time and effort into new experiences. It is always worth it and you will always come away from a new experience having learned something impactful about the world and about yourself.
It is impossible to know what you'll learn until you have had that experience, so you must go and see for yourself.
Spend less time taking pictures and more time taking it all in for yourself. Photos are wonderful reminders of experiences, and having a few is a great thing later in life. But you are the one making the effort to go and travel, so be a little selfish and really be present while you're there. You'll learn more, experience more, and remember it all better that way.
Matt from Nomadic Matt
After college, I got a job and the standard American two-weeks-a-year vacation. I wanted to use that time to travel. After all, it was vacation time, right? So for my first trip overseas in 2004, I went to Costa Rica.
That trip changed my life. It opened me up to the possibilities of the world. In Costa Rica, I experienced other cultures, got lost in a jungle, saw conservation projects in action, and met people from around the world.
From that moment on, I was hooked on travel. All I wanted to do was travel, see more of the world, and learn more about the people in it.
Fear is a powerful deterrent. Taking the leap into the unknown is scary, but you aren’t the first person to travel the world. You aren’t discovering new continents or exploring uncharted territories.
There is a well-worn travel trail out there and people to help guide you along the way. If millions of people can make their way around the world each year, so can you. You may feel scared and nervous but you’re just as capable as anyone else.
Don’t be scared. Don’t live by your guidebook. Travel slow. Get people’s contact info. You don’t need a lot of gear. Get a Phone. Go with the Flow. Take extra money. Don’t be so shy. Be adventurous. You aren’t stuck. You are not alone.
Char from Taylor Hearts Travel
Partly to rebel against family who said I should read travel guides to learn about countries, rather than travel to them and partly curiosity about the rest of the world.
You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. Give it a go and I'm sure you'll soon be hooked!
'Don't travel with him. He'll break your heart...!' I had quite a lot of drama on my first RTW trip that I could have potentially avoided if I'd listened to my gut.
Milou from Explorista
I lost sight of my passion in university when I thought traveling wasn’t an option for my budget. During a particularly rough time I decided to focus on passions again, trying to find a certain spark that I’d lost along the way. And once I started traveling again, I never stopped. I’m addicted now!
Try it once, even if it’s just in your own country. You’ll feel inspired by all the new sights, new foods and new people you meet! It doesn't have to be a two week trip, it can also just be a weekend trip. Or even just a day in your own city seeing the sights and museums you always knew existed, but never actually visited. See how you feel afterwards.
My main advice would be to travel as much as I could as soon as I could. Because with little budget I also had little responsibility. As my income grew, my responsibilities and claims on my time grew as well. Sometimes those times offer the best opportunities.
Jenny from She Gets Around
I'm really not sure, it was just this urge inside me. I've always wanted to do it and it got the point where I couldn't control it any longer and just had to go. So I quit my job, booked a one way ticket to Nepal and off I went.
I guess smaller trips when I was young helped, though studying for a year in America during my gap year probably really started the bug. I haven't stopped since.
JFBI - Just F**king book it! I find you book the flight and worry about the rest later. Start with a small holiday and go from there. I was scared to travel alone, but went on a solo trip to South Africa and never looked back. Don't wait for others just do it! JFBI!
Stay travelling as long as you can. I came home too early, with money still in the bank, sensible, but I should have stuck to my original plan and worked in Australia or New Zealand before continuing. Make the most of being young and having few responsibilities, it gets harder the older you get. Your career can wait and your experiences travelling all help your career anyway.
Christine from C’est Christine
I wanted to see the things I had read about in history books and seen in movies for myself! There's nothing quite as humbling as being able to stand in the shadow of ancient ruins or next to an incredibly beautiful piece of historic architecture or experience a completely different culture than your own.
Remember: you can always go home! Weigh what the worst case scenario is or truly consider what's holding you back: usually, it's not THAT bad and if it is, there's always a way to get home. You'll likely regret more the things you didn't do rather than the cool stuff you did.
There are going to be a ton of things out of your control--flight delays, bad weather, cancelled tours, hotels and hostels that look nothing like the online description. Save your stress and worrying for the things that you can control and focus your positive energy on that.
Don't spend too much time or mental energy dwelling on the things that go wrong that you have no control over; instead, try to find the best in every situation and figure out solutions instead of piling on problems.
Inma from A World To Travel
It was a long time ago. So much that I cannot remember. I guess the first time I went somewhere was to play with the orchestra I used to belong to. Then study trips came and the rest is history.
Find out and fix it ASAP. Do not postpone what could potentially be one of your life's highlight.
Again, I was really young. But if I was going to give any advice to myself, it would be to avoid situations where I could be in danger. I had so many of these when I was younger due to being a young solo female traveler. That's it! Check aworldtotravel.com for more :)
Daisy & Adam from Cases Packed
Before we met, we'd each separately thought about going travelling but had never really put those plans into action. We then met and went on a few holidays together, as couples do. After thinking about it on and off, we both happened to say at the same time that we wanted to pack our bags and head off to South East Asia!
I think our inspiration probably came from friends who had done similar and of course from browsing a wealth of interesting and inspiring blogs doing what we wanted to do.
It's not as scary as it seems once you get there! We had both done so much research into things before we left and everything seemed so much easier once we arrived in Singapore. It's good to read up on local ways of life and common scams etc, but don't over prepare.
It's the easiest thing to say 'just book it and go!' but honestly, we'd say - book those tickets, maybe book yourself a short weekend break to ease yourself in. You won't look back once you get started!
I think we'd have told ourselves to go back and take more video footage. We have clips of us on trains and at a few destinations, but looking back now, it'd be so lovely to be able to supercut a video together of small little travelling moments!
Ah well, there's always next time. What we lack in video footage we sure made up for in photographs.
Ashley from Ashley Abroad
I traveled abroad for the first time when I was 15, and went on a group trip to Ecuador. It was a tough trip (we backpacked the Andes for four days, and I had never even gone camping) but I came back completely obsessed with travel.
Start small! Take a weekend trip with friends, or do a road-trip to a nearby state. Contrary to what we see on Instagram, you don't have to quit your job to travel.
Pack more. When I first started traveling I would only pack two or three outfits, and was stuck doing laundry every other day.
So, there you have it guys: ultimate first time travel lessons from 20 (really lovely) leading travel bloggers. I’d love to get your thoughts below and to hear your own answers to the questions above! Let me know in the comments!