How to start travelling- A beginner’s guide

This is the age of entrepreneurs, the age of innovation & creativity and the era of finding your passion. Everyone is trying to find a job that makes them happy and more than half the world’s population is dreaming of travelling the world.

A lot of people are travelling and a lot of posts have been written about the differences between a traveler and a tourist. I am not going to repeat those. I am however going to tell you how you can transition from the phase of “Omg! I wanna travel to so many places” to “Hey! I traveled to some awesome places recently and I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it was”.

If you are a traveler, then you have already experienced these and this post is only a throwback to your old days. If you are still thinking of embarking on new journeys, this article is for you.

Understand that travelling is not a one-time thing

Firstly, you need to understand that travelling is not a one-time thing, it’s a way of life. It’s what keeps travelers alive! If you wish to make a weekend trip when you get a holiday from your work and you visit a nice resort to relax for the weekend, that’s not really travelling.

Travelling is when you decide to explore the world despite your busy schedule. Of course, there are the lucky( and creative) ones who travel for a living but let’s admit it, not everyone can do that.

You don’t have to leave your job, your school or your hobbies. You just have to prioritize.

Be ready to make compromises

Travelling is not a piece of cake. Most importantly, finding the time & money for it is genuinely difficult, given our daily schedule. Hence, you have to be very passionate about it. Be ready to sleep less, work overtime (if required) and miss out on a few “cool” (read expensive) places during your daily routine. Even a weekend trip is never easy.

Don’t believe me? Here are some personal experiences:

Two days before my semester exams in my postgraduate degree, I started planning a trip to Japan. My internship dates had just been confirmed and I only had a few days in between my last exam and my joining date. I did not want to waste it.

Thus, two days before my exams, I began to check flight tickets, visa application procedures and most importantly fixing a rough itinerary. Japan is a huge country and I had only 4-5 days including travel time to spare. My friend who stayed in Japan helped me a lot.

I ran around to collect documents for visa application and booked my tickets in a rush. The next day morning, instead of studying for my exam, I gathered a few more documents and hurried to the Japan embassy to apply for visa. On the day of my last exam, I collected my visa from the embassy, then appeared for my exam and as soon as it ended, rushed to the airport and flew off to Japan!

I joined a meet up group in Singapore to travel to Malaysia for the weekend. We took the overnight bus to Malaysia and the weekend was super packed. We finished three activities (water rafting, water abseiling and caving) in one day and roamed the cities & tried plenty of amazing dishes. We returned on Sunday night 2 am. Exhausted from the trip, I somehow woke up at 7am and prepared myself to go to office. A few cups of coffee definitely helped.

Expect that you are going to lose out on certain things

You want a perfect CAP? You want to be the best at your job? You also want to make sure you don’t miss out on any social gatherings? Then think twice about travelling.

Travelling often means you have to compromise on either and more often many of such things in life. I know I could have scored a little better in my exams if I hadn’t gone to Japan but at the end of the day, the question remains- was it worth it? Every time, I find myself answering “Hell yeah!”

Thus, one of the key steps before you embark on your journey is to embrace the fact that you are going to miss out on certain things. It is about accepting that we can’t have everything in life. Having said this, it is also about making the most of our limited time on this earth.

Prepare and let go

The final step is to prepare for your journey. Mentally and physically.

The physical preparation involves learning to be independent, researching about the country’s weather, culture, language, problem prone areas, places to stay, understanding the specific requirements for the trip (insect repellent for forests, sunscreen, water friendly clothes, cap for water based activities, woollens for mountains, torch or headlamps for caves and so on) and most importantly gathering as much information possible from other travelers. Remember, there is no substitute for real experience.

The mental preparation involves a different journey. It is about going through the different emotional phases and finally letting go. You will be scared, you will miss your close ones and most importantly, just as you are about to step out of your comfort zone you will be highly reluctant.

You will start pondering if it’s a mistake. You will think, perhaps your life is quite good after all. Who knows how it is going to be when I am in the middle of the sea among crazy waves or lost in a new country where I don’t speak the language! This is when you have to tell yourself that your life is not bad the way it is but you only live once.

If you don’t go out of your comfort zone and experience every little thing the world has to offer you and if you give up the idea of letting go in the fear of losing the secure life you have now, then you will never discover what this world could have offered you.

You will never discover the joy of being on a half-broken & hand-pulled boat on a small river in a random village at one corner of the world, the feeling of sitting at the top of a waterfall, the feeling of conquering the world while standing on top of a mountain, the sheer joy of witnessing two rainbows and a spectacular sunset simultaneously on a beach, the pleasure of swimming among fish & corals in the deep sea, the bliss of making new friends every day , the delight of trying a great dish at a small hidden eatery in corner of a city and the sensation of feeling absolutely tiny in front of mother nature.

You will never experience the silence standing amidst a pitch dark bamboo forest in the middle of the night, you will never experience the joy of finding some warm food after hours of freezing in the cold, you will never appreciate the passing of each & every second in a pristine untouched landscape, you will never experience jumping off from the sky, you will never crash into mangroves while kayaking among them, you will never feel the waves crashing against you and float with them, you will never discover a small cosy café which makes delicious food late at night, you will never find the peace of reading a book while staring into the beautiful horizon and you will never know what you are missing out on.

When you travel every moment is a point on a learning curve, every second you grow as a person. You begin to appreciate the little joys life has to offer you. You experience such immense happiness that your soul feels ecstatic.

Thus to quote a popular saying “No amount of security is worth the suffering of a mediocre life chained to a routine that has killed your dreams”. It is this line that you must remind yourself of while preparing to let go.

Don’t get me wrong

Different people find happiness in different ways. Some people find immense happiness in spending time with their family & taking care of them, some people love to dine at a fine restaurant and drink at an expensive bar, some people love to work in complicated excel sheet or in a laboratory and trust me all of these are absolutely wonderful.

At the end of the day, you are the best judge of what makes you happy. This article only attempts to say that if travelling and exploring is what makes you happy, don’t hold back. Don’t die every day living a mediocre life.

May be you will be broke, lost, injured and what not! May be you will never be able to dine at the premium hotel and own that fancy house, but at least you will be happy! Genuinely happy. I believe that’s all that matters. Of course, most of us find a middle ground and follow it. We carve out that path for ourselves and follow it.

Embark on your journey already

Hopefully, by now I have convinced some of you to pack your bags and get on the road. Before you embark on you journey, do remember the following:

  • Spontaneous trips are fun but requires a flexible time limit. If you have only a few days at hand, definitely plan in advance.
  • While planning is essential, so is being flexible. Learn from other travellers and locals and be ready to change your plan if required.
  • Trust your instincts- more often than not, they are correct.
  • Don’t overlook the safety guides- not all cities in the world are safe (especially for women). While this should not discourage you to travel, it must encourage you to be careful and well informed.
  • Read, read and read- you would be overwhelmed by how much information you could find on different blogs and articles. Information which might prove vital at some point of time.
  • Back up- if you are carrying a back pack, then think what you can do if the straps tear off, think what are your options if you run out of money, what you would do if you get lost. Think these scenarios through and prepare yourself mentally not to panic under such situations.
  • Inform- do inform your family members about your plans.
  • Essentials – your passport, wallet and keys are essential items. Remember to protect them at any cost. Don’t make it very visible to the thief and don’t forget it in any vehicle.
  • Immigration- remember to check for the stamp of entry and exit during immigration in order to avoid any future troubles.
  • Trust but not blindly- people are nice but not all of them. Ask people for help and trust them but also be smart enough not to do so blindly. Easier said than done of course!
  • Get rid of the extras- eventually you will figure out the bare minimum things you require to survive. Carry those and get rid of the rest. Fashion becomes less important when you are busy being bewildered by nature.
  • Work life balance- not everyone can travel for a living but a zeal to know the unknown can go a long way. You would be surprised how much you can fit into your schedule when you are truly passionate about it.

Most importantly, take the first step. After that, it becomes an addiction. One day, wake up and with those heartbeats pounding faster than you could ever imagine and just leave. I hope you take this step and delve into the unknown and I hope you don’t die every day in the chains of a mediocre life.

Bon voyage! May you die only once.

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