Tyrone and I spent the past 18 months traveling through Central America, with most of our time in Costa Rica. It was a fantastic experience and I loved it but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Often, I think people have very glamorized views of travelling, so I’m here to whip off those rose tinted glasses. Here’s everything I learned from traveling abroad.
1. Lessons Learned From Traveling – People Help Nice People
Our biggest challenge was the language. We tried to prepare ourselves as best as possible, and went for a short Spanish course before heading to Nicaragua. I definitely felt better knowing I had done something, but 6 weeks wasn’t preparation enough. We seriously struggled. Some days, I could take it in my stride and use hand signals as best as possible. Other days I would get so frustrated with myself, and then there would be times I was too scared to attempt speaking.
Thankfully, everyone we dealt with was patient. In fact, just attempting to speak Spanish normally lead to helpful smiles and together we’d battle through until all parties understood what the hell I was trying to say.
2. Lessons Learned From Traveling – Put Yourself Out There
Generally, I’d describe myself as a bit of an introvert. I don’t enjoy large crowds or really going out of my way to meet new people. Honestly, I find it draining. But things can get lonely, not to mention boring, if you don’t push yourself to get out there and try new things.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind why you’re traveling. No one leaves their home country to sit inside stuffy rooms and watch TV. Try new things, walk around the area, speak to strangers.
You’d be surprised how open and friendly people are – especially in Costa Rica. Don’t be shy, get out there!
We attempted dancing lessons, twice a week. It was great fun and we got the opportunity to meet a variety of people. Teaching English also helped! I would make friends with my students, and it wasn’t long before we were heading off to lunch, or visiting a popular attraction. It’s bonus English practice for them – we all win!
3. Lessons Learned From Traveling – Daily Life Is Daily Life
It’s important to keep a level head when you’re considering traveling around the world. More often than not, you’ll find daily life is daily life no matter where you are.
I had visions of waking up early in the morning, going for beach runs or meditating in the soft glow of the sunrise. You’ll be shocked to hear that didn’t happen – okay, maybe once. The truth is, you get into normal routines and often the country you’re in doesn’t change that. You have to make a concerted effort to change, it’s not going to happen simply because you moved to a new country.
If you want to de-stress, relax more and enjoy life. You can do it! But it’s a decision you have to make, it’s not based on your location.
4.Lessons Learned From Traveling – Expenses add up
Now, if you’ve read any of my other blogs, you may have picked up that I’m pretty cheap. Coming from South Africa, I feel like I’m constantly in a losing battle thanks to terrible exchange rates. Sometimes traveling abroad can get expensive, and your options get limited. So know what you’re getting yourself into.
People had warned us that Costa Rica was expensive, but I still figured it couldn’t be that bad. Hear me when I say, it was THAT bad!
You wanted to zip-line through the forest, or go on a weekend trip – be prepared to pay! I simply couldn’t afford to do that, and still pay my rent, so we got creative. We did all the free activities we could find, or we’d save up until we could splurge. Again, it’s about being realistic in your expectations.
Sometimes exchange rates can be deceiving, so make sure you do some real research – How much is an average meal? How much is bread, milk, chocolate (you know… the necessities).
5. Lessons Learned From Traveling – You Need Less Than You Think
With the cost of things being so high in Costa Rica, Tyrone and I soon realised we needed to cut back. If there’s one thing I’m pretty proud of, it’s my ability to live in squalor with only a teaspoon as my daily utensil. How many folks do you know that can do that? Huh? Huh?
We didn’t have a TV, radio or much else really… In fact, we stayed in a small one-bedroom apartment with no air-con or heating, a double bed, a shower, and one window. That was it! But you know what, it was okay. Would I prefer a luxury mansion? Absolutely… But do I NEED one? Nope.
You’ll be surprised how much you can live without!
6. Lessons Learned From Traveling – Do It Anyway!
You always need a healthy dose of realism, but don’t let that stop you. Traveling is not always easy, but it’s certainly worth it!
Don’t think twice – sell your stuff, get packing!