10 Lessons I Learned From My Trip Around the World (By Sarah Swank)

I am kicking off 2019 with my first post being a collaboration piece with another blogger, Sarah Swank. She was and still is inspired by the five women she grew up with, and how they are constantly exploring the world and finding creative ways to advance their career or education while fitting in travel. She created the blog, Suitcase Six, to record the adventures that the six of them have had and share their stories. She hopes that other women might find them as inspiring as she has. Below Sarah shares 10 tips she has learned from her international travels.

For the past four years or so, travelling has been my biggest passion and priority. I’ve saved as much as I could and put almost all my earnings toward my next vacation. This year, I spent 7 consecutive months traveling around the world. My itinerary began in Chicago and continued east through nineteen countries until finally ending back in the Windy City. Major stops along the route included Scandinavia, Scotland, Russia, Mongolia, and Japan. 

I began my preparations months and months in advance but I still made many mistakes, all of which were valuable lessons. Fortunately, I also had countless happier lessons too that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Travel is a privilege and I know that not everyone has an equal chance to explore, but I if you can make it a part of your life, I’m certain travel will teach you things about yourself and the world you couldn’t have expected. 

Here are ten lessons I learned from my trip around the world: 

  1. The most famous attractions are rarely the ones I enjoy the most (often because the expectations were raised too high). Prioritize the activities you know you like to do over the things you feel you “shouldn’t miss”.
  2. Always save more than you think you’ll spend and have backup plans for how to access your money. A few extra tips to avoid finding yourself abroad with no access to your funds: 
    • Bring some cash to exchange in the airport if needed
    • Check your credit card expiration dates before you leave
    • Alert your bank of your travels so they don’t block your bank
    • Confirm your login information for Venmo/PayPal/transferwise
    • When possible, bring several kinds of card (Visa, Mastercard, Discover) as some locations only accept a certain kind
    • Scout out your bank from home to see if they have locations or ATMs nearby
  3. Take time to journal, blog, photograph, or otherwise document your experiences, especially the minor details. You likely won’t forget the big events but your records will provide great reminders of the little things. 
  4. It’s okay to miss home, end a trip early, or change your plans. Travel is supposed to be enjoyable (if it’s optional) – if you aren’t having fun, change it up! 
  5. If you need to get a visa to visit another country, investigate early! It can be an expensive process with lots of bureaucracy. It might take you longer than you expect, and it’s not always possible to handle when you’re abroad and traveling. 
  6. Ask the locals for their recommendations and advice – they will give you more authentic tips than TripAdvisor can. This works especially well in restaurants if you’re unfamiliar with the menu. Ask the wait staff what they like to eat! 
  7. Always check for bed bugs. Never experienced bed bugs? You’re lucky. Here’s what to look for:
    • Red/rust colored stains on the sheets, mattress, or walls (squished buggos sometimes leak the blood they took from you)
    • Extra musty smell in the room (bedbugs fart to communicate so a big infestation means lots of “must”)
    • Sheets that feel sandy (they shed their exoskeletons leaving a sandy texture behind)
    • Black dots along the edges of the mattresses
    • Sightings of actual bugs (which can range from small, dot-sized, semi-translucent bugs to larger ladybug-sized beetles with a darker red-brown Shell. They can either be flat or round depending on when they last ate. 
  8. The less you pack, the less you have to keep track of and/or lose and the quicker/easier/cheaper it is to move around. 
  9. Postcards make the lightest souvenirs and easy gifts – sending postcards to loved ones is a simple but powerful reminder that you’re thinking of them. 
  10. Everyone around the world has similar goals, dreams, and needs. You can always find some way to relate to someone. 

I could share so many more lessons but it would turn into a novel, and anyway, most of them are lessons best learned by yourself. You don’t necessarily have to travel solo or internationally to learn them. You can pretend you’re a tourist in your own hometown! However, if you get the chance to explore a new corner of the world on your own, I encourage you to take it. It will open your eyes to so much more that the world has to offer. 

Everyone should go and check out her blog, she has great content! Thank you again Sarah, for sharing your international travel wisdom with us.

Link to her blog:

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