Lessons learned from my amazing journey around the world.
Honey, I’m home!
I’m back from my Round The World trip with Star Alliance and Marriott International and it truly was the journey of a lifetime. In case you missed it, I first told you guys about it in this blog post, written just one day before I embarked on my solo adventure.
And now, here I am, trip completed. I set out to discover some of the world’s most salient natural and man-made wonders and documented the whole journey on Instagram and Facebook so you could follow along. I travelled around the world for a total of 25 days, in 8 different countries…
- Toronto and Mississauga, Canada
- Geneva, Switzerland
- Chamonix, France
- Doha, Qatar
- Addis Ababa and Lalibela, Ethiopia
- Muscat and Nizwa, Oman
- Beijing, China
- Honolulu, Hawaii
…and learned so many things about the world, myself, and travel in general.
Lessons from Around the World
Over the coming weeks and months I will of course be sharing more words, pictures, and videos about the experience, but for this first post-trip write-up I wanted to focus on what I learned during my 25 days of globetrotting.
Fast travel was just what I needed
“Slow travel” has become en vogue in recent years, with supporters espousing the benefits of taking in a destination slowly and exploring at a super relaxed pace. However, time was not a luxury I had on this trip around the world. On average I only spent around 72 hours in each country, after which I would typically hop an overnight transcontinental flight to my next destination. While I initially worried about this breakneck pace (the fatigue! the jet lag! the non-stop stimulation!) I surprised myself with how energized and attentive I felt despite the long travel days and nights. How? I think I was too excited and engaged by the ever-changing scenery to really feel fatigued or bored. Moving quickly and changing countries so frequently helped keep my outlook fresh. Seriously, it was like Christmas morning every time I stepped off the plane.
It *is* possible to travel with just a carry on
As a rule, I always pack light, but even I was surprised by how little I managed to bring on this RTW journey. I travelled for nearly a month with just a carry on suitcase, purse, and small backpack (which I didn’t even need and regretted bringing, to be honest). How did I do it? Post coming soon!
I love solo travel
If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time you’ll know that I am a huge proponent of solo travel and try to do it often. This RTW experience reaffirmed how much I enjoy travelling “to the beat of my own drum” and being in complete control of my trip’s itinerary and execution. Save a few suggestions from the crew at Star Alliance, I selected all of my destinations/activities. As always, being able to make these choices on my own was empowering.
The common fear most have about solo travel is that they’ll be lonely, but I’ll tell you right now that that’s hogwash in my eyes. For, while I may travel around the world solo, I’m never really alone. I meet so many people on the road and had so many great encounters on this trip– my head is filled with stories and my phone filled with the contact info of all the amazing people I came across during my 25 days away. Still not convinced? Peep my video below for tips on how to meet people when you travel on your own!
It’s about the people you meet and not necessarily the destination
If you haven’t already guessed, beyond the sights themselves, another highlight of my RTW trip was the sheer number and diversity of cool people I met. I crossed paths with folks from all walks of life, many of whom made a huge impression on me; I was so inspired by their stories. In Lalibela, I bonded with Ruth, the American filmmaker studying French in Senegal, as we sat in a dimly lit hotel lobby struggling to get a wifi signal; my time in Doha was magical thanks to my guide Ibrahim, who provided invaluable insights into Qatari and Arab culture as he took me dune bashing in the desert, then shopping in the souk. These interactions, along with the many others I had over the month, positively enriched my journey.
Self-care is important on these sorts of trips
A trip of this nature can take a lot out of you mentally, physically, and emotionally, so I found it prudent to exercise self-care when necessary. For me, self-care took a number of different forms, ranging from participating in a yoga class in Oman, to splurging on room service, to skipping a scheduled activity on my itinerary so I could chill in the park or lie down in a dark room for a bit.
I really don’t need to see everything
I’ve alluded to this in a previous blog post. I no longer find it necessary to see every little thing a city or country has to offer– doing so for me these days equals burnout. In Hawaii, I was too tired to hoof it to the Pearl Harbour memorial (especially after a hike up Diamond Head!), so chilled on Waikiki Beach and sipped a cool drink instead.
I’m not a fan of Snapchat
I tried with Snap Chat, y’all, I really tried. But it’s just not for me (I find it disruptive), and after about a good five or so days of trying to document my adventures on there I had to give up (my data plan and phone battery thanked me for this). If you would like up-to-the-minute updates from my travels around the world, make sure to follow me on Instagram or Facebook.
Planning can be a pain
The level of coordination required for this sort of trip is not for the weary or lazy. Figuring out dates, times, flight schedules, appropriate layovers, visa requirements, in-country transfers, and currencies added a layer that your typical 1 week trip in 1 or 2 places doesn’t have. Because I spent so little time in each country, there was really no room for error. This one of the reasons I made sure to travel with carry-on baggage only– I couldn’t risk not having my luggage make a flight due to a delay!
I take my political and social freedoms for granted
I was in Ethiopia during a time of political unrest. In a bid to silence protestors, security forces clashed with demonstrators in various cities and Ethiopian authorities even went as far as to block the internet across the country for 48 hours. As someone who was born in raised in a stable democracy, it’s appalling to see this sort of thing take place first hand. It’s a great reminder of how fortunate many of us are to be able to exercise freedom of speech and thought without repercussions.
Travel isn’t just about taking pretty pictures in front of pretty sights; a lot of it is about politics and other unpleasant things that make for solemn social media updates. Case in point, I’m in Ethiopia right now, which, if you’ve kept a close eye on the news for the last few days, is going through some pretty tough times at the moment. Anti-government protests have been going on in the regions of Oromia and Amhara (where I’m at): the source of unrest is ongoing political and economic strife and marginalization. Security forces have clashed with demonstrators across the country, leaving over 100 dead and many more angr(y)(ier). If I’ve been quiet on social media lately or haven’t responded to your messages, it’s due to the fact that Ethiopian authorities have blocked most social media sites (though internet here’s generally spotty), meaning that logging in to Facebook or Twitter has been impossible since shortly after I arrived yesterday. If you’re able to see this update it’s thanks to a 3rd party posting app which automatically posts to FB and Twitter once I’ve initiated a post on Instagram (which seems to be unblocked… at the moment). At least I still have access to most of the internet– over the weekend it was completely blocked. I can’t imagine what that must be like, I take the ability to freely surf the web for granted. At any rate, this message is to say that I’m in Ethiopia and I am fine, I am safe. Yesterday in Addis Ababa I had a delightful time making my way about the city and eating tasty Ethiopian cuisine; today I flew to Lalibela, visited the iconic rock-hewn churches, and had my breath taken away. In the last 36 hours I’ve made new Ethiopian friends. I have gained a bit more insight into what’s happening in their country right now and how they feel about it. This is the beauty of being on the ground and not separated by a border or computer screen. The silver lining in the cloud. So like I said, travel isn’t just about pretty pictures in front of pretty sights; it’s about politics, relationships, and understanding why they sometimes break down. I’m in Ethiopia: I’m fine, safe, and learning a lot. For this I am grateful.
My personal safety is a top priority
It came to my attention that my guide in Oman was falling asleep at the wheel during our exploratory drives. While he was fabulous in every other regard, this was totally not okay. I talked about it with him and he kept on brushing off my concerns, so I made the hard decision to report him to the tour company. I felt terrible for “ratting him out” but my personal safety is more important than his potential anger or embarrassment. Never compromise your well-being, especially when you’re travelling by yourself.
I love my creature comforts
The top-notch accommodation provided to me by Marriott was yet another reminder that my days of roughing it are pretty much over. I’m not ashamed to admit that I like my beds king-size and my wifi lightning fast! This is not to say that I’m a stuck-up princess– roughing it is sometimes an essential, enriching, and unavoidable part of travel. But I’m not gonna lie: I adore my creature comforts!
And there you have it: my lessons learned from 25 days around the world! Did any of them surprise you?