PLEASE ONLY TRAVEL WHEN IT IS SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE TO DO SO. Articles have not been updated to reflect any travel restrictions which may be in place, so please check with the destination for up-to-date information. Thank you!

10 Things I’ve Learned After Two Years on the Road

Me enjoying Bolivia - what I learned after 2 years of full time travel

I’ve been travelling in Latin America for about two years now; ten months in South America, and 13 months in Cuba, Mexico and Central America.  I am still no expert, but I have definitely learned a few things along the way!  I wrote a similar post about what I had learned after one month of travel, but now two years on things have changed a little.  As I am in my final couple of weeks before coming home, I started thinking about advice I would give to myself if I was starting all over again, so here are just ten of the things I’ve learned after two years of almost non-stop travel.

This site contains affiliate links. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As an Airbnb Associate I earn from qualifying bookings. [Learn more]

READ MORE: 10 Things I Learned After One Month on the Road

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Your bus is an hour late.  The restaurant ran out of your favourite dish.  Your friend forgot your birthday.  Don’t sweat it, it’s not a big deal.  Even if the sh*t really hits the fan and you get robbed, the hotel you booked is a building site and the airline loses your luggage, no worries.  Usually things will work out in the end.  Usually.

2. Some you win, some you lose

Some days you will wake up and the world is smiling at you.  The taxi driver gives you a discount, you get an upgrade on your flight ticket and find a lost tenner in your back pocket!  However, other days you lose your phone, get soaked in the rain when the forecast was glorious sunshine and you step in dog poop in your favourite shoes.  You can’t win ‘em all.  Just hope that tomorrow will be better – which it probably will!  Optimism goes a long way in this game, I truly believe the universe will reward us for good deeds eventually, even if it takes a while!

Sunset over Lake Atitlan Guatemala & two volcanoes
The sun sets every single day, but take time to appreciate a sunset every now and again

3. Appreciate the simple things in life

Long term travel can take its toll on your ability to enjoy a new destination.  Big whoop it’s another waterfall, yeah well, I saw three bigger than that last week.  Instead of searching for the next big thing to top your last high, take a moment to look around you and remember why travel is so special.  Notice the old couple dancing salsa in the street, the squawk of an unfamiliar bird in the tree, and the rays of sunlight dancing through the water as you snorkel by.  These moments are all unique, no matter how many times you think you’ve seen them before, and that is what makes travel, and life, so special.

READ MORE: The Simple Pleasures of Travelling

4. Always check under the bed

I don’t mean to look for monsters, I mean to check you’ve not left anything behind. It’s worrying how easy it is to lose things along the way – so when you’re packing up to leave, check under the bed, in your locker, in the bathroom, on the washing line and basically anywhere you have been in the last 48 hours.  Or, always keep your stuff together in the same place, which is not as easy as you might think.  Living out of a backpack for a year is tough, and if you are in one place for more than a couple of days you automatically start to spread out and make yourself at home.

5. Choose your seat wisely

On a boat, always try to sit on the side closest to the shore.  Not only is there ore stuff to look at, but any waves hit on the other side so you usually stay dryer!  On a plane, I prefer a window seat so I can see what’s beneath us and to prepare when we come in to land.  Some of my favourite photos are taken from an aeroplane, and I love getting the first glimpse of my destination!  In cars, buses, trains, and pretty much all land based transport I choose a window seat when I can.  The only down-side for a solo traveller though is you might get trapped between the window and an unfavourable passenger – legs spread apart, personal hygiene problem or overly-friendly (read: creepy).  However, that is all part of the wonders of travel!

How can I afford to travel full time
You don’t get views like this from the aisle seat!

6. Don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with

Use your woman’s intuition, spidey sense or gut feelings.  When you feel like something isn’t quite right, it probably isn’t, so get yourself out of there.  I have found it best to err on the side of paranoia with this one – it is better to be safe than sorry after all.  Even in relaxed, social situations, remember that you are the boss of your own life; and no means no, whether you are declining sexual advances or a cup of tea.  Sometimes you just don’t fancy a cup of tea.

7. Talk to people

As well as other guests in your hostel, chat to the hostel workers, volunteers, cleaners, bartenders, waiters, taxi drivers, little old ladies who remind you of your nan, anyone basically.  You might just learn something, or make unexpected friendships who can show you an awesome authentic experience.  And who knows, you might make their day too, and prove that foreigners are pretty cool people!  In the end, travel works both ways, and as you might have prejudices or presumptions about someone from another country, so might they.  So have chat, and learn more about the rest of the world.

Hostels are a great place to make friends, but you don’t have to be friends with everyone if you don’t want to

8. Choose your friends wisely

I like to stay in hostels because they are cheap, and great places to meet people.  However, not everyone is going to be your best friend, and that’s ok.  At first, I try to be friendly with everyone (let’s not burn bridges now), and soon you will see who you would really like to be friends with, and who you would rather avoid like the plague.  Don’t forget too that not every traveller is as awesome and honest as you. Things in hostels go missing all the time – from toothpaste to expensive cameras, so keep your stuff locked away, and try not to let anyone see where you keep your stash of cash, you never know.

9. Its all about compromise

Oh I would love to eat at fancy restaurants every night, stay in swanky hotels and travel forever.  But, as Mick Jagger says, we can’t always get what we want.  I compromise by staying in hostels so I can travel for longer.  I sometimes eat packets of instant noodles for dinner so the next night I can eat sushi or afford to take a tour.  Decide what is the most important thing to you, and be prepared to sacrifice some less important things in order to get it.

READ MORE: How I afford to travel full time 

10. JUST GO!

There is never a good time to travel.  You’re really busy at work, you just paid your credit card bill, or it is half term week and the prices are nuts.  But think about it, you deserve a break.  Studies show that travel and vacations are good for our mental health, and no-one ever said “Wow, I really regret taking that life-changing trip”.  Just do it and book the damn flight.  It will be awesome!  And if it’s not, well, see number 6 above.  Next time will be better.  Just make sure there is a next time.

What have you learned from your travels?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

No matter where you travel, you should always get travel insurance to cover you in case something does happen. Travel insurance from WorldNomads is available to people from 140 countries, and you can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home.  It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

Get a quote now:


Like this post?  Pin it to read later:

I've been travelling in Latin America for about two years now, and although I am still no expert, but I have definitely learned a few travel tips along the way!  Here are just ten of the things I've learned after two years of almost non-stop travel. #travel #traveltips #longtermtravel #backpacking #travelinspiration

Just to let you know, this post may contain paid or affiliate links, which help to maintain Tales of a Backpacker and give me the chance to keep travelling, and to keep creating awesome content for you!

Tales of a Backpacker is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to  I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.

Last updated: February 16, 2020

17 thoughts on “10 Things I’ve Learned After Two Years on the Road

  1. Renuka Walter says:

    Wow! So many lessons learnt. I agree with you totally. Travel is education. And, it’s so important to have a clear vision of what you want in life and prioritize accordingly.

  2. The Offbeat Adventuress says:

    I love this post and find so much of it to be true in my own travels as well, trust your gut, pick your friends wisely, talk to people and check under the bed!
    I also find that it’s useful not to get too attached to my ideas of what I’m supposed to be feeling and experiencing and make room for travel to surprise me.

  3. Vee says:

    So as a woman though, did you camp/hike and traveled alone or just knew people? Because I am interested in going just want to know other woman’s experiences.

    • Claire says:

      Hi Vee! Thanks for reading 🙂 I did travel alone most of the time – on buses, planes, boats etc – and met people along the way. Personally I don’t camp or hike alone or do anything alone where I am out of reach of help. For me, solo travelling doesn’t really mean you are alone, there are always people around who can help if something goes wrong, someone at the hostel or a friendly stranger in the street. I try to avoid situations when I am really alone, in case something does go wrong!

  4. Himanshu says:

    This is the first I am reading your blog and I am glad to have found you. I is always good to summarize what you have learnt because when you write it you actually realize how to improve. All 10 points are useful tips for each traveler. I am big believer of appreciating small things in life. Small things become your personalized experience you garner from your travel days. These small experiences are yours only. And truly, to know the place it is important to interact people to know the place and to feel it.
    Just Go!!

  5. James says:

    I caught myself laughing at the “check under the bed” bit. My friends always find it odd when I do this. It’s just a habit i picked up through several travels. Glad i’m not the only weirdo on the planet haha.

  6. Suruchi says:

    Beautiful post. Indeed, I agree with all your pointers written in this post. All days are exactly never same and we should not panic or get hyper on the small deeds. Talking to the locals and understanding their culture, leaving behind the touristy attitude help you learn so much.

  7. Jitaditya says:

    Great to read this and have a sense of deja vu… this is what I realized when I started travelling solo. Especially the first couple of points mentioned, they are obvious but yet many people don’t understand them. In fact, realizing these things are the best way to live a happy life.

    And yes… I always get a window seat on public transport… sometimes even at the expense of friends 😛

  8. Ryan Biddulph says:

    All these tips are dead on Claire but #7 is my fave among all of ’em. Talking to people enriched my travel experiences so much. On the flip side, my shy guy travel days early during my trip were a bit flat, because I felt as if I was on the outside looking in.

    I made so many awesome friends by talking to people. I met fascinating people, found brilliant, off the beaten path spots and enjoyed my travels immensely by opening up and chatting.

    Awesome list, thanks for sharing.


  9. Tami says:

    Great list of lessons learned — they will serve you well throughout your life, for sure! Travel has a way of giving you a better perspective on life and helping you to know the things that are most important!

  10. Kirstie says:

    I love these tips. That is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. Err in the side of caution all the time. I think another important thing is to not sweat the small stuff. I think it’s just right you put it first! You are the one making your trip and you are responsible for your own mood!

  11. Kavita Favelle | Kavey Eats says:

    You have such a great attitude, and I think your advice is spot on. For sure, when travelling long term especially, there will be downs between the ups, and if you let them break you, you’ll lose the ability to enjoy the good stuff, including that ray of sunlight, or old couple dancing in the street.
    We do a really careful check, both of us, before we leave a room, as it’s sooo easy to leave something behind. As you say, the longer you are there the more you tend to unpack and it’s easy to miss something. We pretty much have this one downpat now I think.
    Like you, I like to sit where there’s a view, if it’s a bus, I prefer to be upfront if I can, so I can see out of the bus front window too, less motion sickness for me that way.
    We don’t do hostels but we do try and be open to making new friends when we travel, though as you say, not everyone you meet is going to be the kind of person you want to be friends with!
    And as for compromise, yes yes yes. We don’t travel as backpackers or hostellers but we do still have a budget so we’ll do a few nights at cheap hotel chains so we can then splurge at a ryokan the next night, or we’ll do a picnic meal so we can splurge for a posh restaurant!

  12. Sherab Tenzin says:

    Hi Claire,
    I cannot agree more on your points. Moreover, I feel listening to what locals have to say and getting along with them give good opportunity to experience real crust of their cultures and traditions. And also leaving behind the attitude of ‘being tourist’ really helps.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *