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23 Things I’ve Learned from 8 Years of Travel

I started writing one autumn day in Boston five years ago. I remember that first month of travel blogging well, just after a trip to Iceland that changed my life. I was working full-time for one of the world’s largest book publishers and spending my evenings at various cafés writing, editing and learning all that I could about blogging and online marketing.

Everything about it was exciting and exhilarating. As I was saving up my money for more future travels and planning dream holidays, I was also learning new skills, practicing old ones, and spending a lot of time daydreaming about destinations all over the world.

At that point in my life I was already fairly well-traveled. Especially considering I’d spent a year of my life studying abroad in Australia and the UK. But at age 25 it’d already been three years since I’d left on an international trip. I started the blog as a way to share my travel tips. I’d already been a long-time Twitter user but 140 characters just wasn’t enough space to share everything I had to say about traveling.

Five years later, has become more than I ever imagined. Every day I receive emails from other travelers looking for personal tips or advice, asking questions about Berlin, how to live abroad, what to do in foreign cities and how to save up for trips.

I love hearing inspiring stories from other travelers and seeing how this little blog (that started in a JP Licks ice cream store) has inspired others to travel now, not later. Traveling has had an empowering effect on me, forcing me out of my comfort zone and changing my life in more ways than I can count.

And now, with a completely redesigned blog, I’m able to share the experience of a trip with one lucky reader. To celebrate five years of and the launch of my Hipster City Guides, I’ve partnered with airberlin and Visit Berlin to give one person (and his/her friend, mom, boss…) a trip to Berlin from the United States. With airfare for two people and four nights in a 3* hotel, you’ll get to experience the thrill of travel. Why Berlin, though? Well, besides the fact that it’s my absolute favorite city, Berlin is a wonderful place to be born again (and that is what traveling is all about).

This week Berlin celebrates 25 years since the fall of the wall and in that time, the city has gone through an incredible transformation. But the thing is: the city’s still changing. It’s a fast-evolving metropolis, growing in ways people probably didn’t expect. There’s an incredible, vibrant energy in the city—making it one of the most exciting places to experience. And I want one of you to get that thrill.

The last five years have brought me thousands of experiences thanks to the extraordinary amount of travel that I’ve done. I spent 15 months backpacking around the world—visiting everywhere from the souks of Marrakech to the floating villages of Cambodia, from the beaches of southern Spain to the Jerusalem Old City, from the skyscrapers of Bangkok to abandoned buildings in Berlin. I’ve learned a lot in those years.

Traveling has taught me more than I ever thought it could.

go travel and explore - berlin

What Traveling Has Taught Me

Some tips tied to my many different travel memories.

  1. The world is very small. You just might run into your elementary school friend at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
  2. Languages are important. You’ll never know when you might need to speak German on an Italian beach
  3. Double-check signs in souvenir shops. London hats for 150£ should not be touched.
  4. Take a shower when you can. Twenty-hour train rides in India can get smelly fast.
  5. Trust your instincts. You never know when a dark Spanish alley might turn dangerous.
  6. Talk to strangers in bars. You might make a new friend to travel around Germany with.
  7. Keep your appetite open. “Dog” might be for dinner in Vietnam and it’s not as bad as it sounds.
  8. Meet people for coffee and/or gelato. It might lead to a job offer in Europe.
  9. Be flexible with where you want to travel. You might skip Turkey and end up volunteering in Palestine.
  10. Learn how to pack a bag fast. You can always buy a toothbrush at the Chicago airport.
  11. Sometimes it’s okay to miss a flight. You might end up sleeping in an Arkansas airport with 50 strangers.
  12. Be a responsible traveler. Politics inherently affects the daily lives of locals in every country—from Cambodia to Canada.
  13. It’s okay to fail. And you’ll always laugh when you think of the time you vomited at 35,000 feet.
  14. Trust local maps. Australia is full of things that might kill you.
  15. Share a meal with a stranger. You might get to try a real home-cooked tagine in Marrakech.
  16. Sometimes all you need is a beach holiday. And a silent disco on the beach in India.
  17. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions. You just might get guys to take off their swimsuits at Tel Aviv Pride.
  18. Double-check the weather. You don’t want to show up in northern India in winter without a jacket.
  19. Always carry a pen. You might need to write down a phone number while at a crowded bar in Amsterdam.
  20. Drink enough water. Hot weather and thermal baths in Budapest are a bad combination.
  21. Expect contradictions. Your beliefs might clash with your actions by visiting zoo in Dallas, but don’t judge yourself too hard.
  22. Pack comfortable shoes. New York City’s blocks are big and there’s never enough taxis (take the subway.
  23. Check local newspapers and magazines for news & events. It might just happen that President Obama is visiting Mumbai during your holiday.
  24. Look at the posters on the street. You might discover your favorite Australian electro band is playing at Prague’s coolest venue.
  25. Treat yourself. Don’t be afraid to spend some money on a once-in-a-lifetime camel ride in Egypt.
  26. Do unexpected things. You might end up going bowling at 2 a.m. in Laos without any shoes.
  27. Visit Berlin.
  1. Franca says:

    I like this list and I can relate with most of it, especially the question bit. Since I started travelling my curiosity has increased even more and that leads me to ask so many questions that sometimes people might think that I really cannot mind my own business :)

  2. Ali says:

    I miss Berlin, such a great city! Good luck to everyone entering the contest. Great travel tips, I especially like #17 for several reasons :-)

  3. rebecca says:

    loved this article! Best travel has taught me list i have ever read… you have sure had some great adventures!

  4. Kerwin. says:

    Well, the pen is to fill out your immigration form on the plane :-). In bars, you use your phone :).

    nice list and glad to have read it and meet you in your travels. Awesome Berlin trip as well.

    Have not flown Air Berlin transatlantic as yet, but really want to.

  5. Great list Adam, especially loved number 4! I really enjoyed reading about the beginnings of your blog. I’d love to win a trip to Berlin, but I’m in Ireland not the US. :(

  6. Turkey Tours says:

    I like it, this is very good list, I rather say suggestions!!

  7. Lars says:

    5 years, wow! Congratulations Adam. And your list is so true. I already lived in Berlin for a few years and yes it is great city. Glad Berlin made on your list :P
    Cheers and keep on posting!

  8. Danni Charis says:

    Loved this awesome list. All those tips are really very helpful. This post is worth reading.

  9. Haha awesome! I especially like #10. I’m that girl who inevitably has her stuff lying all over the hostel room, and packing is always a nightmare! I’ve definitely gotten better at keeping all my stuff together over the last few years.

  10. Wow! Just another amazing post!

    I love your work, your writing, your honesty and your tips!
    So much adventure and fun to be had, and the world awaits.

    No.1 on your list is very interesting because I often find myself saying to people that I have met more South African’s abroad than I do meet in my own city! People that I can actually sit down with and have a conversation. Not just people I pass on the street! In a way it is a very sad but true fact, but on the other hand it is amazing knowing that this is part of travel.

    Keep going, I love reading your work, when I have the chance! :-)
    #LoveandTravelHugs from #SouthAfrica

  11. Justina says:

    Hey Adam

    I love your blog and your posts and your website. It is so inspiring to me!! I am a poet/writer/traveler and I fell in love with Berlin (that’s how I found your blog).
    One day I soooooooooooooooooo want to live by writing my poems and sharing them with the world ,travelling and exploring countries + meeting new people. I take your blog as inspiration and I hope that one day I will have my blog which will allow me to do what you do.
    Thank you for your shares :)
    Lots of love
    Justina xx

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