1. Thou shalt always prepare adequately for travel by getting vaccinated and investing in travel insurance.
As most of you know I am terrified of pretty much everything. Swimming, heights, birds… The list goes on. Despite a wealth of phobias that would make Scooby Doo jealous, my primary fear is getting sick on the road. A lot of people seem to believe that it will never happen to them, until it does. To help with staying healthy on the road, always make sure you are covered by travel insurance and get the appropriate vaccinations before you travel. The only thing worse than being ill whilst travelling is being flown home because of it.
2. Thou shalt say yes, regardless of how terrifying it may seem at the time.
Forgive me, for I have sinned. Without doubt, this is the commandment I find it most difficult to follow. Jumping into the unknown has never been easy but if you pluck up the courage to do it, you will never regret it. Someone once said, ‘Life begins when you say yes’. Never was there a truer word spoken.
3. Thou shalt keep an open mind and learn from thy neighbours.
There is no instruction manual when it comes to life and we all do it differently. You left home to experience different things, so don’t expect everything to be the same as the place you’ve just left. Conduct yourself with humility and never stop learning. Everyone has their own story to tell.
4. Thou shalt not forget how lucky one is to be able to travel.
It can be easy to get frustrated with the nomadic lifestyle when you have spent four hours of your day in visa queues and you’re beginning to suffer serious roast dinner withdrawals. Always put these inconveniences into context and remember to be grateful that you have the opportunity to travel.
5. Thou shalt honour local customs and respect cultural traditions.
When you visit another country, you are essentially an ambassador of your own, so do yourself and your country proud! Always do your research when it comes to local customs and be respectful of other cultures. To get you started, check out my guide to etiquette rules in China.
6. Thou shalt remember that English is not the only language in the world and get clued up on local lingo.
I am not saying that all western travellers are guilty of the ‘English ignorance’ but it does appear that many English speakers expect their language to be accommodated for everywhere. Do not be one of these ignorant travellers. Learning a language is hard and no-one expects you to be fluent, but people appreciate it if you make the effort to learn a few key words and phrases. My favourite tool when it comes to language learning is Duolingo. It’s a free app which takes you through a variety of different modules in your chosen language. With distance learning being easier than ever before, there really is no excuse for the ‘English Ignorance’!
7. Thou shalt engage with fellow travellers and share wisdom with them.
Guidebooks are helpful but nothing beats a personal recommendation. Chances are if you’re on the road, you will be surrounded by other people who are doing the same thing as you. Put down your smartphone and engage with your fellow travellers. Not only will you make some great friends but you can share your experiences and pick up tips about the best places to go. If I had insisted on going to my hostel instead of sharing breakfast with a group of fellow backpackers, I would never have discovered the magical island of Koh Rong Samloem.
8. Thou shalt experiment with local cuisine and brave street food.
I understand that for some people this one is particularly hard: you are talking to the girl who didn’t eat eggs until she was twenty. Whilst I am much more adventurous when it comes to food now, I still cherish the old pizza standby. Without doubt there is some degree of food snobbery that takes place within the travel community. Let me put it out there now and say that there is no shame in disliking the cuisine in another country. I have visited some amazing countries and will be the first to admit I’m not over struck on their food. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try what is on offer though. Whilst those chicken feet look gross at the time, part of you will always feel like you wasted an opportunity when someone asks you how it tasted and you have to say, “I don’t know”.
9. Thou shalt travel ethically and responsibly.
It is so important to do your research and travel responsibly. Don’t invest in attractions that fuel poverty and injustice and watch out for scams that pull on travellers’ heartstrings. Both Tim and I fell victim to Cambodia’s baby milk scam in an attempt to help street children. Be particularly mindful of animal tourism too, some of these attractions can act as a smokescreen for abuse.
10. Thou shalt return from adventures wiser than before.
Always travel with curiosity and remember that there is something to be learned from everyone. It is only through understanding the lives of others that are able to realise our own journey and place in the world.
Travel is the best teacher and there will always be more to lessons to learn.