It was over three years ago that I took my first solo flight to Istanbul to meet Mitch. Since then, I’ve taken many more solo flights and had the luxury and joy of travelling to many more countries. The way I travelled around Vietnam in 2014 and Europe in 2015 is very different to the way I travel now, in 2017. There are lots of reasons for this, primarily age, work, and country. Here are those little things that have added up to me changing along the way.
I am Not a True Budget Traveller
I’ve always defined myself as a budget traveller, but I’m really not. Don’t get me wrong; I’m certainly not a luxury traveller. I’m nearer the budget end of travelling lifestyle. Mitch and I do have a vague budget for our accommodation and we try to steer clear of any super expensive restaurants, but I am flexible. For ease, I’ll take a taxi and not a local bus. I won’t book the cheapest room and I’ll order that smoothie even though it’s a little more expensive. When we travelled through Eastern Europe, we would look for cheaper options. This is probably because we didn’t have any income. Now that we do, it gives us a bit more flexibility.
Hostels vs Airbnbs
I like hostels. I enjoy their vibe and the ability to meet new people. Hostels are the best thing ever for solo travellers as they offer a no-frills, budget accommodation while on the road. However, my hostel selectiveness has 100% increased. I want windows, I want a private room, and I don’t want somewhere which is known as the party hostel.
I’ve recently been looking at hostels in Cancun and all the ones with excellent reviews seem to be that way because people have had a great night out. I’m all for a few drinks and being social but I’m now at the age where I want to drink when I want to drink. Not because a 19-year-old is telling me to down it because we’re off to a club.
When you travel and work at the same time, a good night’s sleep is a necessity and so is stable wifi. Hostels often can’t guarantee both of these.
Mitch and I generally book Airbnbs on our travels. Between two people, they sometimes work out cheaper than hostels and wifi is generally better as there aren’t 20 other people using it all at once. What’s more, you usually get to meet a friendly, local who can offer plenty of recommendations and sometimes you get to stay a little outside the city, which is nice.
Dorm Rooms? No Thanks
Dorm rooms were great when I was travelling on my own (although, every now and again I would book a private room for some of my own space). Now, however, I will avoid them at all costs. They’re not bad. But for working and getting a good night’s sleep, I steer clear of them. If it has more than 8 people and no lockers? No thanks. We stayed in a couple of dorm rooms in China and the USA because they were super cheap or because private rooms weren’t an option. In general, though, I really don’t want to do dorm rooms anymore.
I’m not that picky with airlines but I feel like I am becoming this way. Generally speaking, I’ll pick the best deal on a flight and one which doesn’t take too long (40-hour journeys are NOT the one). However, now that I’ve travelled with a few different airlines, there are some that I actively avoid.
When travelling from Cambodia to Amsterdam, I actively avoided Turkish Airlines. To be fair, this was more to the fact that Istanbul airport makes me so stressed. It’s too small and there seemed to be no logic when I got off the plane. I did not want a layover there so avoided Turkish airlines.
I fond myself in a similar situation last year when flying back to the UK from Hangzhou. Our previous experience with China Eastern Airlines was not good. They lost our bags (which took three days to get back) and the last leg of the journey was a three-hour coach from Shanghai.
So I opted for Cathy Pacific instead. They are now my favourite airline… highly recommend!
I’m open to new airlines and certainly don’t read all reviews, but I’m getting picky.
Eating More Local Food
My British pallet was not prepared for the fine cuisine when I touched down in Vietnam three years ago. I was feeling a bit lost and disoriented from the 40-hour journey and being on my own didn’t help. I tentatively ate the local food and secretly loved ordering the cheesy chips in my hostel. Sacred of getting food poisoning from street food, I mainly stuck to restaurants. Over time, I learnt to be more adventurous. That has certainly changed now.
China is one of those places where you have to eat the street food because it’s delicious and everywhere. Where else are you going to get fried noodles at 3am after a night of drinking beer? Street food and local vendors are such a large part of some cultures that you have to do it. Travelling with Mitch also helped. He’ll drag me to all the local spots where pointing and our bad language skills are used.
My faithful Osprey backpack has accompanied me on all my travels but my packing skills have certainly improved. On my first trip, I packed my straighteners. As soon as I stepped out of the shower in South East Asia, I was hot again and the thought of using a hot hair straightener was not appealing. I brought makeup which I wore about twice and packing became a bit of a struggle as I ended up acquiring stuff along the way.
Our trip to Europe should have been easier, but we travelled in winter. Jumpers, long trousers and sturdier, bigger shoes were a necessity. The third time my backpack was packed was in China. After living there for ten months, we packed our backpacks for a five-month travelling adventure. The problem was, we’d accumulated so much stuff in China in ten months. Some stuff we got rid of, some we recycled, and the other stuff we packed. The problem was that we were going from Vietnam in the summer to New York in the winter. This meant a big change in temperature which meant packing more layers.
Then, finally, came Mexico! Warm temperatures for our whole trip and my expert knowledge of what I do need and what I truly don’t need in five months backpacking. It’s my best packing yet and my Osprey is full, but not stuffed.
I’ve changed as a person in three years and my travelling lifestyle has changed dramatically. I now work, travel slowly, try and avoid too many flights and disruption to the environment, and seek local restaurants over chains. It’s been a brilliant three years!