When I used to prepare myself for trips more than I do now, I would read many pages with tips and advice from fellow travelers. Some were pretty useful, some turned out to be not for me. Here’s a short list of what I disliked and why:

TIP 1: Take some old clothes that you’ll wear out and then throw away at the end of the trip making space for souvenirs.
WHY IT DIDN’T WORK: cotton clothes that I took for my first trip in Thailand took ages to dry. When I went out with my Thai friends I felt out of place in my ‘old’ traveling clothes when other people were dressed up.

TIP 2: Don’t take too much, you can always buy some nice local clothes.
WHY IT DIDN’T WORK: I didn’t like the fact that ‘some nice local clothes’ seem to be worn mainly by tourists, so you stand out of the crowd almost immediately. Additionally, when I come back home I never wear those clothes – too hippy or casual for my everyday needs.

TIP 3: When you really want to get to know the country you’re visiting, go to small villages or talk to poor people.
WHY IT DIDN’T WORK: While visiting small villages is different, less touristy and the places look good in your photos, and talking to poor people might be moving and eye-opening, and yes, those people look good in your photos as well, it’s not the ONLY real life. I’m a city girl right now, my friends in my home country are people similar to me, I don’t mix with homeless, I wouldn’t have much to talk about with people with background much different from mine so it’s stupid to expect that I should look for such people in another country. I can much better relate to those who are in some way similar to me. I’ve heard a couple of times that I’m not learning about the real people and life, but if that was true it would mean that my life in Poland isn’t ‘true and real’ either.

TIP 4: Don’t pack bulky things, wear them on the plane.
WHY IT DIDN’T WORK: Well, I could never understand why I should wear too much, walk around the airport looking like a Michelin man and stuff it around me when on the plane, while I could just put it safely in my backpack and forget about it. The only time I really had to do something like that was about 10 years ago when I was coming back from London on a low-cost flight, I had bought too many books and my luggage was really heavy, but it happened once.

TIP 5: Don’t take your jeans, they are heavy, take long to dry and are uncomfortable when travelling.
WHY IT DIDN’T WORK: I find jeans to be the most comfortable clothes ever, and it makes me feel at home.

TIP 6: When you go on your own, plan everything carefully.
WHY IT DIDN’T WORK: It’s boring. The best thing about being on your own is making decisions on the spur of the moment.

These are the tips that didn’t work for me, but they might work for you. It’s always good to read advice, but don’t follow it blindly, adjust it to your needs.

And, unfortunately, the easiest way to learn is to learn from your mistakes.

So, have you also learnt from your mistakes?

  • Some valid arguments to the norm here. #3 in particular is one that always bugged me. It’s like a sort of reverse snobbery, as though you are not a real “traveller” if you go to a big city or anywhere considered touristy. I have to say I would have missed some amazing experiences if I avoided all the “tourist traps”.

    • True! Some places are touristy simply because they are worth seeing and they draw crowds :)
      I would never skip for example Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat because they are touristy. And I always tell people that they are many more tourists in Europe and nobody complains about London or Madrid being too touristy.

  • Traveling is an iterative process and we’re always learning. Over the years I’ve tailored my travel style, things I carry with me, etc. One the main differences I notice, is the reduced amount of stuff I carry with me.

    It’s always important to see the cities and the “tourist traps”. They are famous for a reason.

  • haha I love this topic. i also find jeans to be the most comfortable clothes ever. And you know, of course when we say to emerge to village life, is the same in Poland, indeed people from the countryside do still live a life more traditional than is urban areas of the country. So, if you don’t want to learn and experience something different than just city people – urban clothes and western looking … then you stay home. I mean, even though you don’t have much in common, this is the key factor to learn about other cultures, and countryside is more traditional, where things are still different. :)

  • Lillie

    These are SO TRUE!!!! Ahh, Thai street clothes… I will push back on one thing you said, though, in that I still wear my stretchy Thai street shorts every week, 7 years after returning from Thailand! Hah!

  • Erika Bisbocci

    I actually follow a lot of those tips. I definitely don’t follow tip #6 either though. And I do agree that jeans are comfortable and convenient, but only when traveling to non-tropical locations. I actually really love going into the countryside, but I don’t think it is necessarily a more authentic experience than the cities…it is just different….

  • Interesting perspective. Also about the jeans- I always carry at least two pairs because they help you blend in almost everywhere and can be dressed up and down. Yoga pants, not so much!

  • Antonette Spaan

    Ah yes, I always see hikers wearing cotton clothes and then wonder ‘why’? But then realize I made the same mistake myself as well …

  • Buddy The Traveling Monkey

    I think everyone has their own preferences. I hardly ever wear jeans if I’m in warmer climates, I prefer workout type clothes. But I also never take old clothes because I don’t want to look too bummy lol!

  • Karla Ramos

    Funny cause I have heard this advice one too many times. I sometimes do the wear a lot in airports ( well, mostly if I travel to a cold place) . I get cold fast so I tend to bring a lot. The others I agree with you.