According to a recent study by alpharooms, 98% of people have expressed a regret and of those, 37% wished they had travelled more.
With that in mind, alpharooms asked UK travellers what advice they’d give their younger selves, and here’s what they said.
Don’t let youth hold you back
You’re probably used to hearing ‘You’re never too old…”. It’s often meant to allay the fear of having left something too late to do. But being young can also bring a sense of unease. Limitations are more often than not placed upon yourself, such as feeling that you are not taken seriously, that you don’t deserve to achieve your travelling dreams at such a young age or it can be actual barriers, such as not being able to afford to travel and not having had enough time in employment to save for travelling.
You shouldn’t feel that you have to do what your peers are doing either. While some people might prefer to save for a house or get married, your choice to spend money on travelling is equally as valid.
Carolyn Pearson, 54, believes that “travel is the only thing that you spend your money on that makes you richer”. Meeting new people, embracing different cultures and even eating new foods can make you a more resilient, adaptable person.
Earn as you go
Working while travelling can open new doors and offer you the chance to head further afield, discover new cultures and people and, possibly, build lifelong friendships. There’s little wonder escaping the daily grind and taking a plane to exotic locations is becoming increasingly popular.
If you’ve got a case of the travel bug, look into writing/blogging, teaching, waitressing and even hostel work to help generate an income and continue your journey.
Get to know yourself
“The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.” So says fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg. While this may seem fairly obvious, many people are uncomfortable in their own company and don’t really know how to rely on themselves.
Travelling, and in particular, solo travelling, essentially forces you into situations where you must rely on yourself as opposed to others. Perhaps, you are meeting a group of strangers for food or touring a city with only your map and favourite book for company.
That time alone can help you to find your true self. Karin Peeters, 40, firmly believes the benefits: “We need to know what we really want and need to dare to change to find the right job or partner and truly feel happy.”
Push your boundaries
More men and women are taking the plunge to go solo travelling, often doing so because it allows you to explore who you are without any constraints or limitations and without relying on anyone else. You need to push your boundaries to experience everything that you want to, without making adjustments for someone else or letting them affect your decisions.
“I went to Paris at the age of 19 and didn’t realise at that time how vital it was going to be for my self esteem. I went to have fun, to be inspired and to meet up with a holiday crush (which never worked out, by the way),” said Karin Peeters.
Prioritise your safety
Travelling abroad – especially solo – requires you to be vigilant. If you feel uncomfortable or believe there is something wrong, act on your gut feeling. You should also keep a log of your travels and pass onto family and friends, so they have an idea of your visits and trips details.
Solo travelling requires you to be mindful of any safety issues. “Invest time in pre-planning, researching the destination and making sure that your accommodation is going to be secure. Think about taking a door jammer or wedge to secure your hotel door, and be mindful of drink spiking,” said Carolyn Pearson, 54.
Use travel as therapy
It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing too much on the future, so much so that you begin to lose sight of the short term. In the UK, one in six young adults will experience an anxiety condition in their life, and travel is recognised by many as a solution.
Ian Oliver, 43, believes it has greatly helped him improve his anxiety, as despite his introverted nature, it has increased his confidence so that he can travel alone: “I tend to travel solo and yet I’m quite an introvert and unassertive.” Which leads us to our next piece of advice.
Socialise with others
Travel catalyses friendship. There are very few experiences that connect two people more than travelling to a brand-new country, overcoming language barriers and stepping completely out of your comfort zone. As Emma Bowers, 24, says: The friends I made travelling will be friends for life.”
Sarah Heidt, 50, said: “I am fifty years old now but started travelling abroad when I was 20. A younger me was a bit snooty about wanting to go it alone and figure things out on the fly. I didn’t know how much easier and how much fun group travel can be. I would advise to look into joining a group with a great guide because you learn so much sharing an experience with others – especially people you may not know well. It adds a different dimension to the trip.”
Danielle Pegg Mowbray, 38 travelled across America when she was 24. “I went with my sister, but we joined a group about a week after we got there, mixing the usual sightseeing stuff with some more off-the-beaten track experiences. I still keep in touch with some of those people we travelled with online and they’ll always be a really special part of my life for the times we shared, but for me, the best part about the trip was that I got to experience all this with my sister. We now have this common bond that no one else in our lives was part of and we had such a great time. Those memories will continue to connect us because they’ll last a lifetime.”
Learn the language
While not essential to a trip abroad, there are a number of benefits to learning a new language. Not only do you have the ability to order a beer or glass of wine during your travels, but people respond better to those who are interested and willing to learn about their culture, which can only help when it comes to roaming the world alone.
“I soon discovered if you really want to connect with someone, speak to them in their language. It’s important to make a good impression as travelling on your own can get lonely,” said Will Aylward, 27.
Research but don’t over-plan
While prior preparation will ensure that you have a roof over your head during travelling and a place to relax after a day of activities, a much-needed dose of spontaneity can transform your holiday into a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Do the research but do not over-plan. Be flexible to changing your plans and have the confidence to ditch the itinerary if you need to. I did eventually learn to embrace a more flexible way of planning but it took me a few weeks,” said Gemma Thompson, 39, a UK travel blogger.
Say yes often
You may only get one chance to travel the world, so try and say yes to all possible activities (within reason, of course). It’s these unexpected opportunities that make for the best stories when you return home.