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Kati’s 3+1 step travel advice

April 4, 2018

Now that almost a year has passed since my big trip, I am back to a life with a daily routine. That’s maybe the biggest contrast to being on the road. Wearing more than a rotation of 4 t-shirts is also nice. Blogging on a laptop as well. During my spring clean of this site, I discovered another unpublished fragment that I wrote somewhere between Fiji and Fuji back then and I wanted to share it with you.

I’ve found along the way that my travel style is different from most people’s and I really enjoy it. When I look at the grand scheme of things, not the what-to-pack-how-to-pack kinda stuff, here is my humble opinion on traveling. Kati’s 3 step travel advice if you like:

1. Go slow

Some people asked me in all honesty what on earth I was planning to do for 6 weeks in Fiji. Well, what can I say to that. [Insert wise, calm, Buddha-like smile here.] But seriously people, slow down. You won’t get to know a country or even a city in one-two weeks. Plan the amount of world you want to see according to your time budget. There is so much to see anywhere, even around the corner by the way. After two weeks camping at Dolphin Bay Diver’s Reatreat in Tavenuni, I had a Schlüsselmoment that defined the rest of my trip. I found a hammock at the beach, made myself comfortable and looked out at sea. When I next checked for time, it was    four   hours   later.    I hadn’t slept, I hadn’t read, I hadn’t talked to anyone. I listened to the waves, observed the tide coming in, felt the breeze and watched my dirty feet. I hope it doesn’t sound too pathetic when I say that this moment changed my life.

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Going slow in Fiji.

You can’t do this if you have a to-do list. If I only had two-three weeks let’s say, I would choose a destination with short travel time, very carfeully select a few places that I wanted to see and leave the rest open. Going slow is less stressful and cheaper than rushing through a program. And it leaves more space for the next point.

2. Go local

Upon my arrival in Fiji, I met a nice lady at the bus stop in front of the airport (full story here). After chatting for a while, she offered me to stay at her house. At first I was amazed, but then I experienced this almost every single day while in Fiji. I could have done almost my entire 6 week stay there without any advance planning, relying for directions, transport and even accommodation entirely on the mamas, taxi drivers, bartenders and school children I met along the way! This was a big takeaway. I realized that too much planning in advance, mainly booking accommodation online, was preventing me from going more local. The family with a spare bedroom in rural Vanuatu, the guy who opened a community hostel in Northeast Laos, the rundown Chinese business hotel in Lashio, Burma or the campsite of the National Park near Penang, Malaysia all don’t have websites. You find them by walking around, asking, and often by chance.

Going local in Myeik, Burma.

These establishments tended to be more locally owned and less catering to the tourism mainstream than the backpacker hostels on bookingdotcom, expats renting rooms on airbnb or the higher end hotels on other sites like agoda. Nothing against those. But I enjoyed not just talking to those mamas, taxi drivers and school children, but seeing their kitchens, wardrobes and gardens, eating their food, going to their parties and yes, leaving my money with them. They needed it more than I did after all and they gave me something priceless in exchange – the famous “local experience”. (The same goes for transport and eating out obviously.)

3. Go light

You can live out of a 40 liter backpack for 8 months. Yes, you can! I did it and had even too much stuff. SE Asia is doable in flip flops. One book is enough, you read it and exchange it for a new one at the next café. Forget the ipad, the fancy camera and all other electronic equipment. A smart phone is enough. Laundry is incredibly cheap, fast and reliable in most places. If you need to buy souvenirs or 7 kilos of fabric in Yogyakarta (hehe…), mail them home. Everything arrives, eventually. The advantages of going light are major in my view:

  • You only have hand luggage on flights (assuming you stay below the 7 or 10kg allowed maximum by many airlines). So your suitcase can’t get stuck in Charles de Gaulle or go completely missing … Trust me, I’ve been there.
  • You are mobile upon arrival and can hop onto a mototaxi directly, saving time and money and feeling the wind in your hair.
  • You have less belongings that can get stolen. Actually, ideally you have nothing to fear and can leave you main pack with a store merchant if necessary. Because your phone, cash, cards and passport are with you in a purse. I found this freedom to be the biggest luxury.
backpack

40l backpack and Balinese straw hat in Japan.

+1

I get nostalgic reviewing this advice. My greatest travel fantasy still is to just leave home with my clothes on and a credit card. Maybe by bike. I will do it one day. Because my biggest advice of all is this: just go. Don’t think too much about it, don’t overplan, don’t wait to have more money, don’t calculate, calibrate and investigate (too much). Don’t worry either. If it’s the neighbourhood you have never been to in your own city on your next free afternoon – go. If it’s crossing the border to buy unusual groceries – go. If It’s visiting your friend for a long weekend, the one who is doing an internship in a random place  – go. And if it’s quitting your job to take the Transsiberian train to reach Kamchatka – go. When it comes to travel, I have to borrow the best slogan ever created in the history of advertising: Just do it.

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Going somewhere, slowly.

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