Being a seasoned traveller before embarking on my 6 months long trip to New Zealand, I never would have thought I would have too much of a new experience, at least when it came to travel. I travel around 3 – 4 times in a year while working so I was pretty used to travelling budget and with just a backpack. However, the longest that I’ve travelled was my 3 week trip around London, Paris and Edinburgh, never 6 months. I can now say that the experience taught me so so much, not just in travelling but my own habits itself.
It taught me a little bit of minimalism. After carrying all your possession with you for 6 months on a small backpack, you really get to appreciate the necessities of life better. Not only did it force me to pack smart, it forced me to downsize a lot of my necessities that I carried so as not to overburden me during my travel. I learnt to live with only the important items and I slowly learnt to value travelling minimally as it was quite hard to keep carrying a heavy backpack around.
At one point in my trip, I got complacent and started buying a lot of items as I was staying a bit longer at my hostel. At the end of my stay there, I ended up giving away a lot of my things as I couldn’t fit it all into my bag. That really taught me a good lesson as I regretted wasting my money like that. In fact, I decided to apply this principle to myself when I returned home and got rid of most of my clothes. Instead, I limited it to a much smaller stash of clothes that gets regularly worn.
It taught me real independence. Travelling solo for the last 3 years before my trip already made me quite independent on my travels. Living out of a backpack for 6 months, however, is a totally different experience. Living as if you had moved out, it forced me to figure out everything myself. I remember trying to sort out my banking issues while trying to apply for my tax id in New Zealand by myself. It was a hectic and stressful time since I had to arrange for all the documentation by myself. This was definitely a new experience but I now know that I have the confidence to face any of these challenges in the future.
It taught me good habits. You meet different sorts of people when you stay in a hostel. Meeting these people made me improve my daily habits to avoid inconveniencing others especially since I was living in dormitories all the time. I got used to putting away my clothes so that it is easier to take out when others were sleeping. Or to arrange my personal items on my bed properly so that it doesn’t fall (especially from the top bunk) or get lost in the sheets when I’m rushing to check out.
Even washing my clothes every week was a chore that I looked forward to because it meant I would have clean clothes again. Proper habits that I still try to continue now that I’m back home. Not that I was really messy before but I’m just saying that I have definitely improved since I returned after living with even messier dorm mates.
It taught me budgeting and savings skills. This was the biggest impact on me. I have to confess that I’m an impulse buyer. Having to plan my weekly budget so that my money can last made me really conscious of my impulse spending. I was forced to really balance my needs against my wants during travel. Did I need to buy magazines every month? Not really, I discovered. The money spent on that could actually go towards buying more groceries for the week. So I learnt to really curb my instinctive spending habits when I was there because it meant more money for living expenses.
I’m sorry that it’s taken me that long to develop this habit but I’m determined to continue with this habit. It has been quite ingrained in me now when it comes to spending after doing it while travelling. Sometimes, I find it hard to justify buying something new for me, like clothes. Instead, I continue to wear some of my old clothes even though it’s starting to look quite faded after all the washing.
It helped me hone my packing skills. After packing and repacking my bag constantly throughout my travels, I’m pretty sure I’m a pro at packing my backpack now. In fact, I managed to squeeze in some souvenirs on my way back even though my bag was already quite full. I like to challenge myself sometimes to maximize the space in my bag, is this a weird obsession? I feel really accomplished when my bag is packed very nicely.
And, there you have it. These are some ways long term travel has changed me for the better. I feel that travelling for 6 months was really short to be considered long term but I’ve learnt so much during my time that it’s hard not to look on the changes positively. All of these habits are quite valuable, aren’t they? Even my packing skills? 😉
Are there any habits that you’ve picked up while travelling? Please do share! 🙂