The true experience of travel remains a mystery until you hit the road.
You can never truly know what awaits until you hit the runway, step off the plane and allow the adventure to unfold.
Reading the blogs and watching the videos will only ever take you so far.
You have to live it.
But that’s no good to you! You’re looking for insight into the travel experience ahead.
Maybe you’re thinking about travel, but want to know more about it before committing. Perhaps the trip’s already booked, but you’re looking for reassurance you’ve made the right call. Maybe you’re unspeakably excited and want to escape into your future adventure.
Whatever the case, I could totally see why the experience of travelling would be of interest. After all, knowing what to expect is always nice.
Below you’ll find 15 things I’ve experienced in my travel experience that I’m sure you’ll experience as well.
I hope they’ll shed some light on the incredible time you’re sure to have!
My Travel Experience: 15 Features of the Travel Experience
1. The Nervous Excitement
Nobody embarks on an adventure without experiencing that familiar combo of nerves and excitement.
It marks the lead up to any trip! You feel giddy and anxious at what’s to come.
Nerves are to be expected.
After all, you’re doing something that’s new and full of uncertainty. You have no idea what awaits, other than that you’ll be waving goodbye to the comfort of friends and family. The world can seem big and scary.
That’s what makes it exciting too, though! You feel it rise from deep within. The allure of adventure feels palpable; you’re drawn to the very idea of it.
Expect a fair degree of nervous-excitement to follow you throughout the trip too. It can be a constant companion throughout the experience of travel.
2. The Time
Think about how much spare time you currently have each week.
Life has a nasty habit of commandeering it, right?
Everything from school and work commitments to family and household chores can seem to strip us of our time.
Travel has the lovely habit of giving it back.
Suddenly, you have time to yourself. It still passes as quickly as ever. But, for once, you’re in full control. Roles, responsibilities and obligations fall away; it’s just you and the experience.
3. The Freedom
Even better, you get to spend your time as you please.
Life back home can feel confined, stifling and claustrophobic.
Travel’s the total opposite. It’s a dream come true. You experience uninhibited freedom to do whatever you bloody want. There’s nobody telling you where to go, what to do, who to be, or how to behave.
Your day to day experience is firmly up to you. Fill it with activity or do nothing at all.
This is genuinely one of my favourite aspects of travelling. Having full control of your time is a real gift.
Heads up, you might also like this post about the characteristics of heritage tourism!
4. The Independence
Freedom and independence go hand in hand.
I used to dream of the day I could step out into the world with my own two feet. I remember feeling distinctly put-out by the limitations and constraints of being a kid.
All I wanted was to do my own thing!
Being truly independent is about freedom and empowerment. You fend for yourself, decide your own path, and learn what you’re capable of in the process.
Solo travelling, in particular, forces it upon you. You’re out in the world, in the thick of it, with nobody to rely upon but yourself. It’s the epitome of independence.
5. The Novel Sensory Experiences
Travelling assaults your senses like nothing else I know.
Places in Asia come to mind. There’s nothing quite like an Asian city to excite the senses!
Everything is intense. They’re loud, hectic, full of exotic smells, fast-paced, and wild.
You’re assaulted by a cacophony of noise at every turn. Cars, people, building-work, shop-owners, taxi-drivers…everywhere is alive and bustling and full of energy.
It isn’t always enjoyable! I, for one, find them a stressful place to be after a while. Yet the case can be the same wherever you find yourself in the world!
That’s partly why the experience of travel’s so incredible. There’d be no point doing it if everywhere you went was the same.
6. The Good Samaritans
Any travel experience will confront you with really beautiful people.
You’ll be stuck, confused, lost and upset, and somebody will come to your rescue. These good Samaritans exist everywhere you go.
You can be at your lowest ebb and have a complete stranger pick you up and dust you off.
The particular help they provide doesn’t matter. It might be something as simple as pointing you in the right direction, or as significant as feeding and clothing you.
Whatever the case, you’ll inevitably find yourself in need of a strangers’ kindness at some point on the road.
And, more often than not, someone will emerge from the woodwork to help.
7. The Friendly Faces
The people you meet while travelling will make the experience truly special.
Solo travel is never really solo. It’s rare to be totally alone. You meet fellow travellers at every turn, become friends in an instant, and have incredible adventures with each other.
Those friendly faces are likely to create your most treasured memories.
Of course, there are others who won’t be quite as friendly! But they’re far rarer. I’ve never been travelling and failed to meet lovely, kind-hearted, like-minded people.
8. The Newfound Self-Awareness
You learn a lot about yourself when you travel.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re alone or with friends. Either way, expect to come away with a basket-full of newfound self-awareness.
Everything about the experience of travel holds a mirror up to you. The hardship, the decisions, the people, the emotions…it’s hard not to learn a thing or two about who you are.
In the gritty process of coming to terms with that disparity, you discover more about who you’ve been, who you now are, and who you want to become.
There’s a reason people joke about the cliché of ‘finding yourself’ on the road. It’s exactly what happens!
9. The Sublime and Ridiculous
You’ll experience things while travelling that you’ve never come across before.
Most will be good, some will be bad, and a few will be downright bizarre.
It might be in the food you eat (I once licked the brains from a cooked duck head in Cambodia), the cultural events you see (I once watched a parade of Sri Lankan men suspended in mid-air from hooks through their skin) or any number of other things.
Whatever you do and wherever you go, expect to be baffled, boggled and bemused on more than the odd occasion.
10. The Culture Shock
Experiencing new cultures is something I love most about travel.
There’s something deeply fascinating about immersing yourself in a new way of life.
For me, that’s what travel’s all about. Again, I don’t think I’d see the point of doing it if everywhere felt the same as home.
And by the same token, it can shock, challenge, and test you.
Experiencing a vastly different culture for the first time can be inherently uncomfortable. It’s tempting to resist, judge and dismiss what you see; to compare it with what you know and deem it inferior somehow.
Don’t do that.
A new culture can take some getting used to. But that’s all it is: new. Being thrust headfirst into anything takes a period of adjustment.
Try and be open-minded and accepting. An openness to the difference way of life automatically makes it easier to settle in.
11. The Memories
Here’s a short but certain travel truth:
You’ll never walk away from travelling without a new set of stories to tell.
Everything about the experience is memorable. From crazy sights to close encounters, beauty beyond belief and friendly faces to explore it all with.
Travelling will leave an indelible mark on your life in all manner of ways. You’ll get older, but the memories will remain; you’ll relive the experiences you have on the road countless times over.
The travels may be over, but they’ll live on in memory for as long as you walk the earth.
It’s one reason why I see travel as far more than just a hobby.
12. The Mishaps
Okay, onto a few of the more difficult things to expect from the travel experience.
The mishaps are the first that come to mind. Unless you’re spending the entire time on the beach, you’re sure to have the occasional hiccup.
Anything can go wrong when you travel.
Spend long enough on the road and you can almost guarantee something’s going to go wrong.
It’s never fun, but it’s almost never the end of the world either. These are the occasions when you get to test your mettle, overcome the adversity and become a stronger person in the process.
13. The Scams
Scams are one of the potential problems you’ll encounter on the road.
Being swindled out of your money is always annoying. It might be the tuk-tuk driver who overcharges you, the market salesperson who sells you a dud, the tour that doesn’t live up to the advert…
There are as many scams around the world as there are countries in it. Expect to be hustled somewhere down the line- it’s just one of the disadvantages of travelling.
Keep in mind that many people around the world don’t have a lot of money.
They assume travellers are rich (and, by their standards, most actually are) and can afford the loss. They may just be doing what they can to put food on their kids’ table and give their family a better life.
In any case, though, it makes sense to do a bit of research before you leave home.
Google the particular scams in the countries you’re going to. This prior preparation’s sure to stand you in good stead. It’ll help you know what to look out for when you’re there.
14. The Uncertainty
Travel can make you feel totally clueless.
Uncertainty’s at every turn.
You don’t know where to go, where to stay, where to eat, how to communicate, what food to eat, where you’re headed next, how to get there, how long you’ll be there, who you’ll meet, how you’ll feel…the list continues.
Uncertainty can be part of daily life on the road. You get used to it eventually; you might even start to enjoy it! However, there’s a definite teething period where it feels distinctly uncomfortable.
People are designed to dislike uncertainty.
Millions of years of evolution have pre-programmed us to favour predictability instead. What’s known feels safer (which is part of the reason why travel can be daunting in the first place). In our bid to survive, our brain tries to convince us that’s what we need.
Stepping outside what’s known feels dangerous. We get all anxious and fearful.
Expect to struggle at times. And, if it gets really bad, think about making more of a plan of action. Set a schedule and build a routine. There’s less room for adventure, but your days might feel a little more comfortable.
15. The Challenge
This final travel expectation may have already become obvious:
It ain’t always easy.
All the mishaps, scams, and uncertainty can stack up to a fair degree of challenge on the road. You’ll be tired, lonely and homesick. You’ll have days when you want nothing more than to be back home and surrounded by the people that love you.
At times you’ll feel sick, in pain, frightened, unsure, and generally uneasy about something.
Suffering gets a bad rep in society. But that’s where the personal growth and discovery comes into play. You get through the tough times and realize what you’re capable of.
Travel’s a bit like a big brother.
Sure, it’ll pick on you, call you names, and rough you around every once in a while. But, at the end of the day, it’s always got your back.
Final Thoughts on the Experience of Travel
There you have it: 15 sure-fire things to expect from the experience of travel.
Anybody yet to hit the road can wonder what travel’s really like. It’s natural to want a heads up, an insight into the adventures ahead, and a general idea of what’s in store.
In all honestly, I reckon it’ll remain something of a mystery until you do it for yourself.
Nonetheless, I hope these 15 features of any travel experience have proved helpful. I hope they’ve helped set your expectations, given you something to look forward to, and enabled you to decide if travel’s for you.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Which part of the experience of travel most appeals to you?
Drop me a comment to let me know! And remember to subscribe to the newsletter if you’d like to stay up to speed with more posts like this one.