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Last year I wrote a post about 15 things I’ve learned from driving across the US seven times. I thought it would be fun to share some things I’ve learned from visiting 15 countries around the world. Some of these things are practical. Some are glaringly obvious things I already know or are more of an observation. And others are just things I’ve learned about myself along the way, or re-learned. I’ve written one lesson per country in no particular order, so, here we go!
This is the perfect time zone for me
I loved the time zone in New Zealand. At home, I would be up super late, but with the time difference, I would be ready for bed and awake at decent hours, like, not two in the morning or noon! Unlike Europe, I wasn’t horribly jetlagged making it much more enjoyable during the day. It was wonderful! Inconvenient for talking to anyone else around the world, but perfect, too.
I could eat Nimm 2 all day every day
Specifically, the soft ones. These are like little Laffy Faffy balls with Gusher filling. It wouldn’t surprise me if I ate my weight in these while we were there, then brought a ton home. I also stocked up when I found them in Slovenia a few years later! Germany knows what it’s doing when it comes to candy.
People will rob you, or at least try
Sometimes I forget I almost got robbed in Quito. Maybe pickpocketed or pick-pursed is a better term. I was walking around with a few people and a lady made a rookies mistake and bumped into me. I turned around and she death-glared at me from like a foot away before falling behind. My purse was unzipped, but everything was still there, thankfully. We were also warned on one of our last days about having our cameras out because someone got mugged nearby.
BONUS: The Galapagos
Wear sunscreen, like for reals
I got some pretty solid sunburns on the Galapagos, but not as bad as on Malapascua. Ecuador and the Galapagos are, after all, right on the equator. I mean, it is how Ecuador got its name. Even the back of my hands got sunburned. I’ve never seen that before. Really, wear sunscreen and drink all the water.
I’m still not great with directions
I didn’t spend much time in Mexico, but I did get lost a couple times in Cancun. The first was as soon as I got off the bus from the airport when I was looking for my hostel. I don’t know if I got lost since I really never knew where I was, but I sure didn’t know where I was going and just kind of wandered around and happened to find it. I had a poorly drawn map, picked a direction adn decided if I didn’t find it after 20 minutes, I would try a different direction. I got lucky on my first try, thank the lord since it was so hot.
I also got two of us lost on our way back from the resort part of Cancun to our hostel. I swore I knew how to get back from where we were, I wasn’t that far from it the night before, but I didn’t know. We did eventually make it, but not from where I thought we would have.
Jurassic Park probably took place here
I was only here for a few days but I really enjoyed the jungle. I just remember being on the bus coming in from Mexico driving through the middle of nowhere and thinking “I think I’m in Jurassic Park.” I even made a Facebook status about it. There might still be dinosaurs roaming around there for all I know. There aren’t, I know. But, the book Jurassic Park did take place in Costa Rica, but was filmed in Hawaii, in case you were wondering.
I’m still really bad at reading maps
I’m not proud of this one, but I do like telling the story. I was switching hostels in Antigua and put the address of the one I was looking for into Google Maps. I set out walking. I knew roughly where it was from passing by it a couple nights before, but didn’t know exactly. I wandered around the same blocks for at least an hour before asking someone for directions. It was right around the corner. I had the map the wrong direction. 🤦🏼♀️
Lion King could have probably taken place here
While I didn’t technically stay here, or El Salvador, that’s why it’s not listed, I did pass through on my way from Antigua to Leon. I know not all of Honduras resembles the African grasslands, but the west side that we drove through certainly did. I remember looking up and thinking that this is probably where the Lion King happened. I know it didn’t really, but it certainly looked like it.
Always ask if the water is safe
This was a rookie mistake on my part, which makes it even worse because it was like two weeks before I went home, meaning I had already been on the road for two months! While I didn’t just drink tap water, I did enjoy a perfectly refreshing glass of lemonade with some delicious baked goods at a little panderia on Big Corn Island. Two ladies came in after we guzzled down our lemonade and one, like a good tourist, asked if the lemonade was made with water that was safe to drink. The lady working answered with a simple shake of her head. No. No, it’s not. 🤦🏼♀️
The three of us that just finished ours before we got the answer and I won’t lie, I was terrified of getting sick. Food poisoning freaks me out. Well, the next morning came along and it did not go well. I spent an extra night in Managua and was super nervous about everything I drank after that. Always ask if it’s safe to drink.
There are not sloths hanging all over every tree
I almost didn’t even go to Costa Rica. I decided to for three reasons: sloths, coffee, and zip lining. The only thing I didn’t see there were sloths. I was so sad. When I was biking between towns, my eyes were practically glued to the treetops instead of the roads, and no luck. They probably aren’t easy to see 5o feet off the ground while you’re moving either, though.
I cry when I get yelled at, even by strangers
I’ve briefly mentioned this a few times on here, but I’ve never really told the story. I probably still won’t here because it’s kind of long. But the TLDR is that we went to Red Frog Beach, gave the entrance money to our boat driver (that we trusted) to give to the people who take the money since no one was at the little stand to take it directly from us. We start walking to the beach and this big guy stops us and demands our money. He’s yelling at us and telling us were untrustworthy and lying. We were like, the two most trusting people out there.
A family passed us while he was yelling at us and he didn’t even acknowledge them. Why did he think we didn’t pay, but they did when no one was still at the stand!? He lets us go. We don’t like the beach. We leave. He follows us to yell at us even more. It’s like he was waiting for us to leave. He’s threatening to call the police. He’s still yelling. He refuses to let us go. He calls someone, then just says “fine, leave.” So we do and nothing happens. I cried at the end though. I hate being yelled at and then he just kept calling me baby. It was an awful experience and I do not want to go back there at all.
Our boat driver was supposed to pick us up hours later, but we left without him. He was mad when we saw him later, but we explained and he understood. He also paid whoever he was supposed to. I did not enjoy that.
Schnapps in Slovenia is different than the US
Here, Schnapps is overly sweet sugar water with a tiny bit of alcohol in it that gets mixed into drinks. In Slovenia, Schnapps is moonshine. I don’t have a lot on this, but if you’re in Slovenia and are offered Schnapps, get ready. It’s strong.
I don’t not like Asian food as much as I thought
When I was on my own the first two weeks in Taiwan, I dreaded having to find somewhere to eat because I either didn’t know what to order, I couldn’t read the menu, or the restaurants looked creepy and not even open. I avoided it as long as possible and ate a lot of Ritz crackers.
Once I got back to Taipei and made friends to go to the night markets with, I was a lot less nervous about trying the food or going to tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I didn’t love the meat stuff, it seemed kind of fatty, so I would eat some and pick around bits of it. But I did learn I love the noodle and soup type dishes as well as dumplings. I could eat dumplings every day followed by some Nimm 2 and be happy.
Believe it or not, I still can’t read maps
Shocking, right? I did alright most places, but Google Maps didn’t work offline here, so we just had to count streets. Well, I was in charge of the map and we started walking. We should have made it to the coffee shop. We crossed the seven streets. No sign of it. Thankfully there was a 7-11 right next to us, so we popped in to use the Wifi. Turns out we were supposed to go the other direction. 🤦🏼♀️ (Have I used this too much already?)
We turned around and everything worked out. We got to hold puppies. We eventually made it. Then later that day, we were looking for a craft market and couldn’t find that either. Thankfully it was just across the street from where we were. Other than that, I did fine there.
Also, in Tokyo, I had no idea how to get to my hostel. I just knew the direction I needed to go from the subway station. I knew I needed to pass Orange Street (a street painted orange) and I was close. I think I took a different way back every time, but I always made it!
If you can’t find a way to do it online, it probably means you can’t do it
Finally, this fiasco. I don’t know if I would really call it a fiasco, but it didn’t go well. Our plan was to go by land from Bantayan to Palawan. Online, it seems sort of possible. In reality, I wouldn’t recommend even trying. And, to be fair, we did know there was a chance it wouldn’t work, but our hopes were pretty high. It was supposed to go like this: jeepney, ferry, tricycle, bus, tricycle, ferry, jeepney, ferry. Or something like that.
Well, we made it all the way to Iloilo, where the last ferry would leave from. We got there no problem and once we did, no one had any idea what ferry we were talking about. Someone, thankfully, walked us to the right ferry port, but what we needed either didn’t exist, was broken, or left three days later. We ended up getting a hotel and flying from Iloilo to Puerto Princesa the next day. That kind soul that got us to the port drove us around to find a hotel and plane tickets. He also took us to the airport the next morning.
The lesson here? Do everything you can to make sure the last ferry you need is actually running, and running on the day you thought. We would have saved a lot of money by just flying right away, but now I just know for the future. It was an experience I’m glad I had and that I’m very glad I wasn’t alone for.
Well, now that you’ve found out about some of the more ridiculous things I’ve done traveling, I hope you enjoyed them and learned a little something. I know I enjoyed writing this.
What have you learned from traveling? Can you relate to any of these? What are your travel fails?