Hello from Thailand—the past ten days have taken me to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pai. I’ve played with elephants, swam in waterfalls, and motorbiked through the mountains. Here are five new rules for travel:
1. Bring books
You have so much time to read on the road. And while I am a huge stickler for physical books, my Kindle saved me. I think it’s important to get the most basic version—the one that only has books—so I don’t tempt myself with games and movies when I read. The Kindle is so compact that it can literally fit in the pocket of my athletic shorts, and I bring it everywhere.
When you travel, you’ll wait a lot—usually for transportation, but also in unexpected places. For example, I love to read when I eat alone, especially at outdoor cafes. I particularly enjoyed this in Paris and Budapest. Reading is something we all have time for, and if you don’t believe me…check your screen time for Tik Tok.
My two most valuable possessions on this trip are my one line a day book and my journal, because they are irreplaceable. Journaling is the most important activity I do every day. Aside from the fact that it’s a great catalogue of my trip, it is an absolutely essential way to process information. There will be so much happening when you travel, you owe it to yourself to think through it.
Journaling is so important that the moment I wake up, I know what I need to write about (usually, it’s analyzing and processing whatever happened the previous day). It’s like I wake up with excess thoughts, the same way people wake up with gunk in their eyes, and journaling is how I drain them.
If you’re trying to start a journaling habit, I can’t recommend it enough. Don’t worry about a set amount of time or length—I don’t have one—and focus on putting words on the page. The habit will permeate the rest of your life. You will become more thoughtful, more analytical, and more willing to question yourself.
3. Turn off your phone
When I’m at home, I’m very good about going several hours without my phone. It’s been much harder abroad, because of the sheer necessity of the internet. Google Maps, specifically, is borderline essential when you’re traveling alone.
However, you can still be intentional about how often you’re on your phone. For example, I never scroll on social media before I go to bed. Additionally, I try my absolute hardest not to use it first thing in the morning, opting instead to meditate and journal. I just started putting my phone on airplane mode when I go to sleep, which means I never see how many texts or emails I have until I consciously decide to turn my phone on. This makes it far easier to complete my morning routine.
4. Let “abroad change you.”
Sure, it’s a massive cliché that “abroad changes you.” But would you really want it any other way? Is it even possible to travel by yourself for four months and stay the same person? And would you want to be someone who remains unchanged after such an intense experience? This trip is absolutely changing me, likely in ways I don’t even realize yet.
For those who are interested, here are some questions I ask myself: Am I becoming more independent? Am I better at dealing with adversity? Am I attached to home or becoming more confident alone? Am I living by the same values as when I’m home? Am I treating people the same way? Am I getting the right amount of sleep? How have my eating and drinking habits changed? Etc.
5. Approach it with love
Yes, there are hardships when you travel. But we must approach each situation with as much love, compassion, and empathy that we can muster. You’ve been searching for your friends for over an hour at a castle in Budapest because you can only communicate over Instagram DM and your other friend doesn’t have data? And you’re hungry and the castle closes soon and you need to find them? Great. Love it. Lean into the chaos. Smile.
You’re with four people, each from a different country, and therefore you can’t transfer money electronically? And the restaurant won’t split the check, so you pay with cash and transfer debts amongst each other like you’re back in high school? Perhaps it’s annoying, perhaps you can love the nostalgia. That’s a choice.
It’s hard to “love” problems because it feels like you’re letting the other side win, whether that’s another person or the cursed P&O Ferry Company (that makes you check in a whopping ninety minutes before your ride across the English Channel). But honestly, most problems are legitimately funny and enjoyable, if you choose to see that side. What an interesting quirk that you must get to a ferry so early. What a way to practice negotiation and manners when you’re forced to hitchhike in Iceland. How lovely, how completely cliché, to get caught in the rain.
There’s the flip side, too—remembering to love the good situations, because there are many! Look around and notice that you’re in a bar watching live music in a town that, two weeks ago, you didn’t know existed. Be aware that your social circle is, for the first time, international. Embrace the sunsets and the waterfalls and the mud and the curry. Love every single second.