Travelling makes us a hardy lot as we are exposed to different experiences and environments every day. But every one of us, whether first-time travellers or those more worldly, could do with developing these life skills that are not only handy whilst travelling the globe, but will translate to awesome traits in the real world too.
1. The skill of improvisation.
Unfortunately as travellers, sometimes plans go awry. Learn to roll with the punches though and you could turn that stressful accident into the most epic day of your trip. Get on the wrong train? Explore the new destination instead. The evening show you wanted to see is booked out? Go and see a matinee, then go to a nice restaurant for dinner afterwards. Don't sweat the small stuff, every mistake is the potential for something better to come along and adapting to these early means removing stress before it ruins your day. This will give you a more easy-going and positive outlook on life in general.
Real life example: We went to Ireland for 3 days last time we visited England. On our second day, we thought that we'd like to do a tour for our last day. I was desperate to see a castle (I love them, as there are't any in Australia) but all the bus tours with castles didn't run on a Tuesday. We googled castles close to Dublin, caught the train out to Malahide and went on a tour there instead. It was an amazing castle with a fantastic guide, we loved it!
2. Having a few back up plans.
By having a few options up your sleeve, it will save you from being stranded. If you know that there is a train into Athens, as well as two buses and a chariot (well, it's worth checking) then if for some reason you misread the Greek signs and the trains indeed don't run on a Sunday, then you know you have alternate methods to get there.
Real life example: Planning a trip to Melbourne on a weekend to watch the footy, we had a look at the different ways we could get into the city and around. We looked at driving, the train, the bus or taxis. There were too many of us to fit in one car, and nowhere to park near the football due to the main car park being closed that weekend. So we drove in two cars to meet at a train station on the way and then we all jumped on a train for the other half the trip.
Knowing how to take the initiative and think outside the square is an amazing plus whilst travelling. Information these days can be found absolutely everywhere: by talking to people, researching online, reviews or word of mouth. Learn to listen to the right people and sift out the less-informed and you will find nuggets of good information. Then you can maximise on that knowledge and find some truly wonderful things, cheaper alternatives and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, just because you decided to be inventive and resourceful.
Real life example: We got to Rome late after catching the train, nearly got arrested for fare evasion for having the wrong ticket, the bus driver told us the long way to our accommodation, we nearly got mugged and then proceeded to have a very bad day in Rome the next day. We got back to our hotel room and decided on the spur of the moment to take a day-tour to Tuscany the next day. After some googling, reading reviews and checking options, we ended up booking about 11pm that night. We experienced an ace tour of Tuscany that took our breath away, it was one of the highlights of 6 weeks in Europe... just by thinking outside the square and looking for better options.
4. Talk to the locals.
And I mean really talk, not just a polite "hello, how are you?" The locals are the experts on any subject relating to their locality. They know where the good food is, where the best sights are and the things that are not found in tourist brochures. Imagine if someone came to your town, you could easily tell a traveller the best things in your area. There are locals everywhere in the world, chat to them and engage with them and you will be surprised at the things you will see and learn!
Real life example: We got chatting to a man who hired out bicycles while we were in Fethiye, Turkey. Whilst chatting with him for about half an hour, he told us his friend ran boat trips. The 12 of us got a whole boat to ourselves, for the day, lunch included for about $30AUD per person and it was one of the best days we had the whole trip. By not talking to people and truly engaging with them and listening to their knowledge, we may never be rewarded with opportunities like this.
5. Travelling lightly.
I know, it's possibly the hardest part for anyone, especially us girls! But once you develop this habit, you will never look back! This goes for packing, your environmental footprint and cultural respect too. How many times have you not touched more than half your stuff in your suitcase? How many times have you bought plastic bags and water bottles because you weren't prepared? How often have you not known something of cultural significance about a place you're travelling? Plan ahead and aim to do better. If packing, one straightener will do between you, share cardis or basics, book swap while you're travelling or bring a kindle, there are so many ways to save space! Benefits include: no sore arms or back from lugging heavy suitcases, not waiting at the baggage carousels for ages waiting for your luggage, move freely and easily from once place to the next, cheaper domestic flights without paying checked baggage, more pristine beaches that aren't littered with plastic... the list goes on.
Real life example: Taking carry-on only made sure we were through customs quickly without waiting in a huge line and then we got on an unpacked train into the city. Win!
There are so many good habits to develop that will make life so much easier and more enjoyable, but with these 5 to start you off, you'll be smooth sailing! And just think, one day when you're sitting down for a job interview, you can tell your soon-to-be boss how travel has helped your growth and how the skills you have learnt travelling make you a much more appealing candidate. Win!