10 things I learnt from traveling

I didn’t really travel as a child.

We didn’t have the money to afford anything more than our yearly holiday in my absolute favourite place in the world.

10 things I learnt from traveling • Cake + Whisky

But that didn’t stop me from dreaming of seeing the world and adding to my ever-growing wanderlist.

Or to get at it as soon as I had the chance, taking in the sights and a little bit of wisdom from each of the 10 countries I’ve visited sofar.

Germany

My first ever trip abroad was a school trip to Stuttgart, Germany back in 2004 and it’s the best memory I have from the overall horific college experience (the first part of High School in France, leading up to GCSEs).

From my first experience of life in a big city and staying with an amazing Turkish-German family, I learnt that middle of nowhere, whiter than white small town was not where I belonged.

And that there was a whole world of Haribo to be discovered out there!

Burkina Faso

A rural development mission to Burkina Faso took me on my first ever long-haul trip in 2007.

No phone connection, no electricity, no running water, strawberries in the middle of February – it was a completely different world and an real eye-opener for my 16-year-old self.

Kids that had nothing but would still hand up fruit and nuts at the local market. Passionate debates with professional degree students on standards of living and how it affected disposable income. The mind-boggling fact that local builders would simply stop working by Wednesday if they had made enough money for the week.

That trip changed me more than any other I have ever taken. It taught me to not take anyhting for granted – not even getting light or water at the touch of a button – gave me a sense of perspective and a drive to travel as a local.

10 things I learnt from traveling • Cake + Whisky

Sweden

A two-week trip to Sweden was my most fantastic 18th birthday present.

Our road-trip adventure took us across the achingly beautiful Lake region as well as golden light-bathed Stockholm and reminded me that despite my big city aspirations, no amount of skyscrappers will ever top up how beautiful nature is.

It’s also when (after carrying a veeeery over-packed bag and the most ridiculous pair of heeled silver sandals along) I finally understood the value of packing light – and I never looked back.

The UK

After 3 years of uni, I wasn’t really sure which way to go. So I decided to hit the pause button, enrol as a teacher assistant with the British Council and go spend a year across the Channel.

2012 was a crazy year. I drank too much, didn’t sleep nearly enough, finally learnt to speak English properly (as in, in ways that would allow me to discuss things other than the apartheid) and made friends for life.

I fell in love with London almost instantly. Bright, exciting, strongly multi-cultural, it was everything I was looking for in a city, and then some. It was scary at times, and exhilarating the rest of the time.

London has taught me so much – how to navigate night buses, tricks to not let SAD take you down, what to do when you spend an entire day at the pub… – but mainly how to live in the moment and make the most of each of them.

France

Home is not a place, it’s a feeling. A feeling you can only understand once you’ve left.

Going back taught me about the importance of having a place you can always go back to. A place that’s stable and that allows you to see that you’re still the same, despite how much you’ve changed.

10 things I learnt from traveling • Cake + Whisky

The Netherlands

Amsterdam was the first place the BF and I traveled together to. It was also my first proper ‘city break’ and that kind of showed.

Short trips are tricky to plan and we didn’t do as well as we should have in that department. Lesson learnt – we’ve improved much since!

The US

We went to the US in the summer of 2015. Needless to say, the main thing I learnt from this trip was the value of air conditioning and drinks bigger than my head.

America is all about excess – cities are massive (and you can’t get anywhere without a car), portion sizes are huuuuge (and often enough to feed two).

‘Restrain’ is simply not a thing there. Which made me realise that restrain is something I’m rather into and that it was okay to be a little homesick when on holiday!

10 things I learnt from traveling • Cake + Whisky

Spain

With its care-free lifestyle, rolling accent, long siestas and slow pace of life, Spain is the ultimate relaxing holiday destination. A couple of long weekend visits over the past few years has been a great way to remember what’s important – good food, good wine and even better company to make memories with.

Denmark

Gorgeous white light, bikes and water everywhere, amazing food and the never-ending impression that you’re walking around in a perfectly currated Pinterest board – what’s not to like about Copehagen?

From our idyllic 3-day stay in the Danish capital, I learnt that waking up early is the way forward if you want to hit the sights and also took away a determination to give degustation menus a chance!

Ireland

Our trip to Dublin wasn’t quite the traditional itinerary. We didn’t go to the Guinness Museum, or to St Patrick’s Cathedral. Instead, we had brunch and doughnuts, our most fantastic meal this year and more whisky than strictly reasonable. And it was fantastic!

The definite proof that the only thing that matters is to have fun your way!

10 things I learnt from traveling • Cake + Whisky

So, here it is – the top 10 things I learnt from traveling:

  1. Exploring is a chance to find places that are right for you.
  2. Travel like a local and take every trip as a chance to get a feel of what it’d be like to live there.
  3. Pack light.
  4. Go with the flow and make the most of it.
  5. There’s no place like home.
  6. Do your research – especially for shorter trips!
  7. It’s okay to get a little homesick.
  8. Memories with azaming people is what truly makes a trip.
  9. Wake up early if you want to see the sights.
  10. Leave FOMO behind and do whatever you want!

What unexpected/surprising/amazing thing have you learnt from traveling?

This post is part of this month’s Travel Linkup – if you want to read more ’10 Things…’ travel bloggers are counting down, head over to Follow Your SunshineSilverSpoon LondonAdventures of A London Kiwi or Erin Out and About now!

10 things I learnt from traveling

My top packing tips (+ what I packed for 2 weeks in the US!)

I used to be that girl who carried suitcases bigger than me. Not that it’s a difficult thing to do since I’m so tiny, but still. I would carry 3 pairs of shoes everywhere (yes, even to school!), and about a billion other things along with it.

But it didn’t take me long to realise that carrying such big bags wasn’t really good for my back. And for what? Most of the time, I didn’t even used half of what I packed.

I’ve tried ever since to change my approach and turn into a minimalistic packer. Here are the top tips I’ve gathered along the way:

1. Pack just one or two pairs of trousers: I know it sounds crazy, but you hardly need more. I’m not a dress-and-skirt sort of girl, so I usually bring two pairs along (one in my suitcase and the other one, I wear on the plane).

2. Favour basic cuts and colours so you can mix-and-match easily: This one’s actually quite easy for me to implement since I hardly ever wear anything but black, navy, grey, white and nude pink. We all have a few colours we especially enjoy wearing: focus on those when packing, it’ll make your life easier!

3. Plan your outfits in advance: I try to plan about 2 outfits for every 3 days I’m going away and this really helps me not to overpack.Cake + Whisky | Travel | Packing tipsThis is more or less what I’ve packed for 2 weeks: one pair of black skinny jeans (which go with everything!🙌), one pair of denim shorts, 6 tops (basically all my favourites: a navy silk cami, a nude silk cami, the perfect black V neck T-shirt, this adorable striped/colourblock top I just bought, a scalloped black top (mine’s from Primark) and the cutest printed blouse), one thin grey cardigan, one Breton stripped shirt and a blazer.
It doesn’t look like much, but add to that underwear, pyjamas, a (very full) toiletry bag, tones of camera equipment and other knick-knacks and you’ll already have a fairly full bag (and I’d rather keep some room inthere to bring back all the peanut-buttery things I’ll be able to put my hands on!

4. Layer up for the flight!
Not only does it make you save up space in your suitcase, but it’ll also help you survive your flight without getting a cold! Cake + Whisky | Travel | Packing tipsI personally find jeans very comfortable (plus they’re amongst the bulkiest items!) so I’ll almost always wear those when I travel. I like to pick shoes that are easy to take off (it makes passing security checks that little bit easier!) but I will be packing a pair of warm socks in my hand luggage for the flight (because COLD!). A big scarf is an absolute must-have to win the battle against freezingly cold AC and if I’m going to wear a quite thin waterfall cardigan to travel, I’ll also carry a big hoodie.

5. Pack things that crease inbetween layers of dry-cleaning bags’ plastic: this helps to reduce friction, and ultimately, creases.

6. Pack your underwear in a washing bag: Two reasons: 1. it makes it much easier to find in your suitcase 2. if for some reason your bag was controlled by airport security, they would only touch the bag and not your underwear.

7. Don’t pack too many shoes: I know it’s tempting but from my experience, you never actually wear them all. I’m only bringing my beloved Repetto ballerinas this time, hopefully it will work out (otherwise, I suppose I’ll just have to go shopping 😜)!

What are your top tips to avoid overpacking? I’m still a minimalist packer newbie so would love to hear them! 

My top packing tips (+ what I packed for 2 weeks in the US!)