Five things I’ve learnt about travelling (and we haven’t even left yet*)

1. Don’t buy souvenirs

Having just packed up our entire flat in order to rent it out, I can say with complete confidence that buying souvenirs is the worst thing you can do when travelling. Sure, that wooden rhino might look great on a Kenyan market stall, that set of matryoshka dolls might seem like a kitsch memento of your trip to Russia but trust me, all you are doing is creating more clutter that one day you will find yourself wading through and, with increasing bafflement, asking yourself (or each other) “why the ffff do we even HAVE this?” If you must buy souvenirs, buy things you can wear or at the very least use. Woven scarves, painted chopsticks, handmade jewellery – all fine. Set of Korean wedding dolls? Put them the hell back.

2. On Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco you can get clam chowder served in a sourdough loaf

The thing about telling people you’re going travelling is that it inspires everyone to share with you their own travel tips. Which is fine. We are all for taking recommendations and if you have a fantastic coffee shop or restaurant you want to share, a walk or a trip you think we really shouldn’t miss then do please let us know. There is nothing better than getting insider tips or personal recommendos that get you off the beaten track and experiencing something genuinely different. But for some reason the main things we’ve been told about so far are the ones we could find out in about five seconds by opening a guidebook (Google ‘Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco’ and you’ll see what I mean). We should check out Alcatraz, you say? Because, you know, we’d never have thought of that. Oh Angkor Wat is worth a look, is it? Wow, good thing you were here to unearth that hidden gem. I look forward to hearing about the unsung charms of Machu Picchu, Ayres Rock, and the Great Wall of China.

3. Our relationship might not survive

I swear for every person that has told us how romantically dreamy our travel plans are, there is someone else sucking in their breath and saying “Well, if you’re still together when you get back…” There are a lot of not-so-happy endings out there, it seems, and you lot are all desperate to share them with us. A few choice examples:

– “My friend went travelling with her husband for a year. They’re now in couples’ counselling.”

– “Our daughter when travelling with her boyfriend. She ditched him when they got to Thailand and came back alone.”

– “My friend went to Australia with a guy she met travelling. He found Jesus, gave up drinking and refused to have sex with her any more.”

Now, the whole finding Jesus/relinquishing booze and sex thing? I’m not going to lose any sleep over that. But I am aware that the next year will be a challenge for us. We will be spending more or less every waking – and indeed sleeping – minute of the day together, we will be tired, hungry, and jet lagged. We will miss buses, we will be on time for buses that don’t arrive for six hours, we will be delayed at airports, we will get fleeced on cab rides, we will get drunker than intended, have (hopefully temporary) panics about where our passports/phones/wallets are, and at some point one or other of us will be disgustingly ill and the other will have to witness it. It’s not going to be all beer in the sunshine and moonlight strolls (and the rest…) on the beach, I’m well aware of that. But you know what? I’m up for the challenge. I’m game. This is what relationships are after all – a journey through rough and through smooth. We’re going in with our eyes open. And I think that by acknowledging we might not make it, we actually give ourselves a fighting chance.

4. There is no vaccination for AIDS

I know, right? But wait, it gets worse. According to the Rough Guide ‘First-time Around The World’ book, there is also NO VACCINATION for blisters. Nothing you can do to innoculate against the common cold and no flippin’ jab for food poisoning. In fact, this book is so good I am actually giving over precious backpack space in order to bring it with me. I hope to regale you with more invaluable advice from within its pages soon…

5. The world is smaller than it seems

From the off when we’ve talked about going travelling we’ve said it would be cool to try to hook up with people we know in various places and guess what? That’s exactly what we’re doing. Post your plans on Facebook and it’s amazing who comes out of the woodwork and offers to put you up or cook you dinner, invites you to their newly opened restaurant, and generally offers to take you out and show you a good time. This is truly social media at its best and suddenly a ‘world tour’ looks a lot less like a wilderness and a lot more like a series of pitstops in which we meet up with friends, family, and contacts. So far we have buddies in LA, Guatemala, Colombia, New Zealand, Oz, Vietnam, Uganda and Tanzania and I’m sure there’ll turn out to be more as we go around. We can’t wait to see you all.

* We are actually two days into our trip now but since I wrote this list before we left and just didn’t have time to post it, I stand by my title.

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