My 30 Best Travel Tips After 3 Years Traveling The World

Favorite Travel Tips

My Best Tips for World Travel

Travel Tips

It’s now been 3 years since I sold everything and left the United States to travel the world. These are the best travel tips I’ve discovered along the way.

November marks 3 years since I took a one-way flight from Miami to Guatemala City, leaping nervously into the unknown and leaving much of my old life behind while embarking on an epic travel adventure around the world.

It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve learned a lot since then. To celebrate my 3 year “travelversary” this year, I’ve decided to share a collection of my best and most useful travel tips with you.

Feel free to share your own best travel tips at the end.

1. Patience Is Important

Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control. Life is much too short to be angry & annoyed all the time. Did you miss your bus? No worries, there will be another one. ATMs out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes freakouts happen regardless. Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.

2. Wake Up Early

Rise at sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding crowds. It’s also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and usually easier to interact with locals. Sketchy areas are less dangerous in the morning too. Honest hardworking people wake up early; touts, scammers, and criminals sleep in.

Favorite Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Laugh at Yourself

3. Laugh At Yourself

You will definitely look like a fool many times when traveling to new places. Rather than get embarrassed, laugh at yourself. Don’t be afraid to screw up, and don’t take life so seriously. Once a whole bus full of Guatemalans laughed with glee when I forced our bus to stop in order to pee on the side of the road. Returning to the bus and laughing with them gave me new friends for the rest of the ride.

4. Stash Extra Cash

Cash is king around the world. To cover your ass in an emergency, make sure to stash some in a few different places. I recommend at least a couple hundred dollars worth. If you lose your wallet, your card stops working, or the ATMs run out of money, you’ll be glad you did. Some of my favorite stash spots include socks, under shoe inserts, a toiletry bag, around the frame of a backpack, even sewn behind a patch on your bag. That last one’s for you, Canadians.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Meet Local People

5. Meet Local People

Make it a point to avoid other travelers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken widely all over the world, so it’s easier to communicate with them than you might think, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language. Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting. People enrich your travels more than sights do.

6. Pack A Scarf

I happen to use a Shemagh, but sarongs work great too. This simple piece of cotton cloth is one of my most useful travel accessories with many different practical applications. It’s great for sun protection, a makeshift towel, carrying stuff around, an eye mask, and much more.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Observe Daily Life

7. Observe Daily Life

If you really want to get a feel for the pulse of a place, I recommend spending a few hours sitting in a park or on a busy street corner by yourself just watching day to day life happen in front of you. Slow down your thoughts and pay close attention to the details around you. The smells, the colors, human interactions, and sounds. It’s a kind of meditation — and you’ll see stuff you never noticed before.

8. Back Everything Up

When my laptop computer was stolen in Panama, having most of my important documents and photos backed up saved my ass. Keep both digital and physical copies of your passport, visas, driver’s license, birth certificate, health insurance card, serial numbers, and important phone numbers ready to go in case of an emergency. Backup your files & photos on an external hard drive as well as online with software like Backblaze.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Take Lots of Photos

9. Take Lots Of Photos

You may only see these places & meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Don’t worry about looking like a “tourist”. Are you traveling to look cool? No one cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenir. They don’t cost anything, they’re easy to share with others, and they don’t take up space in your luggage. Just remember once you have your shot to get out from behind the lens and enjoy the view.

10. There’s Always A Way

Nothing is impossible. If you are having trouble going somewhere or doing something, don’t give up. You just haven’t found the best solution or met the right person yet. Don’t listen to those who say it can’t be done. Perseverance pays off.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Smile & Say Hello

11. Smile & Say Hello

Having trouble interacting with locals? Do people seem unfriendly? Maybe it’s your body language. One of my best travel tips is to make eye contact and smile as you walk by. If they smile back, say hello in the local language too. This is a fast way to make new friends. You can’t expect everyone to just walk around with a big stupid grin on their face. That’s your job. Usually all it takes is for you to initiate contact and they’ll open up.

12. Splurge A Bit

I’m a huge fan of budget travel, as it lets you travel longer and actually experience more of the fascinating world we live in rather than waste money on stuff you don’t need. You can travel many places for $30 a day with no problems. That said, living on a shoestring gets old after a while. It’s nice (and healthy) to go over your budget occasionally. Book a few days at a nice hotel, eat out at a fancy restaurant, or spend a wild night on the town every now and then.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Keep an Open Mind

13. Keep An Open Mind

Don’t judge the lifestyles of others if different from your own. Listen to opinions you don’t agree with. It’s arrogant to assume your views are correct and other people are wrong. Practice empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Embrace different possibilities, opportunities, people, suggestions and interests. Ask questions. You may be surprised at what you’ll learn from each other.

14. Try Couchsurfing is a large online community of travelers who share their spare rooms or couches with strangers for free. If you truly want to experience a country and it’s people, staying with a local is the way to go. There are millions of couchsurfers around the world willing to host you and provide recommendations. It’s fun and safe too.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Volunteer Occasionally

15. Volunteer Occasionally

Make it a point to volunteer some of your time for worthwhile projects when traveling. Not only is it a very rewarding experience, but you’ll often learn more about the country and it’s people while also making new friends. There’s a great site called Grassroots Volunteering where you can search for highly recommended volunteer opportunities around the world.

16. Pack Ear Plugs

Muffle the sounds of crying babies, drunk Australians, barking dogs, honking horns, dormitory sex, natural gas salesmen, and more. A traveler’s best friend. These are my favorite ones for comfort & effectiveness.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Don’t Be Afraid

17. Don’t Be Afraid

The world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. Keep an eye out for sketchy situations but don’t let that be the focus of your whole trip. Use common sense and you’ll be ok. Most people are friendly, trustworthy, generous, and willing to help you out. This goes for women too. I realize I’m not a woman, but I’ve met plenty of experienced female travelers who agree.

18. Get Lost On Purpose

If you want to see the parts of town where real people live & work, you need to go visit them. The best way to do this is on foot — without knowing where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel so you can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking. Don’t worry too much about stumbling into dangerous neighborhoods either, as locals will generally warn you before you get that far.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Eat Local Food

19. Eat Local Food

Think you already know what Mexican food tastes like? You’re probably wrong. Taste a bit of everything when you travel, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ask local people for recommendations. Eat street food from vendors with big lines out front. I’ve been very sick only twice in my travels. Don’t be scared of the food.

20. Say Yes Often

Be impulsive and say yes when someone randomly invites you to meet their family, try a new activity, or explore a place you didn’t know existed. It’s these unexpected and unplanned situations that add spice to your travels and always turn into the best stories later. Accept the kindness of strangers when you travel — you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Slow Down

21. Slow Down

Please don’t try to cram 6 countries into 6 weeks of travel. You’ll miss a lot if you only spend a day in a city or town. All the good stuff happens when you really take the time to explore an area. That’s when you learn about activities that aren’t in your guidebook and meet people who are eager to show you around. I can honestly say that NONE of my best travel experiences happened within the first few days of arriving somewhere. Spend more time in fewer places for maximum enjoyment.

22. Keep Good Notes

My memory for details sucks. When I first started my travels 3 years ago, I didn’t keep a good journal, and now I’m regretting it. Information like the names of people I met, conversations I had, feelings about a new experience, or what a particular town smelled like. If you ever want to write about your travels, these details are handy.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

23. Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Challenge yourself to try things that normally give you anxiety. The more you do this, the more that anxiety will fade away. Not a hiker? Go on more hikes. Have trouble talking to strangers? Talk to everyone. Scared of weird food? Eat the weirdest thing you can find. The reason this works so well while traveling is because everything is already so different, what’s one more new/uncomfortable experience?

24. Don’t Plan Too Much

I cringe when readers ask how many days they should spend in a particular country or city. The truth is I have no idea what you’ll enjoy or who you’ll meet. I thought I’d rocket through Nicaragua in a week or two, but ended up living there for 4 months. My advice is to pick a starting point, 1 or 2 must-do activities, and an ending point (or not). Then just let the universe determine the rest.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Pack Less Stuff

25. Pack Less Stuff

You don’t need 1/2 the gear you think you do to travel anywhere. We’ve all done it. It’s a right of passage for travelers to slowly become better at packing less. My first bag was 70 liters packed full, my current bag is 50 liters packed 2/3rds full. As a full-time vagabond, everything I own fits on my back. If you’re not sure about packing something, you don’t need it. It’s also possible to buy most things at your destination country if you discover you need them.

26. Listen To Podcasts

Podcasts are awesome. It’s like creating your own personal radio station and filling it with shows and music you always want to listen to. I never thought I’d actually look forward to a 10 hour bus ride. But with podcasts, it’s possible (well, as long as the seats are comfortable). Time will fly by as you listen to incredible storytelling, fun music, or interviews with experts. Here are some of my favorites: This American Life, The Moth, RISK!, Radiolab, Blogcast FM, and Electro-Swing.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Treat Your Body Well

27. Treat Your Body Well

Travel can throw your body out of whack. When you’re moving from place to place it’s difficult to maintain a workout routine, and many of us slack off. Or we don’t sleep enough. Or we eat too many cupcakes. I’m guilty of not flossing my teeth. Remember to be nice to your body. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthy, use sunscreen, and exercise often (check out this bodyweight routine, no gym required!). And, yes, flossing too I guess.

28. Stay In Touch

Remember to call your family & friends from time to time. Maybe surprise them and go old-school by sending a postcard (it’s in the mail, Mom!). Travel isn’t lonely, far from it. You constantly meet other people. But many of those relationships are fleeting. So maintaining a strong connection with the people who know you best is important.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Get Off the Beaten Path

29. Get Off The Beaten Path

I know it’s cliché, but you should still attempt it. Seek out interesting and unusual places that don’t see much tourism. Many memorable travel experiences have happened to me in areas that are not easy to visit. By all means travel to popular sites, but don’t rule out other locations just because they’re not on the tourist trail. Although please realize that just because an area is remote or dangerous doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a life-changing experience.

30. Travel More

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the past 3 years, it’s that many people back home love to tell me how lucky I am while making excuses why they can’t travel. It’s too expensive. They can’t get time off work. Who will feed their pets? When I suggest solutions to these “problems”, they still don’t take action. Why? Because they’re often hiding behind the true reason: they’re scared.

Most people who wait to travel the world never do. You don’t need to sell all your worldly possessions and become a homeless vagabond like me. Just get out there more than you do now. Start with a weekend in a different state. Then maybe try a week in the country next door.

The new car, remodeling project, and iPhone can wait. If you truly want to travel more, you can make it happen. Career breaks are possible. You have friends who would love to watch your pets. It’s a big, beautiful, exciting, and fascinating world out there. Explore some of it now, rather than later. ★

“An investment in travel is an investment in yourself.” ~ Matthew Karsten

What are some of your favorite travel tips? Share with us in the comments below!

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Comments & Questions

  • @stevewweiss

    Tip 9a: Only post amazing photos. Or do you only take amazing photos?! Love the one of the cock fight (even if morally wrong) and great tips. The one I always say, is it to slow down in a place. I slowed down while in Chile, and even though I wish I would have gone to other places to snowboard, the locals recognized me as a local eventually. Pretty cool feeling.

    • Matthew Karsten

      I agree Steve. Slowing down is always more rewarding in the long run. I included the cock-fight photo because I knew it would stir up some emotions. But it’s an ancient practice with a long tradition around the world. Before we judge other cultures we need to take a look at ourselves. :)

  • Delphine

    Hey Mat !
    Such a pleasure to read your tips !
    So glad to have met you at your beginnings in Mexico three years ago !
    You’re not just a great traveler, you’re an amazing story teller and photographer ;-)
    I know Switzerland’s not as exotic as Mexico, but you’ll be most welcome whenever you wish to treat your body good with a cheese fondue or find new hiding locations for your “emergency hundred dollars” ;-)
    Keep traveling ! Safe and exciting ;-)

    • Matthew Karsten

      Hi Delphine! Meeting awesome people like you is one of the benefits of traveling for so long. Save some Swiss fondue for me…

  • Erick

    I love the “Hilary for President” shirt the Thai tat guy is wearing. Great list.

    • Matthew Karsten

      She certainly has a large fan-base all over the world. :D

  • Denise

    What is going on in that photo of you breaking out of your comfort zone?!

    And yes, Earplugs! So small. So important!

    • Matthew Karsten

      I’m receiving my very first tattoo in Thailand (etched by hand), and letting the Buddhist monk pick the design! Not to mention letting 40 strangers watch, when I had no idea how I’d react.

      • Bambi Corro III

        Hey Matt, I was wondering what lens you use for your Sony A7 camera? With this endless backpacking of yours, how many are you bringing and what lens you can’t live without? Cheers from Philippines and Singapore!

        • Matthew Karsten

          At the moment I just have the kit lens. Waiting for more E-mount full frame lenses to be released. Like the 24-70 F4 Zeiss next month, then may pick up an ultra wide that will work with it too.

  • Ashley Hubbard

    Love this so much! Makes me so excited about leaving for my journey next year and I can’t wait to be able to write my own travel tips :)

    • Matthew Karsten

      Have fun on your trip Ashley!

  • Tracy

    Great post! Never thought about stashing cash when we travel but I think we will now. Our #1 travel tip is to bring ziploc bags…we don’t travel anywhere without a handful of them. So useful for a variety of things: packing a picnic lunch, storing toiletries, etc.

    • Matthew Karsten

      Ah yes. Ziplock bags is a good tip. I carry a few heavy duty Aloksak ones too. Great for waterproofing your phone, wallet, etc. when traveling on boats or for the beach.

  • Lisa

    Hey Matt!
    Great tips! I often travel alone – and agree with ALL of these. Getting to know the locals is my favorite! They guide you to the BEST places to eat and BEST things to do where the tourists are not.
    I always look forward to your updates.
    Safe travels!

    • Matthew Karsten

      Thanks Lisa! Glad you’re following along. :D

  • Russell Mease

    This is a great list Matthew! Great wisdom from so many experiences. Every time I travel I expand and grow my understanding of the world and of myself.

    • Matthew Karsten

      Travel is a wonderful form of education that you just can’t get in school.

  • Clint

    I bought the shemagh you recommended before my last trip and wore it just about every day. It is a new staple for all future trips. Great suggestion and tips!

    • Matthew Karsten

      Awesome Clint! I see it in your profile pic actually. Small, light, and it has so many uses. Glad you’re enjoying it.

  • Sky

    “An investment in travel is an investment in yourself. ” I LOVE that line!

  • Dan @ A Cruising Couple

    Great tips! We definitely agree with all of these, and couldn’t have said it better ourselves. I think the taking care of your body one and maintaing connections with people back home are especially important. It’s so easy to let those things slip by the wayside, but they are so necessary for overall wellbeing! We need to start listening to more podcasts though, that’s for sure :) Congrats on 3 years!

    • Matthew Karsten

      Thanks Dan. There are many great podcasts out there. I love to read, but listening to podcasts lets you gaze out the windows of a bus, which isn’t really possible with a book.

  • Kathrin

    I agree with soo many of these and we’ve only been on the road two months. You give us lots more to challenge ourselves! Thanks!

    • Matthew Karsten

      No worries Kathrin, glad you enjoyed it. Have fun on your journey!

  • Dave @ NomadSpirit

    Congrats on the 3 years dude! I have been contemplating waking up early for the last month or so after being forced to for a flight. Maybe its time to make the change and learn from my elders (in travel years that is)

    • Matthew Karsten

      I always seem to capture great moments on my camera early in the morning. People getting started with their day. It’s easier to pull someone aside for a portrait when they’re less busy with customers so early in the morning.

  • Jenny Smith

    Thank you for this post – every single one of these tips resonate. You’ve nailed them brilliantly. The one about getting up early is a great one, I think. You can really get a feel for a place just by watching it wake up. I’m going to keep this post to remind myself how to make the best out of every day on the road. Thanks again :)

    • Matthew Karsten

      Glad you enjoyed it jenny. One of the reasons I wrote it out was to have an easy way to remind myself as well. :)

  • Tenzing Thinley

    Great advice. Cultural competency is a skill that can be developed quickly while traveling – it begins with self awareness and leads to treating fellow human beings with genuine respect. We are in the process of selling all to travel, and we intend to go slow.

    • Matthew Karsten

      Very true Tenzing. Good luck on minimizing your lifestyle and future travel adventures!

  • Elys

    These are great tips! Especially the one about waking up early and catching that magic hour. That’s one thing i kept failing to do.

    Anyway, another tip is to take advantage of free things to do everywhere (ie. free entry, free walking tours, etc.)
    I collect these free stuffs on my site Broke Tourist

    Check it out if you like. May come in handy.

    Cheers, Elys

  • James

    Amazing travel tips Mathew! Thanks for sharing it with me.

  • Paul Miller

    Loved reading this, thank you for writing this. I’m pretty amazed you’ve been able to travel for three years, how can you afford this? That is the single biggest issue stopping me.


    • Matthew Karsten

      Hi Paul! The key is not to think of travel as a “vacation”. Renting short-term apartments or staying in cheap hostels & guesthouses can actually cost LESS than living in the US and Europe. We are brainwashed into thinking that travel means staying at resort hotels, going on tours, and eating out at restaurants every night.

      I’m currently spending an average of $32 a day down here in Mexico, and I’m not living like a bum either.

      As for how I make an income, I’m planning a big article about that soon. But it’s a combination of freelance writing, photography, brand & marketing partnerships, affiliate links, and advertising. But like most long-term travelers I know, I downsized my lifestyle and saved money to pay for the first year. It’s not easy — but certainly possible.

  • Kristen Bor

    Hi Matt! I recently came across your site, and I really love everything about it. From the design and easy navigation to your great stories….the hitch-hiking series in particular. I myself am in the process of developing a community-based travel blog called Bearfoot Theory. I’m still in the design phase, but your site is definitely serving as a source of inspiration. So thanks! and I’m looking forward to keeping up with your travels! -Kristen Bor

  • Kristin Addis

    Thanks for linking me! GREAT tips. Love this post and agree on everything, especially taking good notes and saying Yes.

    • Matthew Karsten

      No problem Kristin. I’m still not fantastic at taking notes, but better than I used to be.

  • Jeannie Mark

    Karsten, LOVE this post. It speaks to so many truths as much as it represents your personality and philosophy in life.

    Fear is the #1 reason to never do anything, whether it be travel or something else. The thing is, 95% of what we fear never usually happens. And we’re on the same timeline, I’m on 3 years too! Wah! :)

    • Matthew Karsten

      Woohoo! Congrats on your 3 years too Jeannie!

      Conquering my fears and proving assumptions wrong is one of the reasons I love to travel. :D

  • Chris Cavallari – Part Time Vagabond

    I love this post! The last point about how people make excuses is interesting. Have you done posts about, say, what to do with pets while you travel, or how to travel with pets? Those could be really good topics to tackle.

    I’ll admit, fear is always the biggest reason I and other travelers DON’T do something. It’s a shame, since I love experiencing new things, and I almost always feel better for it!

  • Michael Devine

    So many great tips! Where do i begin? Yes! Of course! SMILE! I liked all thirty, but that one can really make ( or fix ) a trip . After twenty years in another country ( Costa Rica ) i find that you get aquainted with the Locals /& travellers with a simple smile. Doors open so much easier with a simple sincere smile! That goes as well with being humble & respect the people & the place you are in.

  • Sally@Toddlers on Tour

    Let me say first up “I am a bit offended by the drunk Australian’s comment – we are not all like that”

    Anyway some really genuine good tips, love the one about waking early. I love sitting having a coffee while I watch the town come to life.

    • Matthew Karsten

      Sorry Sally! But it was all in good fun. :D

      I’m up early with coffee doing that right this moment actually.

  • Kevin Montgomery

    Ah the good old money behind the flag trick! I’ve also known people that kept a microSD card with backups of important documents under a patch.

  • Trish and Shawn

    Wow I can’t believe it has been 3 years! What a huge change from the guy that thought clubs and material possessions were of high importance. I love the change and the experiences that continue to morph you into the broad minded person that you now are. Very proud to call you family and love being along for the ride.
    Love, Trish and Shawn

  • Michael

    Great advice. My favorite is the ‘get lost on purpose’. Easily the best one. You find the best things that way.

  • Jaime

    Wow Congrats Matt on 3 years of travel. Crazy I have been following along for that long. I still remember when you arrived to your 1st destination and the airline lost your bag. My how time flies. Cheers to many more adventures.

  • Alex Clegg

    Had a blast reading all your tips! I had a few questions though
    1) How did you afford to get from place to place?? I realize you took a lot of local transportation and all that jazz, but attempting to get from Guatemala to, lets say Fiji or Thailand, how did you afford the ticket? Was it all from the money you made when selling all your belongings or did you work while abroad?
    2) I LOVE the idea of getting a tattoo(s) from different places, especially getting them the way the locals do! How did you find these “tattoo artists” in these places?

    • Matthew Karsten

      I try to avoid expensive flights as much as possible, but sometimes it’s necessary. My trip to Fiji was sponsored by the Fiji Tourism Board, so they covered that flight. These days I occasionally work with countries or brands to help promote their destinations or products in exchange for compensation of some sort. Sometimes that means free flights, accommodation, or payment. But that’s a recent development.

      You can pay for flights with a little “travel hacking” by collecting large amounts of airline miles for free tickets. My friend Clint talks a lot about this on his site:

      Another option is saving for an “Around the World Ticket” which includes many flights to many different parts of the world for a lot less than buying them individually.

      As for tattoos in foreign countries, just ask around when you get there! I heard about the Thai monk from a friend.

  • Samuel Jeffery

    Congrats on 3 years Matt!

    • Matthew Karsten

      Thanks Sam!

  • TammyOnTheMove

    I couldn’t agree more with you on the volunteering and meeting locals part. I have had some of my best travel experience with locals and whilst volunteering. You just don’t get this if you stick to your Lonely Plant all the time. I need to learn to plan less though. It is almost compulsive and I need to stop it. I think it will make my travels much more relaxing.

    • Matthew Karsten

      I’m by no means a hardcore volunteer traveler, but every once in a while is good for all kinds of reasons. In fact, I think it’s about time I look for a project.

  • Amanda

    Great tips, both practical and inspirational. And here’s to many more years of travel ahead!

    • Matthew Karsten

      Thanks Amanda!

  • Agness

    This is of the most inspiring travel posts I’ve read mate, well done! This is just so incredible how much you can learn from your travel. Waking up early sucks, I agree, but it’s sometimes totally worth it, especially when you admire the sunrise over Angkor Wat :). Yes, interacting with locals is so important and yes I also prefer to slow down a bit when being on the road. If this will not inspire people to leave your comfort zone, I don’t know what will. Once again, AWESOME POST!

  • Hecman

    Love your post, specially The tip 7, people watching…

  • Megsy

    We agree with so many of your points! We’ve been on the road for 7 months and we’ve realised that what we enjoy the most is taking our time and enjoying a place for is food and it’s people. It’s been surprising which places along the way that we had no idea we would fall in love with (the Philippines is a big one)

    Great article hope we will be able to reflect in a similar way when we complete 3 years of travel ;-)

  • Mahima

    Great photos, great tips, great fun to read your post. Now I am seriously looking to plan a long trip to Europe. I am sure your tips would help me a lot.

    Thanks a lot

  • Franca

    Such an inspiring post! After 17 months on the road I can say I’m still learning everyday something new, your points are ALL valid and should really inspire more people to leave their comfort zone and explore what is out there!

  • Anne

    Hello! What a great article that I find myself coming back to every now and then, so I figured I should finally comment. :) My boyfriend and I are leaving for our first (and hopefully not last) long term international adventure – in January. We have read blog after blog searching for advice and tips for long term travel. This one hits em all! I especially like #20 – saying yes to invitations. It’s one we’ve heard from Shannon O’Donnell of ALittleAdrift as well – and is so important to everyone traveling to get the most out of the experience.
    Looking forward to keeping up with you along our journey too.

  • Ivana

    Thanks for post, Matthew! We have started to travel recently and can only agree with majority of your advice. What we have found practical on the road is to learn a few basic words and phrases of the local language. It helps a lot not only while doing shopping at the market but also while taking picture of a shy person or so. Congrats to 3 years and looking forward to your next adventurous posts!

  • Lakpa Sherpa

    Nice to read your tips on travelling..Some points make me wonder now..that i was infact ‘scared’ to move out and see the new world outside…thanks

  • Stephanie – The Travel Chica

    I am so glad you included #16. I freaked out when I thought I lost mine because they are crucial for sleeping in hostels or a noisy city and overnight transportation. Also, not easy to find on the road.

  • SnarkyNomad

    Going with the flow is such a major shirt in mindset for some people, but it’s incredibly helpful. Nothing is going to work out perfectly, so expecting disaster turns a disaster into a plot twist.

  • Sherry Ott

    Great roundup of advice Matt – really enjoyed it! And thanks for introducing me to a new podcast or two!

    • Matthew Karsten

      Glad you enjoyed the travel tips Sherry. Podcasts are what saves me on those 10+ hour bus rides.

  • raveburbleblog

    Some great tips there Matt. In my case, I travel with a ukulele. Music is an international language and it’s a great way to meet and mingle with locals and travelers alike. They get to laugh at me a lot (I tend to make a few mistakes and they get to learn a bit of ‘French’ when I do) and you get to create some great memories you wouldn’t otherwise have made. Plus, every now and again, you get a free drink or two if they actually like your playing…

    • Matthew Karsten

      Great tip! I’d travel with an instrument if I was musically inclined. Unfortunately I’m not. But I can play a mean 5-gallon bucket drum. :-)

  • kati

    wow. 3 years! congrats & thanks for yout tips!

  • Elaine Masters

    Great tips! Getting out of the traveler bubble’s so important. My best travel encounters happen by stumbling into an opportunity & slowing down enough, being present enough to stop & hang out.

  • Ozy

    I love these tips. My favorite one and the one I like to practice the most is getting lost. I love having no idea where I am! Especially with GPS on your phone, it’s always easy to find your way back.

  • Jeremy

    I always do my best to get out of the main areas in other countries. Like I’ve told people before when I talk about going to France they assume I went to Paris. I tell them that if I wanted to see Americans I would have stayed home. I love to learn about new people and places and ways of life and you can’t do that unless you get out there and meet people. I really enjoyed your list and whole heartedly agree. Will be hitting Italy later this year and looking forward to it.

  • Traveling Ted

    Travel tip #31- Read this post daily. Amazing tips.

  • Roy Faires

    A modification for #1: Expect something will go wrong, because it always does. It’s an attitude adjustment that allows the traveler to take it all in stride, rather than see it as an unnecessary problem. Besides, often I have discovered that solving the problem not only feels good, but may take your travel in an unanticipated and better direction.

    OH, one other “must have” that I have cherished. A small feather pillow that can be compressed in a ziplock bag. This item may result in the difference between a comfortable ride, a deep night’s sleep or being able to block out unwanted sunlight.

    • Matthew Karsten

      Very true Roy. Thanks for the tips. I’ll sometimes roll up my scarf to create a makeshift pillow for the same reason.

  • PurpleTravelKate

    Love this post! It’s given me a little boost on this Friday morning. :)

    • Matthew Karsten

      Great Kate! Glad to hear it.

  • Jessica

    Great tips, it gets me the travel vibe again! One question I would like to ask: how do/did you estimate the $$ to travel one year non-stop?

    • Matthew Karsten

      I knew I was going to be in Central America for the first year. If you’re traveling through inexpensive countries, you can live on $800-$1000 a month. Other areas of the world can be closer to $1500 a month (Europe). This is if you’re staying in hostels, not spending a ton on guided tours, avoiding fancy restaurants, etc. So I saved about $7k and decided to see how long it would last. I was also earning some money selling ebooks about photography & club promoting, which I could manage from anywhere.

      The thing is, you can travel for as long as you want. It doesn’t have to be a year. Save some money, see how long you can make it last. Setting some aside for a return ticket home/other expenses if needed.

      • Jessica

        You are right and thanks again! Enjoy Spain, which is my favorite country!

  • Maureen Mizrahi

    Truly inspiring post! thanks for the awesome tips!

  • Tigerlily

    Thanks for this. Although I am not able to vagabond, I make a point of travelling someplace at least once or twice a year, usually with a husband and two kids in tow. We are off to Singapore and Malaysia (Borneo) in the next few weeks. So many of our friends, and even our family, can not understand why we travel now and with our children no less, suggesting that we should wait until we are retired or that our children won’t appreciate the travel. It’s such antiquated thinking, and I am so glad we don’t give it any creedance. Bottom line is, you never know what tomorrow will bring so seize the day. Our kids, at 11 and 14, have been to 9 different countries so far, experiencing them off the beaten path. We rent homes, we don’t stay at 5 star resorts. No they do not always understand how lucky they are to have the opportunities, but the knowledge they have gained seeing the world is incredible and they assume they will continue to travel throughout their lives. It’s a part of their lifestyle, they don’t see that there are any barriers to travel and have no fear or reservations about going to different places. I think that is an amazing gift to gift to someone…its something I had to learn as an adult!

    • Matthew Karsten

      Exactly! Even a little travel will open your mind and help teach your children to respect people of all cultures, and gain knowledge about the world that just isn’t taught in school. Thanks so much for sharing Tigerlily. Have fun in Malaysia.

  • Hari Bhuvan

    Great Post. Truly inspiring to travel.

  • Felinda

    I just found your site and just wanted to say thank you for your tips. I love traveling and my goal is to travel at least three times a year. A combination of a few small trips and a big one outside U.S. I’m so excited to start reading you blog and learn from them. I’m going to Fiji and New Zealand this coming April and i cannot wait.

    • Matthew Karsten

      Fiji is really special Felinda. The people there are so friendly and the islands are beautiful. Have fun!

  • Brittany

    I absolutely LOVE your blog. Best one i’ve found yet! I’m working on making it to Cambodia this summer and continue to travel from there. My goal is to be a vagabond and see the world, not sit behind a desk and dream ;)

    • Matthew Karsten

      Thanks for stopping by Brittany! Glad you’re enjoying it. I think everyone should follow their dreams.

  • Stacey

    Thank you for posting this! Some great advice – I’m definatly going to check out those podcasts! :)

  • Holyland nepali

    Grt informative and interesting blog love the way you share yours thought and point for traveling
    Guest House

  • Raphael Alexander Zoren

    Great tips, Matthew but I must say I’m a little bit disappointed that you chose to feature cockfighting as the image for “Keep an open mind”. Animal cruelty is always a bad practice no matter the cultural background behind it (such as bullfighting).

  • Szaboo

    Thank You Matthew! :)

    Im only 21, living in China, Shenzhen, 10000 kms from my home, Hungary. Ive always been a curious person, but never thought i can start exploring this early. Well, im still just on the way, but i see this huge opportunity in my life. However i got something more, cause my hobby-job is graphic designing and videography. Videography is the thing i want to live for, to share my view of the world, and i always knew it works only if i travel a lot. So now Im looking forward travelling with equipment that will serve me well, but still i can fit in my backback(s). It probably means i need to reduce all my stuff as much as i can. Now Im saving money and getting equipment for videography, but i hope than in a few years im ready to go on. :) I will probably need different plans for different matters. If i want to experience a place, i will bring less video equipment, to keep comfort. If i concentrate on video, i will bring more professional equipment, and plan some easier tour. Im just so excited :) Your blog is a perfect start to learn about the difficulties and responsibilities of travelling.

    Let the universe determine the rest. I did it, probably that’s how I ended here :)

  • Rashad Pharaon

    #21 is my favorite – a place (and its people) doesn’t start to really open up until at LEAST a few weeks into your stay. From there it only gets better, as you begin to discover places you didn’t existed (“Wait, there’s a BEACH?!) and things about your new friends you never knew before (“Wait, Truong has a KID?!).

  • alexa

    I am in high school, I have been torn for some time on what to do after high school. I want to go to college and have the whole experience that college has to offer. I also want to backpack around Europe with my cousin and take a gap year. I feel that if I take a gap year I will be behind in my life. I also do not want to look back at my life ten years from now and regret not traveling…… If you see this, could you help me in some way??

  • Gezin op Reis

    Wow one of the best list of “things learned from travelling” i have read recently. Agree with almost all of them. Like the wake up early and say yes often.

  • R.Mar

    I like this idea of always traveling. I;m curious how do you pay or afford this life style?

  • Josef Carlo Mission

    wow, this has been very helpful. you certainly have travelled a lot. those tips that you mentioned will help me on my next destination. thanks

  • Wandering_Grace

    So many great tips! Thank you…

  • Rebekah Voss

    I love what you say about maintaining relationships back home. It can be so easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new place and feel like you’re on a different planet. But as you say, most travel friendships and relationships come and go quickly – you gotta give love to the folks back home (and ask how THEY’RE doing, even IF you just scaled a volcano).

  • Amber28Mummyof2

    Really enjoyed reading these..I am a single mother of 2 and haven’t been out of the country since 2009, I have a burning desire to travel and have no idea how to make it happen..hopefully I will figure it out and be able to share amazing adventures with my children one day.

  • Dave Briggs

    Great tips! Your outlook seems to be quite similar to mine (maybe not the parachute bit though!). I’d add limiting yourself to social media once a week only in there. I feel sorry for todays kids backpacking, who must at times feel they never left home as they are so up to date with whats going on. Wha’ts left to talk about when they phone home?

    • Matthew Karsten

      Good point. But social media is here to stay. Rarely do people revert to old ways when it comes to new communication technology. How many people write and mail physical letters these days?

      I actually just finished watching the movie “Her”. It really makes you think.

  • Balooh

    Amazing tips, well worth remembering!! Going to bookmark.
    Really enjoying going through your blog, feels as though I’m on vacation myself, thanks for sharing :-)

  • M.zahid Travel

    Wow, Enjoyed a lot while reading.. you have mentioned very nice details.. keep sharing.

  • Gigi

    Those are great tips :) I’m planning on leaving my job and pursue my studies while travelling the world this coming january! I have no idea for how long but at least 8 months ! My goal is to have a better understanding of foreign markets, governments, culture and more …. I’m doing my master in International business management online and in addition to my academic knowledge, I want to further my personal knowledge about the world… Its a a huge dream and project and I can’t wait to be on the adventure :)

    • Matthew Karsten

      Cool Gigi! I know you’ll have a great time and learn a lot, I sure have. Exploring the world provides a wonderful education you just can’t get in any school.

  • melanie

    I thought your blog was interesting and helpful. I love to travel. your mention of being open minded is very true, except when you use cruelty to animals as a form of entertainment. If you have an opinion that it’s wrong that is not being arrogant that is just being a decent human being with morals. If we are to be open minded about animal abuse then we must be equally open minded about abuse to humans. I personally would not go and watch either there is far better entertainment to watch while traveling.

    • Matthew Karsten

      You’ll have to explain what you mean. How/where am I being cruel to animals?

  • Jim

    I couldn’t agree more with #30 (myself included). iT IS so easy to make endless excuses of why it cannot be done. My latest excuse is money. When I look back at every trip I have taken of any distance in the past, I remember having to adopt the attitude of JUST DO IT ! MAKE IT HAPPEN ! AGAIN, I HAVE TO PUT tunnel vision on it and MAKE IT HAPPEN. You opened my eyes to the fact I allowed myself to get back into the trap of one bullshit excuse after another and always next month or later. Later never comes for most people. Thank You so much for sharing your adventures and opening my eyes to the fact I, once again have to MAKE IT HAPPEN !!! I HAVE NO EXCUSE. It took reading your website to realize that. Good luck traveling the road that really does go on forever.

  • itchy feet traveler

    Embracing failure and learning to love every bit of it will bring you the greatest inexplicable happiness!!!!

    Thanks for the great post :)

  • Emma Mills

    Hey Matthew. I am so happy I found this site, it has truly insipired me! I am leaving Essex, England in just two days to go out to Austrailia with an open ticket. I have no idea what to expect and I am not totally sure how I feel about it all either, but for once I just know I have faith in myself to go and make the most of it, because that’s all I can do.
    But seriously, stumbling upon your site has made me more confident in thinking how this will pan out.
    Although I am only staying in one country, unlike what you did which from what I can see was incredible! But, I am only 18 and it’s my first time traveling alone, so I think Austrailia will be big enough for me to start off with.
    P.s. I am going shopping today to go and get myself a scarf !!