Five Years Of Travelling – What We Do Differently Now

Lee and I met while working abroad in New Zealand and we have spent the last five years working as digital nomads and travelling to over 40 countries, which means that we have spent the majority of our 20s on the road.

The way we approach travel now is very different compared to the way we used to backpack when we were fresh off the plane for the first time. These changes don’t happen right away, they are subtle shifts that have happened after years on the road. It’s only by looking back that I have noticed the different ways we do things now.

We Take Things Slowly

I think that many first-time travelers jump head first into the world like a starving person who has just been set loose on an enormous buffet. There is a wild wonder in their eyes as they try to gobble up as many experiences as possible, until they have to step back and take a breath because they are simply about to burst.
I know because I was like this on my first trip. When I arrived in Paris on my first day away from my home continent I wanted to see the city immediately – regardless of the fact that I hadn’t slept properly in about 30 hours. Sleep? Who needs sleep? I’m in PARIS for goodness sake!
At this point I was delirious with sleep deprivation and fueled only by excitement and Nutella.
At this point I was delirious with sleep deprivation and fueled only by excitement and Nutella.
Bleary eyed and delirious, I skipped along the banks of the Seine and posed in front of the Notre Dame – I thought as long as I kept moving I could stay awake. When my head drooped and I nodded off within seconds of sitting down on a bus, my Parisian host convinced me that the City of Light would be there tomorrow and that I really needed to go to bed.
There’s nothing wrong with the excited fervor of the first time traveller – I think it’s a beautiful thing to be hungry for new experiences. However, once you have been travelling for a while you learn to slow down. These days Lee and I venture up to the buffet of travel experiences calmly, taking our time to select what we want and savouring it slowly.
Travel slow and take in all the details
Travel slow and take in all the details

We Spot Scammers Immediately and Have No Tolerance for Them

The more we travel, the more accurate our bullshit detector becomes. We can usually spot a travel scam a mile away and we have no patience for it. When a street vendor tries to charge me three times what an item should be worth, I just laugh at him, smile and walk away.

I don’t take bullshit from tuk tuk drivers anymore.

We sometimes watch other travellers feel uncomfortable in these situations and struggle to say no. For example, we arrived in Ajmer, India on the bus and were met by a driver whom we had arranged to take us to our hotel in Pushkar (a short drive away). Two French girls from the bus were going to Pushkar as well and with permission from our driver we offered for them to share our ride.

That made one of the tuk tuk drivers very angry. He felt like we were stealing a fare from him because if we hadn’t shared our ride with the French girls they would have needed a tuk tuk. He felt entitled to their business, even though it should have been their choice whether to hire him. He was getting argumentative and the girls were getting stressed and confused – they were not sure what to do.


Lee got his serious face on and told the tuk tuk driver very clearly that the French girls were riding with us and that was it. Also, even if they weren’t they certainly wouldn’t want to go with him because of how pushy he was being. We jumped in the car and left.

Scammers will try everything, including guilt trips,lies and making you feel like you have done something wrong when you don’t do what they want. I feel like over the years we have learned to trust our instincts on what is right and we are not afraid to call people out when they are being unreasonable. From getting overcharged to veiled sales pitches, we see through most of it pretty quickly and just shake our heads.

We Don’t Do Tourist Attractions for the Sake of It

As a new traveler I remember thinking that I needed to visit all of the top attractions listed in the “Things to Do” lists in order to have fully experienced a destination. However, these days we don’t feel that pressure.

There’s many times when we don’t do a major attraction somewhere. Perhaps it’s too expensive, or we just aren’t interested. Instead, we spend our time and money doing the things that we really enjoy, whether or not they are on the top ten “must do” list.

For example, the Guinness Brewery Tour is on every “must do” list for Dublin yet we didn’t do it while we were there. Lee isn’t a fan of Guinness so he wouldn’t have enjoyed the beer tasting and we have already been to a brewery in New Zealand so we are already familiar with the beer making process. However, for someone else it would have been a great thing to do. (Don’t worry, I still drank plenty of Guinness while we were in Ireland).

It’s all about experiencing the destination in a way that interests you – which won’t necessarily be the same way that Lonely Planet or Rough Guides prescribes.

Horseback riding in the Valle de Cocora, Colombia.
Horseback riding in the Valle de Cocora, Colombia.

We Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff as Much

Recently we were on a bus from Udaipur to Jodhpur in India. An older lady with an American accent who was visibly stressed out said hello to us, then seemed to see our friendly smiles as permission to release a torrent of frustration about all of the little annoyances of transport in India. The bus company had told her the wrong time, the tuk tuk driver had overcharged her, everything was disorganized and confusing and she was completely fed up with it.

All I could do is nod and make a sympathetic face. I understood her frustration, the same things had happened to us that day and on many other days. However, we just didn’t have the anger she did about it. I believe the difference comes down to expectations.

When we take transit in another country, we pretty much assume that it is going to be disorganized, arduous, confusing and mildly unpleasant. We know that a bus that is advertised as 6 hours will take closer to 8 or more and that a tuk tuk driver will almost always try to overcharge you. We have accepted that this is the way things are and it doesn’t really bother us anymore.

We are so used to it that when we take transport in more developed countries we are a little bit amazed. “Wow, this train arrived on time, has seats and Wifi and doesn’t even have any chickens on board! This is amazing!”

Travel Has Taught Us a Lot

Living a life of travel for these last few years has taught us a lot of important things, lessons that we can carry with us into other aspects of our life. These are just a few of the things we do differently after five years of travelling compared to when we were newbie backpackers.

What changes have happened to you after spending some time on the road? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.

Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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  1. nice to hear, I too like to travel freelance writer, by traveling it is proved we can learn many things culture, art, living all over the world.. knowledge we gain

  2. No doubt, Travel is the best activity in order to explore the things and I really love to do travel now. I mostly need assignment work while I traveling so I choose site to get help with writing assignments. Keep it up!

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