5 lessons my travels have taught me

I’m just going to say it…I miss travelling! I miss exploring new places, eating new foods, and writing about my experiences.

So, I decided to reflect on my past travels. As I looked back on old pictures and reminisced, I realised that these experiences have taught me valuable lessons and I hope to share them with you today.

Here are 5 lessons my travels have taught me:

1. A little money goes a long way

I learned this lesson with my dad in Trichy, Tamil Nadu in India. My mum’s sister stays there and on one of our visits many years ago, my mum told me to go and explore Trichy with my dad and catch breakfast together while she and her sister settled some work at home.

Upon hearing this, I got super excited. At that point, I was finding every excuse to get on board an auto because they’re awesome! So, I tell my dad and I convince him to take me on an auto ride (please bear in mind that I was much younger then). We took an auto and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We got down somewhere near St Joseph’s College and at that point, it dawned on me that we’re supposed to catch breakfast before going home. I told my dad and he looked a little shocked. “Wait, why didn’t you tell me at home? I didn’t bring along a lot of cash!” he said. “Oops, sorry pa. I think I got too excited about our auto ride,” I replied.

I think we had like 50 or 60 rupees at the time, and we needed some money for the auto ride back home. So our breakfast budget was about 30 rupees I think. Hesitantly, we made our way into a small stall selling wonderful South Indian breakfast items like idli and thosai. Sheepishly, we asked the waiter how much one idli costs, then how much one cup of coffee costs.

The waiter answered, and we quickly made some mental calculations and ordered two idlis and a cup of coffee each. Despite our shenanigans, the waiter was very friendly and showed no judgement whatsoever which we really appreciated. That was probably one of the most satisfying breakfasts I’ve had while travelling.

It’s also a funny story my dad and I get to look back on fondly. Sometimes a little really does go a long way!

2. The grass is just fine on this side

Last year, my husband and I went on vacation to Krabi. It’s a popular beachside holiday spot in Thailand, and we looked forward to relaxing for a few days by the beach. Before going, we did a little research on where to stay while we were there.


We came across two options: Ao Nang, the happening town in Krabi with beaches and an active nightlife, or Railay, a more isolated area with beaches, accessible only by boat and surrounded by huge limestone cliffs. Railay is really scenic and we fell in love when we saw pictures of it online. So we immediately booked our stay there!

Upon arrival, we took a boat to Railay and checked-in. In a day or two, we came to realise that though Railay is really scenic, most of the exciting activities were centred around Ao Nang.

As tempting as it was to ride out to Ao Nang by boat every day, those rides were expensive and doing that felt like it beat the purpose of booking our stay at Railay. We decided to make the best of the situation and just have fun. There was nothing to complain about! We were together by the beach, our happy place!

Over the next few days, we hung out on the beach, took up a cooking class, ate one too many green curries and tom yum, and when we were feeling especially adventurous, we went kayaking for the very first time!

I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. But our side was pretty darn awesome too! When we stop comparing and start appreciating what we do have, experiences tend to feel a whole lot better! I guess this is a lesson I need to keep in mind for both travel and life.

3. The human imagination, creativity, and can-do attitude knows no bounds

There are some things in life that make you marvel at what the human race can accomplish. For me, it was seeing the Pantheon and Colosseum in Rome and the Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

I’ve never been much of a history buff, but there’s something very fascinating about visiting historical sites such as these. To know that so many people over the years have stood where I stood, looking up at these incredible structures in awe. It makes me feel like we’re all connected in some way.

When my husband and I visited Rome, we got a good deal and booked a hotel facing the Pantheon. As we crossed the road every morning to catch breakfast, I’d look up at the Pantheon in all its glory and feel amazed. So long ago, when technology wasn’t even a fraction of what it is today, mankind had the vision to build such a structure and it has passed the test of time with flying colours.

I think we all have this ability in us to create something awesome, whether it’s a book, a painting, a song, a meal, or a stunning work of architecture like the Pantheon. I believe it’s ingrained in all of us humans, regardless of colour, race, or creed. And when we tap into it, we can create beautiful things that move people in unexpected ways. What I create certainly won’t be as grand as the Pantheon, but I hope it’s beautiful in its own special way.

4. Sometimes you don’t have to go far to find a gem

Some of my most treasured memories are road trips with my husband where we explore local beaches and islands. One weekend last year, we decided to go on a road trip to Gem Island which is on the east coast on the Malaysian Peninsular. It was a five-hour drive to the jetty, and then we took a boat to the island.

We started our road trip early in the morning on Saturday and took turns driving. We also stopped along the way to enjoy some local delicacies. Like most countries, each state in Malaysia is popular for certain foods, and we like to look up local eateries with good reviews to give them a try.

It was just a one night stay, but it was a really nice getaway. On this trip, we went snorkelling for the first time and I had a blast!

I got so tanned and I went into work on Monday hoping nobody notices especially because I was set to give my students a test that day. So if you ever wondered what teachers do over the weekend before a test, now you know.

Anyway, going back to road trips, they’re a fun way to explore local gems, pun very much intended! We don’t always need a big budget, overseas holiday to relax and have fun. When on a tight budget, a good ol’ road trip does the trick! Here are a few pointers for having a smooth road trip with your family or friends:

  • Have the right playlist ready to go! When you’re on the road for hours, having the right, upbeat tunes to sing along to totally improves the vibe! In future, if you plan to take a road trip, check out my playlist on Spotify called ‘Road Trip by Vid’ with over 7 hours of 90s songs, Disney hits, and Tamil tunes!

  • Make sure to service your car and check the tyre pressure before a long-distance trip. The last thing you want is to have your car breakdown hundreds of kilometres away from home!

5. Always pack a saree

Okay, I admit, this is one of the more light-hearted lessons I’ve learned over the years. Hear me out!

In 2018, my husband and I went on our honeymoon to Bali, Indonesia. It also happened to be my husband’s birthday. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to pack a saree and jippa for us, so that hopefully, we can find and visit a temple in Bali in our traditional attire. Disclaimer alert: That didn’t happen.

But in a serendipitous turn of events, I did end up wearing my saree on that trip. We were pretty busy in the months leading up to the wedding, and we didn’t really get a chance to book a pre-wedding photoshoot. I was kind of bummed but I soon forgot all about it in beautiful Bali.

Except life has an interesting way of making things happen in the most unexpected ways. When we checked into our hotel, we were congratulated for recently getting married and as a complimentary gift, we were given a photoshoot session with the in-house photographer. Basically, we would book a one-hour session with the photographer who would take pictures of us on the beach and around the hotel.

My reaction at the time was, “Wait, are you kidding me?”

I couldn’t believe it, this was serendipity at its finest! So we booked a session and got dressed up, yep you guessed it, in our saree and jippa. Sure, it was a fairly short session with no make-up or outfit changes. But it was one heck of a memorable shoot!

I’ll never forget the expression of the hotel guests as us oddballs sped through the hotel grounds in Bali on a bicycle in a saree and jippa while the photographer tried to take pictures. I guess the true lesson here is that things can happen in unexpected ways, all we can do is embrace it and enjoy the journey!

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For those of you who miss travelling just as I do, I hope this was a fun read. All jokes aside, I hope you’re well and safe. Take care and I’ll see you again soon.

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Hi, I’m Vidhya. I’m a freelance writer and millennial who often struggles with adulthood.

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