“Never truly believe the stories that have already been written. It’s your responsibility to write your own story.”
Travelling is in my blood. Ever since I took my first trip abroad to Spain as an anxious 12 year old in 1997, I fell in love with exploring the different cultures, traditions, cuisine and the history our planet has to offer.Now, 19 years later, I have travelled to 126 countries across 6 continents. 95% of these I have visited by myself. Solo travel has taught me so many life skills that I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered if I travelled with others. For example, I’ve learnt how to live independently. I’ve learnt how to cook. I’ve also learnt that everything you read about and listen to in the media isn’t necessarily correct.I’ve seen the sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I have navigated the train network of the Caucasus. I’ve tasted the delicious cuisine of the Middle East. I’ve survived the dangerous parts of Central America and I’ve enjoyed a mint tea whilst watching the sunset over “Jemaa el-Fnaa” in Marrakech.I am often asked about what I would recommend to those that are thinking about travelling, those that are currently aboard or those that are about to embark on their own adventure. Here are my top 10 tips:
- Research your destination(s) – This is always a controversial topic amongst the travelling community. But I strongly believe reading up before your trip is essential. Make use of sites such as Wikipedia, Google Maps and Tripadvisor alongside the excellent Lonely Planet guidebooks.
- Get cashback on pre-travel expenses – Websites such as Quidco offer cashback on purchases such as flights, accommodation and sightseeing tours. Handy for having that extra bit of cash in your account when you return from your trip.
- Take adequate travel insurance – No brainer really. For the sake of a few pounds you’re covered for all medical emergencies. The EHIC card is good but doesn’t give you complete cover.
- Organise your spending money – Try to avoid taking large amounts of cash. I would recommend signing up for currency cards such as Supercard or Revolut which give you excellent rates on purchases and cash withdrawals whilst away and they’re much safer than cash too.
- Pack light – Do you really need that extra shirt? Packing light means it’s easier to navigate planes & busses and it means you’ll have more room for souvenirs.
- Use Google maps & GPS to avoid getting lost – Most smartphones & tablets nowadays have GPS installed. Using this along with Google maps means you greatly reduce the chances of being lost. In areas with Wi-Fi, you can save the map to your device so you know where everything is instantly.
- Local food is king – What are you doing eating generic fast-food rubbish?! Local cuisine is (mostly) fresh, good for the local environment, often cheaper and most importantly very tasty. If the locals eat there than it must be a good place.
- EC261 is your friend – If you are on a severely delayed or cancelled flight from Europe or on an EU carrier than you may be entitled to compensation through a European Union directive called EC261. I have a €600 cheque for a delayed flight to Canada last month on its way as we speak.
- Don’t believe everything you hear/see/read in the media – The world isn’t a big scary place full of people that want to hurt you. Most people are incredibly friendly and love to show you the best parts of their homeland.
- Enjoy yourself! – The most important tip. Travelling is a life-changing experience for the better, so embrace every moment of it!
My name is James Merriman. Despite only being 31 years old and born & bred in North Devon, I’ve travelled to 126 countries. Most of my trips have been by myself and include places such as Central America, All though the Middle East (Israel, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia for example) and all through Eastern Africa. This is my Lonely Planet profile which shows where I have visited so far: https://auth.lonelyplanet.com/profiles/mezzarino/trips. Get in touch on Twitter – @mezzarino or on my webpage.