25 things you totally do when you’re travelling but would never do at home
Travel has a way of teaching us new things about ourselves. Like maybe how brave we are, or how we cope with things going sideways. And we can bring those things home and apply them in our regular lives until the end of time. But then there are some things travel teaches us about ourselves that we somehow never manage to bring home with us. They live out there in the world. Have you ever stopped to wonder about why there’s a difference between travel you and home you? Because there totally is.
Strike up conversations with strangers
Not only do you pretty much never do this when you’re, say, on the bus on the way to work or waiting in line for a coffee, but you also secretly kind of hate it when people do it to you in those situations. But in a hostel? In another country? Where you literally know NOBODY? Suddenly you’re Chatty McChatterson and you’ll smile at anyone who glances at you, ask people questions about where they’re from and what their dreams are. Travel you can’t not talk to every single human being you encounter. And even weirder? You genuinely care about what they have to say in return, too. Super weird AND I love it.
Sleep less, but somehow sleep better?
When you travel, even though you only really need to set an alarm when you have an early plane or bus to catch or you booked a full-day activity that starts at the crack of dawn, you still regularly rise with the sun because there’s so much to do (well that and some guy from Sweden opened the dorm room curtains to do breathy sun salutations next to your bed). But even then, you’re not angry about it. And despite spending every night in a room with a different group of people with their own noises and smells, after a little while you somehow start to sleep better than you do at home. Earplugs help, for sure, but so does the freedom of being out in the world with few plans? Funny how that works.
I can’t so much as stomach last night’s dinner for lunch the next day at work, yet on the road I will happily throw back rice and beans for lunch and dinner every day for a week if it means I can stay beachside in Byron Bay for a few more days (true story). Plus, toss in a little je ne sais quoi from the free food shelf and it’s basically gourmet (at least when your budget is on the line).
Take it as it comes
Ask anyone who knows me at home, I don’t do well with plans changing with no warning. Bus is late? End of the world. But when I’m travelling? I’m suddenly the love child of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson breezing through life’s ups and downs with unbearable chillness. Bus broke down on the side of a mountain road in Laos and I’ve got a connection in an hour and no one can tell me what’s going on? Cool, coolcool.
I hate dancing. At home. Abroad? Um, are you using this table because I think it just became my own personal dance floor. Bonus points if it’s a song by any popular Canadian artist of the past 50 years. There will be dancing. If you don’t tell anyone back home about me, I won’t tell them about you. Now let’s dance.
Take a ton of photos
I take a ton of photos at home, but on the road I take A TON of photos. And it goes beyond just documenting everything. Everything gets 45 backup shots just in case the first one looked slightly off. Do I have the ability to easily delete all 44 of the rejects? Yes. Do I? Absolutely not.
Whatever mindless Buzzfeed article pops up on Facebook as I’m trying to fall asleep is the extent of my reading most days. But somehow when I’m travelling I burn through novels every few days and I stake out the hostel book swap shelf like I'm 12 and a new Harry Potter is about to drop.
Unintentionally turn vegetarian or vegan
Even though a life without meat (specifically bacon) feels completely unattainable to me, somehow I can turn vegan out on the road just because cheese is expensive and difficult to preserve without constant refrigeration. If it weren’t for European hostels’ free continental breakfasts luring me in with their grab ‘n go salami, there’s no telling how long I’d unknowingly go veg.
At home, I’ll wash things that I left on the floor after trying them on for eight seconds, yet on the road I’ll wear the same pair of jeans for… I won’t say. For a while. A good while. Too much while.
Shower with flip flops
Probably a myth—I don’t know anyone who’s caught anything foot-related using a hostel shower, but I’ll still do it (unless it’s a private bathroom and no one’s around to judge me).
Wear quick-dry pants
Once. ONCE. Okay? And it was totally worth it. They’re amazing. They’re pants, but when they get wet, they’re almost immediately dry pants.
Open up to people you just met
I’ve had best friends I’ve known for years tell me I’m hard to read, yet if I’m in a pensive mood and you’re from another country and sitting next to me on a hostel couch, chances are I’ll be dishing up my deepest vulnerabilities in no time. When everyone you meet is a potential therapist you may never see again, let it all out.
What is it about being in a place where you can’t yet possibly fully appreciate the scale on your map that makes you think any distance is walkable? Maybe it’s because when everything is new, every route is the scenic route. Cover three arrondissements in Paris in a day? Sign me up. Walk four blocks to the post office to pick up a package? I’m good, thanks.
Dine out alone
Heading to a restaurant alone at home is a daunting proposition when you might, you know, run into someone you know who will see you in your solitary misery and probably notify the local news about it. But combine hunger (or hanger) with an enticing international food scene and literally only yourself to hang out with, you have no qualms requesting that table for one, and you won’t even bring a book to pretend to be super engrossed in while you eat. Just you, your tastebuds, something delicious and a whole bunch of strangers to make eye contact with.
Ah the sweet luxury of not working. Not only do I not nap in my real life, I pretty much can’t even if I tried. But take me away from home and give me a bunk in an empty dorm room in the middle of the day next to a window with a light summer breeze and an overhead fan and seeya on the other side of dreamland, friends.
Speak other languages
When I go to Montreal, I might reluctantly mumble a hard-R bonjour in response to a shopkeeper’s friendly bonjour hi, but that’s about as far as I’ll go, lest my pronunciation not be up to snuff, but put me in a Warsaw train station with a unilingual ticket agent and somehow I secure myself a ticket and a kind “dziękuję” without being laughed at. Am I actually multilingual or is everyone in the world just super nice?
Selfies are narcissistic and self-indulgent and no one needs to see my face that often UNLESS I’m in front of an important landmark in which case, hello world.
Eat at McDonalds
At home, McDonald’s is something you do 1) rarely and 2) probably while drunk. On the road? McDonald’s has three excellent excuses working in its favour: 1) McNuggets guaranteed to be shaped like boots, 2) that familiar scent of the best French fries on Earth (fight me) and 2) free wifi. That’s a deadly combo when you’ve been in a foreign country for a while and just want something familiar and a place to sit back and email mom while crying into a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, extra pickles.
Drink ginger ale
I don’t know if this is just me but somehow word got out that ginger ale is the house white whenever you’re in the sky. I never order ginger ale without something boozy in it unless I’m on a plane, in which case I request it every single time. I don’t understand it, but I don’t fight it.
Keep a journal
The benefits of journaling and self-reflection cannot be understated, but heaven forbid I actually take a minute to do it in my day-to-day homelife. At home, hurriedly scribbling down a grocery or to-do list is the extent of my handwritten creations. Send me out into the world and not only do I carry a physical, paper journal, I actually use it, hand cramps and all.
Curate the weirdest playlists
As you travel, some pretty off-brand (for you) tunes can easily seep into your playlist as you associate them with good times and a growing list of music-inspired memories. The end result might just be the world’s weirdest and most diverse playlist as you shuffle directly from Taylor Swift to LMFAO. But if you were there, it makes total sense (and makes you smile every time).
We’re all guilty of defaulting to the ‘maybe’ response to invitations, but maybe has no place in travel. When faced with the option of going somewhere, doing something, the answer is either "No, I’m leaving town on the 6 a.m. bus" or "Yes, meet you in the lobby."
Reflect on the meaning of life
What is it about self-guided city tours that go hand in hand with self-guided soul-searching tours? When your days are filled with exploring and discovering in the far reaches of this enormous tiny planet we call home, you can’t help but reflect on what you mean in the grand scheme of it all. It’s existential and beautiful and very rarely leads to real answers, but that’s okay.
Skip expensive coffee
Hands up if the only decent coffee you had on your backpacking trip around Europe was when you splurged on a cezve of turkish coffee on your walking tour of Istanbul. You might be in the habit of grabbing your daily fancy-whatever from your favourite local coffee shop at $5 a day at home, but on the road you take whatever’s free at the hostel breakfast and that’s it for the day. Fortunately, you can take advantage of some DIY upgrades if you’re crafty.
Out there on the road, meeting people, saying yes, reading books, listening to weird music, wandering aimlessly, wearing dirty clothes, eating bread, drinking ginger ale, writing it all down, contemplating life, trying new things and opening up yourself and your mind and your heart to the world, you can’t help but fall in love with the one person who made the decision to make it all happen—you. If you bring anything back from your travels, bring that.