Lessons Learned from Travel

I’ve just returned from Panama with a camera full of amazing experiences, new friends, and an awesome sun tan. Going away for a full 2 weeks was a first in my life and I found that to be a bit stressful in terms of what I might need. As it turns out, I seemingly packed enough and didn’t over do it. I also I learned a few things while I was there…

Don’t stress.

This includes flights, lost luggage, broken fridges, taxi’s honking at 3:30 am, or worrying if that guy will come back with his machete because you wouldn’t give him his full tour rate for essentially screwing you over (but, we managed to work out a deal with that guy). The lesson is to adapt and realize that it won’t ruin your day, there is always tomorrow, ice is cheap, and keep a rusty machete under your pillow.

Make friends.

Whether you are emerging yourself in the culture of a new place, mingling in a hostel common area, or adventuring with like-minded travelers to Caribbean islands, you will find that meeting new people and making friends really adds to your travel experience. As a bonus, you’ll get to meet new friends all over the world which will add to your future travels!

Plan to do nothing.

Make sure you plan some down time. Yes, you should experience as much as you can, but when you have a view like this, maybe you should just sit around for a day, do an ice run before noon and grab some $0.05 freezies, and take a nap.

Things may not be exactly what you expected.

When thinking about being on a white sand island in the middle of the Caribbean for 2 nights, I had imagined a tranquil island with Coco Loco (rum and fresh coconut water for $1) as far as the eye could see. That didn’t exactly happen as we were rounded up at 7:30 am with the blow of a conch shell every morning for bread and cheese slices and no such thing as Coco Loco.

Yeah, sure. It wasn’t exactly as imagined, but I was still lucky to be there and I got to meet some really fun people. To be honest, I’ve totally forgotten about slicing up my foot, the ant infestation, and my still lingering gut problems and all I seem to remember is the fun stuff, like that amazing sunset at the top and this view:

You will need more money.

I had taken out what seemed like enough cash before I left, however, I ended up making two trips to the bank machine. My biggest mistake was not talking to my bank about using debit or getting a Visa debit card before I left. I figured it should be easy since there are Scotiabanks in Panama, so why wouldn’t my Scotiabank stuff just work? Apparently it wasn’t so easy. There was nothing more frustrating than trying to arrange over the phone a time where I could go to the ABM, how much money I could take out and then actually going to the ABM and seeing that it doesn’t work. Just let me have my money already! 

A little tip from one my new travel friends: If I plan to travel a lot in the future, I will get a Chase credit card with no foreign currency transaction fees (the link is for Canadian cards – either the Amazon.ca or the Marriot Rewards card) so I can freely use a credit card and save cash for other situations.

What are some of your lessons learned from travelling? Do you seem to only remember the good things about your trip? What will you do differently the next time?

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