101 Things I’ve Learned From Travelling to 101 Countries

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Travel and Life Tips I've Learned

Turkey was my 101st country.

Table of Contents

Wow I can't believe it.

While I always wanted to see as much as I could of the world it always felt a little unobtainable. I never thought I wouldn't be able to do it, but I always seem to have this ever evolving bucket list that seems to get longer not shorter.

I know I'm so very fortunate to have won the life lottery of being born in Australia and being able to work hard and save money for travel. While I'm very aware that so many global citizens may never leave their home town, I do constantly hope that anyone who really wants to might have the opportunity to visit at least one of their dream destinations in their life time.

Travel has taught me so many things but these are my 101 travel and life tips that visiting over 100 countries has shown me.

1: Hair and make up won't change my experience

Spending 40 mins applying a full face of make and doing my hair up won't have any effect on my experience that day. Flying through the trees on a zipline will be exactly the same whether I have blow dried my hair or not. I'd rather have the 40 mins.

2: Everyone will move on with their lives while you are gone.

Don't expect to keep up to date with all the happenings in the lives of your family and friends. They will miss you sure, but life goes on and by the time you get back you will have missed heaps. Accept it.

3: It is possible to read 13 books in a week!

I've done it. It is possible. I do have to fess up that it was when I was staying in a little cottage near a small village in the Dominican Republic with no sim card.

4: Scars are the tattoos of life. 

I've had some nasty scars in my life and they all tell a story, just like my tattoos do. Embrace the story and ignore the scar.

5: Yes you can get skin cancer without ever having a bad sunburn

I've had one bad sunburn in my lift and I'm currently getting skin cancers burned off and cut out everywhere. I'm also a sunscreen fanatic and have skin that tans very easily, so I've learned you don't need bad skin or sunburn to get skin cancers.

Jenny Marsden from Charge The Globe
A beautiful sunny day on Zapatilla Beach in Panama

6: Sometimes you just need to smile and nod

The people that really know me can tell when I'm smiling and nodding in tolerance, but no-one else can. Its a skill. Learn it.

7: No I'm not scared and sometimes I maybe should be

I don't really get scared going new places on my own. I think its really easy to know how to get from train stations or airports to where you need to be now and I always book my first nights accommodation so I never really feel scared. Sometimes I look back and think there have been occasions where I should have been so I'm working on not being quite so blasé about things.

8: Not really caring what other people think isn't always a good thing.

This is actually a constant battle for me. I just don't give a crap what people think but I'm often told I'm stand offish and (something I really hate) that I'm intimidating. I don't mean to be, but I don't care if you think my clothes are bad so I will just walk away when I can see you judging me. I need to work on that.

9: You can have a great time at The Grand Ole Oprey even if you hate country music.

I got tickets to the Oprey on what turned out to be the opening night of CMA week. It was an absolute fluke and I only did it because a few locals insisted I couldn't be in Nashville and not do the Oprey. I had an absolute blast even though I really don't like country music.

10: It all goes WAY too quick.

One day your young and carefree and the next your bad knee tells you rain is on the way. Yes it does go way too quickly.

Here I am in the Mokoro ready for our Okavango experience
In my Mokoro heading into the Okavango Delta

11: Animals always blow my mind

Sitting with Gorilla’s in Uganda or that time I patted a wild whale are some of the strongest memories I will have the day I die. While scenery is stunning and man made structures are inspiring, animal experiences are the best.

12: You are not a poor “insert noun here”

Don't ever reply to a hawker telling them you are poor. They will most likely never leave their own city or country and you are 5000 km from home. You are not a poor student or Woolworths worker. You have the opportunity to work and save enough money to get where you are. You're not a poor anything – “No thanks I don't want it” is a much better answer.

13: Giving randomly is the best way to do it.

After thousands of miles through areas with no real shopping while in Africa, I was desperate for a meal of  fried chicken and mushroom risotto. I can't remember where we were, but there was a big supermarket in the town and I walked the 5km down there to buy my chicken fillets and Aborio rice so I could cook my dinner.

On the way back to the camp ground I met a local lady with 2 small children at a busy intersection. She was holding up a sign looking for work and smiling at all the cars going past trying to get something happening. She saw me and ran over and asked if I had any work, even just a day. I explained that I wasn't from there and couldn't help but I just couldn't walk away from her. I handed over my shopping so she had something to cook for dinner and she immediately burst into tears. Then of course so did I.

I will always remember how very grateful she was and how just maybe for a few days I helped to make her life a little easier. Give when you can and when people don't expect it.

14: People are stupid. 

As a race we are the dumbest mofo's on the planet. I'm not excluding myself from this statement and I know it sounds every harsh but honestly – as a species we make the same mistakes over and over again and often fail to learn any lessons. We are not the sharpest tools in the shed and the more we become aware of it the more chance we have of change.

15: Feigning interest can result in genuine interest

I've stood and spoken to someone when I have zero interest in what they are saying before realizing that I'm really enjoying their company and how animated they are about their chosen subject. You never know what might interest you until you try it.

16: Hostels are a necessary evil.

I really don't like hostels. With the exception of Japan and South Korea they are usually not great but if I stay at hostels for a few nights I can afford a small hotel for my day off or when I just need some privacy.

EXCEPTION: The Alburgues on the Camino are for the most part great. They cater to large numbers, everyone is walking so there's not to much partying going on and the beds are usually good.

Jen, Sue and Monica - Camino De Santiago
Myself, Sue and Monica having breakfast on the Camino De Santiago

17: We have all got a little too precious.

Education about the past is critical to a tolerant and interactive world, but tormenting people about something that happened 4 generations ago is not productive.  Lets move forward, not keep looking back.

18: Clothes pegs are always handy.

Tell me you haven't used a clothes peg to close a chip packet! Those things are amazing and Japan makes the best ones!

19: No you can't wear leggings everywhere!

There are some places that leggings just shouldn't be worn. Exercise wear isn't suitable for all situations. Rant over.

20: Research is the key

We have access to endless amounts of information literally at our fingertips. Use it for good! Learn about where you are going, customs and the culture and be prepared with not just what you are wearing but also how you act

Jen Anapurna Circuit
Hiking Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

21: People don't care about your travelling

No one ever asks about my travels. I'm not exaggerating here. I have never had anyone sit down and ask what I loved, what I didn't or what stories I had. I have had people ask “did you have a good holiday” or maybe something specific about somewhere they are going, but on the whole – no one ever sits down with intent to learn about my travels. Travel is personal and often just doesn't relate to others.

22: Make the most of when things go wrong

Flights get cancelled, hotels lose bookings, your bus breaks down – whatever it is – things go wrong. Make the most of it and remember that these are the memories that will stick, like the time I saw this bathroom in Korea! SO WORTH IT!

23: Americans are not all loud and brash

Most of them are incredibly helpful and considerate people and almost all of them have at least one great story to tell.

24: Apart from about 12 people, your Instagram followers aren't your friends.

Just because someone has followed you on social media doesn't mean they are your friend. Mostly they won't care about your latest rant or challenge you might be having, they are there for the pretty pictures.

25: Travel how you like.

It doesn't matter if you travel with a backpack or a Louis Vuitton set, travelling is travelling. There is no room for snobbery in travel.

Brad eating a Japanese feast in Brooklyn
Brad eating a Japanese feast in Brooklyn – sometimes I have trips where I spend money and aren't really budget conscious at all.

26: Blogging is hard.

Blogging is time consuming, takes heaps of effort and years to get it right. I'm still 449 posts behind where I should be. It's hard.

27: No is a perfectly good answer.

I'm not elaborating on this. Learn to say no.

28: Being sustainable takes commitment!

While it's not super difficult when you are at home, while you are travelling it can be really challenging to stick to your sustainable principles. Look around and work out how you can act and what products you can use or purchase to help you.

29: Africa IS NOT A COUNTRY!!!

OMG – I've had so many conversations with people over the years who tell me about somewhere in Africa they went. I ask where – they insist “Africa” and look at me like I'm stupid. AFRICA IS A CONTINENT. There are 54 countries in Africa. Learn which one you are talking about and use it. Is that rant #2?

Jen As Rick
Being “Rick” in Atlanta – If you don't know what I'm talking about, we probably don't share the same viewing ideals!

30: Smile

Especially when you don’t want to. It can change your entire day. 

31: You can go to Vegas without gambling

Vegas is a treasure trove of experiences and I've been maybe 4 times and gambled once. My money is too precious to me to gamble away so I've played Blackjack once, but I love Vegas. Vegas isn't just for gambling.

32: Burning Man sucks!

I'm sure the first few years it started it was amazing but I didn't like burning man at all. It just felt like it's now somewhere to be photographed wearing minimal clothing while expressing what an “empath” you are. Nope didn't like it at all.

33: Coachella kicks arse!

I sprung for the $950 VIP ticket to Coachella mostly because I was 50 and queueing for filthy toilets & having nowhere to sit just didn't seem like something I wanted to do. It was the best decision I made and I loved Coachella.

34: You need about 70% less than you think you do.

Clothing &  possessions especially. Most of us could do with a lot less than we have. I try to make my purchase decisions about sustainability now. I do the “do I really need this or do I just want it” question before I buy and it's really changed my purchasing history.  Travel money now that's a different matter!

35: You can do it. I know I can.

My mother says “I can do it” were the first words I ever spoke. I’m sure that’s not true, but the sentiment would have been there. That’s who I am and who you can be too.

36: Boarding the plane is so exciting.

There is almost nothing that measures up to boarding a flight to a new destination! 

37: Don't avoid popular places just because they are.

Don’t be that person that avoids completely places that are massively popular. They are busy for a reason and you don’t want to realize later that it is going to cost you $4000 to see the Mona Lisa because the Louvre was too “touristy” for you to visit. Sure you will always make decisions based on timing and desire but don't just decide that you don't want to visit something simply because it is popular. There's usually a reason it is.

38: Travel makes you learn to prioritise like a Queen!

You can’t do everything (James Packer – feel free to sponsor me if you feel like this statement can be disproven) so you have to learn to prioritize what is most important to you. 

39: You will tap into the emergency fund at some stage!

It’s inevitable that at some point on some trip you will need to use your emergency funds. I always keep a credit card with a decent limit with me and treat that as my emergency money. And yes I've used it.

40: Don't over plan.

Allow time to learn about other places to visit from other travellers and locals as they can end up being some of your best travel memories.

No Pictures at the Dueling Piano show at New York New York, Las V egas.
No Pictures! Vegas around 2010 I think.

41: Getting to the top is always worth it

Climbing a tough mountain is similar to childbirth. Once you get to the top you totally forget the pain it took to get there. I'm not saying its the same – I'm saying the principle is!

42: Buy local!

There is nothing wrong with buying souvenirs but try to buy hand made local products and not mass manufactured crap.

43: Always eat the desert!

No explanation needed here. 

44: Do the free tours

There is almost always free walking tours in most big cities and they are mostly run by people who are passionate about that location. They don't get paid so they would have to love it right? 

45: Go smaller city wise.

Get on a bus to the next small town outside the city you are staying in. These little towns are the best!

46: Trust yourself.

Instinct, trusting your gut, intuition – whatever you call it – trust it. 

47: Don't try to force friendships.

It is perfectly fine to walk away from a week long group tour without connecting with everyone on social media. They might be a great crew but you won’t be friends with everyone. Don’t force it.

48: It can be hard to share!

It can be really hard to share your stories without people thinking you are bragging. I have developed a tendency to not mention anything unless someone asks about my travels and to be honest that never happens.

49: You never know someone else's story.

You never know someone else's story. Don’t assume anything. 

Collen my Chimanimani hiking guide
My friend Collen who is a hiking guide in Chimanimani in Zimbabwe.

Jenny Marsden - Charge The Globe
About the author

Meet Jenny, a passionate Australian travel blogger who has explored 103 countries to date. With over 30 years of travel experience, Jenny has a wealth of knowledge to share with her readers about the cultures, landscapes, and people she has encountered on her journeys. She's always battling unfashionably frizzy hair and you will never catch Jenny in anything but comfortable shoes. Learn more about Jenny and her travels.

50: No is a perfectly good answer.

I know I'm repeating myself. This one's important.

51: Put your bloody phone away

Be here. Be present and forget about the perfect Insta shot. Absorb everything you can and then, if you must spend 40 mins perfecting that one photo. 

52: Always have a carry bag!

The further afield you go the more then tend to use plastics. Having your own carry bag will mean that you are helping even if its in a very small way.

53: Don't get obsessed with frequent flyer points!

Yes frequent flyer points count but don’t let them rule your life decisions.

54: Travel light

Pack everything you need and then ditch about half of it. You won't miss it trust me.

55: Visit the cemeteries.

I love cemeteries and have some great photos from cemeteries all around the world. I've also learned heaps from cemeteries. Once we were in Spain and visited a cemetery and noticed that a lot of the headstones had similar dates on them. When we asked some locals their was a pandemic that had killed over 50% of the population in that area at that time. That was info we would never have known and we heard quite a few stories from locals once we started talking about it.

56: Visiting in the off season is still worth it.

Visiting the UK in winter means you get mulled wine! OMG – I must research how to make that…

57: Embrace things you think you might hate.

A KPop Concert is WAY better than you think its going to be and something I would never have done without a shove.

58: Always have your own water bottle!

This Life Straw bottle will enable you to fill it up anywhere and drink from it. The filter kills 99.9999% of bacteria & 99.9999 % of parasites. I started with mine for hiking but now take it everywhere. The filter is replaceable and lasts up to 4000 litres! There is also a carbon filter that lasts up to 100 litres however the carbon is purely for taste so if you are remote and the carbon is at the end of its life it won't affect the water quality, just the taste.

59: Book your domestic flights with your international ones for the USA.

If travelling to the US, put all your flights on one ticket to avoid massive baggage costs for domestic flights. The domestic flights have to be on your international ticket for it to work though. Expedia will allow you to do this.

Brad and I in business class to Europe
Sometimes points are worth it! If you have to do 14 hours in a plane its really nice to do them in comfort.

60: WhatsApp is amazing.

As long as you have connection you can call and text using WhatsApp from your own number. Sadly the person at the other end does need to also have WhatsApp but just make sure everyone important has joined before you leave so you can call them.

61: Laugh – mostly at yourself.

Who cares if you look daft, most of these people you are never going to see again and those that you do will already know you are a goof. Allow yourself to do the daft things that make you who you are. There's no point travelling if you have to change who you are to do it.

62: Dry bags have multiple uses!

Dry bags are great for packing shoes, swimming across rivers and washing your clothes. Put your clothes in them, add water and detergent and shake for about 5 mins. Roll them to squeeze the water out, rinse, shake for another 2 mins and roll again to squeeze that water out. Wring out your clothes and hang them out to dry. TIP: Use your chamois to help to wring the excess water out.

63: Learn a few phrases

Try and learn at least a few of the local phrases. It will take you a long way.

64: People often don't help for free

Never let anyone carry your bag if you aren’t prepared to pay them. This happens all over the world so politely say no thank you I can carry it myself if you aren't prepared to pay them. Not to mention you shouldn't let anyone pick up your bag and walk off!

65: No is a still perfectly good answer.

Are you getting it yet?

66: Jeans have no place in a travel bag.

They are heavy, they take ages to dry and they aren’t comfortable to travel long distances in. Leave the jeans at home and invest in a good pair of dark coloured versatile pants.

67: Never, Never, Never leave home without travel insurance. 

I can't stress this enough. BUT – you also need to purchase the travel insurance BEFORE you pay for your trip or the cancellation policy won't apply. All policies are different but I've known people that couldn't claim over $5k in flights because they booked the flights and paid for them a few months before they bought the insurance. The insurance will be the same cost whether you buy it 6 months out or 2 days so do yourself a favour and purchase the insurance first and then start buying your tickets. I use World Nomads and have for years. 

68: Remember to take rest days!

Don’t ignore rest days. Travel can be really hard and equally as exhausting as working. Take at least every 14th day off to rest and recover and catch up on the latest Handmaid's Tale.

69: Use a VPN

VPN's are designed to keep you safe while browsing and using your digital services, but they are also  great for being able to watch your favorite shows on your day off.  I also love them for when apps from your home country won't work while you are away. I have a banking app that gives me terrible grief if I login from anywhere else outside Australia, but if I turn my VPN on to Sydney before I start – no worries at all. 

Cleve's Adventure Tours, Roatan, Honduras
Enjoying my Roatan day tour in 2016

70: Travel frugally but don't be stingy

Travelling on a budget is great but don’t miss out on amazing experiences because of a severely limiting budget. Know that there are times you will want to do that balloon flight over the Serengeti and budget accordingly.

71: Sarongs are the ultimate multiuse tool.

They can be beach towels, clothing, wraps, cover ups for when you have to pee in the bushes (overlanding teaches you that you can be in the middle of nowhere and mid pee a kid will appear), screens for your bunk bed at the hostel and even sheets for sleeping. Always have a sarong. You won't be sorry.

72: Ask

Ask. Ask for help. Ask for directions. Ask for tips. Ask or you won’t know.

73: Always have tissues

And not just for blowing your nose either! They have a multitude of uses if you get my drift 

74: You can carry your fully grown pig on your motorbike

I've seen this at least twice, however, sadly I was too busy watching and didn't think to snap a pic to prove it.

75: Never trust taxi drivers

If you can’t see a visible meter make sure you ask if they have a meter, or secure a price before you get in. Some have meters on their review mirror now so you might think they don’t have one but ask first and make sure you see it before you commit to the trip. If they don’t have a meter, ask for a price and if they feel dodgy film them telling you the price. If they are legit they won’t care. 

Waiting at the border in Nicaragua. It was SO HOT!
Waiting at the border in Nicaragua for hours. It was SO HOT!

76:  Visa’s aren’t always available on the road.

There are many countries still that you have to apply for a visa from your home country. Don’t assume that you can apply anywhere. 

77: Invest in good gear if you are planning to use it a lot.

A good backpack will mean you can carry it for kilometres if you had to. Decent clothing will mean you don’t have to buy more. A good quality anti slash travel bag will keep your valuables safe and give you peace of mind. Cheap gear usually has to be replaced way before you want to.

78: Learn to be patient

Sometimes you have to line up, sometimes the bus breaks down and sometimes you have to be with some twat you want to punch in the face. Take a breath, know this won’t last forever and look for the good in the situation. 

79: Look after your diet

Don’t expect to eat crap food and not feel the effects after a while.

Zip lining through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Costa Rica
Sliding across the Costa Rican jungle on a zipline

80: Try couch surfing or homestays

Even just one day in a month will mean you meet someone local who can give you tips and maybe take you somewhere you might never have found otherwise. Like Saori my Sapporo host who introduced me to Okonomiyaki. Hi Saori!!

81: Comfort is sometimes over rated.

Being out of your comfort zone doesn’t mean you are out of your depth. So what if your heart is beating a little faster. That’s got to be burning calories right?

82: Never talk about politics or religion to a stranger

Never start a conversation about politics or religion without knowing the person intimately. Most of us find it extremely hard to convey our thoughts on either subject while staying objective. It's not something you need to talk about so don’t start it unless you know the person you are talking to can have a calm conversation about it and you can both listen and reply with respect. 

83: Beware the hire car excess

Hiring a car means you will have possibly up to $5000 blocked out on your credit card. They block the excess (deductible for you US people out there) so you can’t get away with it if you crash the car. It often takes 5-7 days to be released so don’t depend on that money. It won't be available.

To protect yourself even further you can use Rental Cover for that extra cover that costs an arm and a leg at the hire desk. This will reduce your excess to zero for most of their policies (please check of course) but it is a payback type of insurance. You still need to pay the excess and then claim it back. I've spent $90 on this for a weeks hire when the cost at the hire car company to reduce the excess to $0 was $35 per day or $245. A massive saving.

84: LET IT GO!

Who cares if someone pushed in line last week. Let it go. Embrace what you’re doing and where you are and don't dwell on the drama. Speak up if it bothers you at the time and then forget it. Life's too short.

85: The language barrier is smaller than you think

It's actually pretty easy to communicate with no common language. Try it – you will be surprised how much you can actually convey.

86:  You’re not boring because you don’t party every night.

If you choose to spend your money on experiences and not beer, no-one has the right to judge you for that and you shouldn’t care. It’s your trip, do it your way

87: RESPECT is everything.

Don’t got to UAE and expect to walk from your apartment to the beach in a bikini. Respect others and their lifestyle. Everything is not about you.

88: Find out the emergency number

If there is one, find out what the emergency number is for the country you are in and put it on the homescreen of your phone. More remote countries won’t have one but a lot do. Find out what it is and just put that number on the home page of your phone, because knowing it and remembering it are two different things!

89: We are more alike than you think

We are all way more similar than you think. Women my age across the globe often have the same concerns and outlook on life that I have. We are wildly different but somehow similar as well.

90: People are not their government

Whether you are from Syria, North Korea or the US you are not your government. Remember that when you travel.

Visiting Thingvellir National Park in Iceland
Iceland in late November!

91: You will never see it all.

There’s no way you could, so embrace that and celebrate what you have experienced.

92: Use your internet access for good

We live in an era of instant access to information. I started travelling before there was internet and remember how difficult it was to find buses and get from A to B but now we can find out almost anything instantly. Use it for good! 

93: Know where you are staying

Always save your accommodation location on your phone or take a business card. We’ve been in Bangkok recently and I’ve asked Brad where we are staying when we've been out and he had no idea. One of you knowing is not enough. 

94: You won't like some places

That’s OK. Just don’t dwell on it. Move on. 

95: Car chamois are the best towels

The polishing chamois you buy for your car at the servo is perfect for travel. They weigh nothing, take no space and are super absorbent. If you have your sarong you have something for the beach so packing a simple chamois means you always have something to dry yourself with that takes no room at all.

96:  Make sure someone else has your info

Save them to your phone so you have them offline if need be but email them to yourself and someone else just in case. If you are incommunicado they will most likely need access to your passport for info to help get you home.

97: Never eat next to a big tourist site.

Never eat next to a big tourist destination. It will be expensive and usually not great. They have a massive turn over so they don't care if you never come back. That means they have zero motivation to have great food or service.

98: Always book refundable hotel rooms when you can.

During COVID this saved me thousands of dollars. When it looked like everything was opening up I booked a big Australian holiday for us but of course Omicron came and if I hadn't had refundable bookings I would have been out thousands of dollars.

Brad M, Brad V and Les sampling the local Bedouin cuisine
Brad M, Brad V and Les at our campsite in Wadi Rum sampling the local Bedouin cuisine

99: Search for flights in an Incognito window.

Most browsers have incognito or private windows you can use. Click the three dots at the top right and choose “New In Private (or Incognito) window”. Search for flights there. This limits the tracking cookies that stalk you and ensure you will get the best prices.

100: Make lunch your main meal

Its usually way cheaper, you can get more for your money at lunch time and you can buy some fruit or something light for dinner which will save you heaps of money over a year on the road. It is a little difficult to get used to but it's how I eat at all times now.

101: No is a perfectly good answer

I know I'm harping on this one but seriously this may be the best thing you ever learn to do. And don’t explain it. Just say no thanks or no I don’t want to and move on.

So there you have it. My 101 life and travel lessons from 101 countries.

I'm well aware some will be a little controversial and I'm expecting massive pushback from the Burning Man one, but they are lessons that I've learned and that are valuable to me. Hopefully some are to you too.

My Favourite Lesson?

I think you can guess at least one, which was actually something our dad used to say to us all the time. We never feel the need to explain yes but somehow we do when we say no. Just answer no and leave it at that.

Another one of my favourites is that being out of your comfort zone doesn't mean you are out of your depth. I love that and remind myself of that regularly. Usually when I've swum out the back of the surf break and then realize I've got to get back in without getting dumped. So I guess its kind of literal then….

Jen from Charge The Globe at Cap Blanc in Mauritania
Surveying the sand at Cap Blanc in Mauritania
101 Lessons from 101 countries

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