2016 was a great year for us. Considering we’re not full time travellers and we both have demanding day jobs, we’re quite stoked that we actually managed to pull off 9 significant trips in 12 months! And here’s 10 travel lessons our 9 trips from 2016 taught us.
Lesson #1: Do nothing
We kicked off 2016 with a holiday. Yes, a holiday (and you can read about why we do that here). How’s that different from any other trip? Contrary to popular belief, life as travellers who run their own content publishing website isn’t easy! And while on holiday, we divide our time broadly between experiences and documentation. That can get really hectic – while we’re out during the day lugging our cameras and other gear, we’re making notes, taking and sharing pictures and other interesting bite-sized trivia, and finally staying up through most of the night writing or editing.
So we decided to start the year without any of that and went to Seychelles. We spent a few days here where we just lazed on the beach, drank champagne and ate fantastic seafood! We did nothing else and that was perhaps the best way to start the year!
Lesson #2: Get off the main road
A short while later, a quick work trip to Colombia left me both happy and sad. I was happy because we haven’t been to Colombia and this visit could be a good quick preview of a proper trip we’ll eventually do. And I was sad because it was a mad dash in and out with very little time to do anything else. While I was in Bogota for half the trip, my days were packed with work and I had absolutely no time to head out and explore the city. Soon it was time to leave to Guatavita where I was shooting a film. Guatavita and its surrounds were absolutely beautiful and were quite a contrast to Bogota. I loved the fact that my first real Colombian experience was just the opposite of what the classic Colombian cliche, away from the parties and the dazzle of the city.
This trip also helped inspire another trip we did later in the year. Where we decided to escape the cliche, get off the main road and discover hidden gems.
Lesson #3: Make new friends
While I grew up spending some of my time in the wild on jungle treks with friends and my brother, I’ve always tried to push Revati into exploring the jungle. She started doing that in 2015 and fell in love with the jungle! This year, just before the season was to close, she managed to pull off another trip to Pench with Pugdundee Safaris. Her trips from 2015 and this one brought alive natural history for her. She was hooked, bitten hard by the bug of discovery on her first trip.
From the elusive Tiger to the Indian Roller (the tiny fellow who’s been taunting her on all of her safaris!), we’re sure that we’re going to make many new friends in 2017. Just like the extra large one we made during the end of 2016 (more on that below).
Lesson #4: Nothing beats old friends
People who know Revati all know her lifelong love with her favourite destination in the whole world – Paris. So before we headed out to Portugal, she decided to travel a few days earlier and spend time in Paris alone. For her, it was like snuggling up in a blanket on a chilly day. I don’t think she feels more at home anywhere else in the world. But this trip was more than that for her. She took her time and really hung out with Paris. And that’s what you really do with old friends. There’s no rush of discovery or a need to do things. There’s great comfort in just hanging out and taking it slow.
Besides Paris, there are many cities we’ve both gone back to and it felt so good going back, it was almost like coming home. So that’s something we’ve decided we’re going to always do – go back and hang with our favourites.
Lesson #5: Small is beautiful
Around the mid of the year, I made my trip back to Europe on work with colleagues and we detoured at a small little spot in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region – Gordes. We were cut off from the rest of the world in a lovely villa in the countryside with nothing but fine wine, great food and beautiful crisp air for company.
I loved my time there, away from the bustle of the city, buzzing handphones, phone calls and traffic. We spent our time doing nothing more than talking, drinking and eating, and taking naps out in the sun. Nothing beats the idyllic tranquility of the countryside. And after that trip, I can’t wait for the two of us to go somewhere small and discover beauty all over again.
Lesson #6: If you’re really ready, the world will surprise you
We spend time planning our trips and we don’t shy away from admitting it ever. We owe it to ourselves, to our readers and often, to the countries we visit, to dive into the deep end and experience all the different things each destination offers. But that doesn’t mean travel doesn’t throw wonderful curveballs of surprise at us! And our trip to Portugal had so many of those!
We discovered the magical Quinta da Regalaria in Sintra quite by chance and were almost going to skip it. But I’m so glad we crossed paths with this piece of magic. Strolling down the streets of Porto keeping an eye out for an interesting place to grab a quick bite and we spot Cantinho de Avillez, run by José Avillez, one of the most renowned chefs in Portugal. And just when we thought Portugal couldn’t surprise us anymore, we began driving through the Algrave and it was just one surprise after another. From the charming restaurant by the seaside in Salema (one of the two or three!) that served some of the most delicious seafood we’ve tasted to the Michelin starred Sao Gabriel that left us speechless, from the breathtaking cliffs all over to the wonderful friends we made in Lagos.
So make all the plans you want to, but spend less time looking down at your itinerary and you will find something that surprises you. Portugal definitely taught us that.
Lesson #7: Things will disappear forever in our lifetime
As we headed out to Kaziranga National Park, I kept thinking about how much things have changed in our lifetime. Yes, as a race we’ve achieved much greatness in such a short time but we’ve also irrevocably damaged our planet. So when I saw a statue of a Rhinoceros in Guwahati airport and little kids taking selfies with it, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the only way future generations will experience the Indian Rhinoceros.
Thankfully, Kaziranga reassured me a little. We saw many Great One-Horned Rhinos all through our trip, with some of them getting a little too close for comfort. If anything at all, our safaris in 2016 have only taught us to put at least one wildlife trip on our 2017 travel calendar. And here’s hoping kids will not just know the Indian Rhino through a selfie taken with a statue at Guwahati Airport.
Lesson #8: Don’t be judgemental
Glass, chrome, cold, fast, soulless, shopping, skyscrapers, banks…these were some of the words that ran through Revati’s head when a trip to Hong Kong came her way. Isn’t it true that we often stereotype cities just because of the cliches associated with them? But the trip to Hong Kong completely changed our perceptions about this truly warm and rich city.
The trip to Hong Kong changed two things. It definitely replaced all the Hong Kong cliches that had crept into our heads. And it taught us to stop being judgemental.
Lesson #9: Find something you love and do it often
Back in 2015, we headed to Dubai for a short trip and also caught up with old friends. On that trip, we did something for the first time – we stayed overnight in the desert and you can read all about that fantastic experience here. That trip really made us fall in love with the desert and we promised ourselves that we will do it again.
Sure enough, when flydubai invited us over to Dubai in 2016, we jumped at it, knowing fully well that we will ensure we went back to the desert. And we did more than that. We dune bashed, went to a camp, visited Falcons and fell in love all over again with the desert.
Lesson #10: The past will teach the future
Like this post, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from our travels, it has to be the fact that every trip teaches us something that we use in future trips. So while we love looking back at our trips and think fondly about the surprises, the discoveries and the new friends we made, we also remember all the lessons each day on each trip taught us.
That really is what travel is all about, isn’t it?