I Did It! 6 Little Victories of Travel

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Even with over 12 years of full-time travel under my belt (and prior to that a veritably plush repertoire of travel experiences), I still feel a surge of excitement at what seem like trivial accomplishments on the road. These are the little victories of travel.

(See also: The Number 1 Reason Why I Love Slow Travel)

6 Best Things About Travel! Little victories and big - these are the things that make you feel great about your trip; things you might not have considered before. #TheProfessionalHobo #traveltips #longtermtravel #fulltimetravel #travellife

This post was originally published in 2015. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

Solo Travel

The Professional Hobo in Grenada taking a picture

I don’t think I’m the only one who gets a rush of excitement in traveling solo – especially in the beginning. A girlfriend who visited me abroad remarked on what a rush it was to fly by herself (she’s used to herding other people when traveling, but doing it solo felt different).

Solo travel is home to some of the most confidence-boosting travel victories. “I did it!” you exclaim while doing an inner happy dance at having traveled from A to B on your own.

Janice Waugh is a colleague and fellow traveler who specializes in solo travel; you can check out her Solo Traveler’s Handbook for tips and tricks to travel solo.

See also: Traveling Alone as a Woman – Tips & Tricks

Flying, Riding, and Otherwise Transporting

Nora Dunn on a train in Australia
Riding 16,000 or so kilometres of track in Australia

Okay, airports aren’t rocket science, and if you speak English you can technically navigate any airport in the world. So it shouldn’t feel like such a victory when you manage to negotiate the airport, from checking in to clearing security and finding your flight – and yet, it is victory. There’s nothing like sinking into your seat after the airport crush without a worry in the world – except whether the meal will be edible.

I get a similar rush of excitement/victory when I settle in for a long train ride or other major change of location. And finding a local chicken bus in a foreign town where you don’t speak the language is a veritable notch for the travel belt.

(See also: Tales of Trains: Where the Journey is the Destination)

Speaking the Language

When I visited Thailand in 2008, one of the “games” on the flight’s interactive video screen was for language learning. After futzing around with random words for a while, I focused on numbers, and disembarked with the ability to count to 1 million in Thai. As I traveled the country, I phonetically learned phrases from locals, and took this knowledge to the markets to practice. By the time I left Thailand a month later I could go into a market with some small talk, perform basic negotiations, and exchange parting pleasantries…all in Thai. What a victory that was!

It feels good to get to a point where you can converse with people in their native language. Often their demeanour even changes, allowing you make new friends and have deeper cultural experiences, not to mention get a better deal when negotiating for goods and services.

(See Also – Becoming Fluent in Spanish (and Other Languages)

Finding Your Accommodation/Hotel

What do you do when you finally settle in to your room? C’mon, admit it. You jump on the bed and squish the pillows to feel how soft they are, before romping around the room and exploring all its nooks and crannies. (I know it’s not just me; come on, guys).

Finding your accommodation for the night usually signifies the end of a longer journey from A to B, along with tales of adventure, mis-adventure, long hours on buses, planes, trains, and on it goes. You’re relieved to finally reach your resting place, which unto itself might have involved walking in circles, lost taxi drivers, and any number of travel stressors.

You made it to the hotel! Victory.


Trying my best to haggle in Vietnam

Part of immersing in a culture is doing as the locals do, which in many countries, means haggling.

When I first traveled to China (at the age of 16), I knew that negotiating was expected, and felt a rush of excitement at haggling the vendor down 10% on my first purchase. Oh, how that excitement faded once I realized that the same item was on offer down the street at half the asking price! Thus began my hardcore immersive education in haggling; for example in some cultures, the first sale of the day is considered an omen for the rest of the day’s sales, and you can sometimes afford to negotiate harder.

And how good does it feel when you strike a deal? Yep, pretty good.

(Remember haggling is also good for the economy – See also: How Tourism Cripples Local Economies)

Befriending Locals

Running into a new friend while house-sitting in Panama

How utterly amazing does it feel to make a foreign friend on their turf? Together you’ve transcended cultural and linguistic barriers, and seen that you’re kindred spirits under the surface. Now, you’re also tapped into the local scene, getting the inside scoop of what life is like, and not only enjoying a new friend, but also understanding their culture better.

This is one of the greatest little victories of travel you can enjoy.

What are some of your little victories of travel?

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27 thoughts on “I Did It! 6 Little Victories of Travel”

  1. The ‘haggle in Vietnam’ photo – funny! I have to check in on some of my favorite travel bloggers/writers every once in awhile since my backpack has been hung on a peg for awhile… and goal now is U.S. travel which is a whole new ballgame for me.

    Got to live vicariously a bit – thanks for sharing your adventures 🙂

  2. What a great reminder that you don’t have to jump off Niagara Falls or swim with sharks in order to feel victorious. There’s nothing like falling into a comfy bed at the long end of the travel day to create that little feeling of “I did it!” for me.

  3. These little victories are quite big! I relate to all of them especially managing the transport end. What a sense of victory or should say I relief once I managed the train system in India. Great post. Cheers!

    • Hi Wayne,
      I haven’t yet navigated India’s train system, but I suspect it would feel like a victory indeed. Good for you!

  4. Great reflections Nora, I can picture you doing your little happy dance now 😉

    It is true that once you get past all the kerfuffle of check-in and security at airports it is a wonderful feeling of I’m here, I’m through, let’s relax now.

    I especially like long flights because I really can sit back and unwind. With short flights it is always a case of up and down and you prepare for landing in your mind shortly after take off.

    Hmm, jumping on beds when I arrive in a hotel. I need to start doing that again, no wonder it has become less fun for me.

    • Hi Guy,
      I like long flights for the same reason! I should have also written about the “little victory” of clearing customs and immigration in a new country; something that also is a source of a certain amount of stress for me whilst in-transit.

  5. This is great! As a long-term traveler, each of these victories is so true! I have been so proud to have done each of these on my own terms as well

    • Glad you agree, LeAnna! You make an interesting observation that the victory is in accomplishing these various tasks…on your own terms.

  6. Hi Nora,

    Thanks for sharing your tips! I’m a solo traveler as well. My husband’s career prevents him from joining for now but he fully supports my dreams of travel so about once a month I’m off to a new destination. Although a bit apprehensive at first, I find myself loving the adventures! I also find myself accomplishing many of your listed victories and some of my own. Thanks for sharing and happy travels!

  7. Another small victory (and possibly my favorite!):

    Learning something new about a country, its culture, or its people that you never could have known without having traveled there.

  8. For me it’s finding a cafe somewhere and having a cup of coffee while writing in my journal. There’s something about that which makes me feel like I’m traveling, not just touring. Plus watching everyone go by, while just sitting there, a still rock in a river of people…it’s exactly what I want to experience in every new place.

    • Hi Gray,
      Nice one! I love people-watching in different places. It’s a great way to soak in the culture and flavour of a place.

  9. Great post. Appreciating the small victories makes the journey worthwhile. One victory that makes me feel good is having the right change. The scenario goes like this too often: “Yes I’d like to buy a coconut, can I pay with this bill that’s the equivalent of your entire days salary. No? Oh, too bad.” So when I travel, having the right change makes me feel victorious.

    • Hi Tim,
      Good point! It’s especially rough in developing countries, where the ATMs spit out large bills and nobody seems to have change. I struggle with this in Peru on a daily basis! One way to often get change is to buy something at a supermarket – in my experience, they normally can break bigger bills pretty easily.

  10. Love this one! I’m a newish reader, and this is one of the first articles of yours I found 🙂 I definitely have some work to do on these goals, but I think each traveler has their own set to accomplish.

    • Hi Valerie,
      These aren´t travel goals, such as benchmarks or goalposts along the way. And you´re right – everybody has different victories to celebrate along the way. Enjoy!

  11. I am back visiting your website after many months (blog diet). I really admire you for actually working and travelling. I also admire your insight and descriptions of personal transitions. I think it’s great to change directions and focus every few years. The mind and body tell you it’s time for a break or a big change and new stimulation.

    For me, travelling is enough work in itself, so I can’t imagine maintaining a blog properly. I send a lot of emails though, describing impressions and incidents along the way (for myself, but it’s always nice if people read them too). Very few or no photographs though — interferes with my experience. However, it just occurred to me that perhaps my travel could be described as sustainable as my home provides the money for travel in the form of rental income.

    My triumphs are my solo road trips, one of my favourite ways to travel. Most recent was 3 weeks driving in Mexico this March — Mexico City, Puebla, Palenque, San Sebastian, Oaxaca round trip. I was warned by friends in Canada, USA, and Mexico not to do it, but it was easy and amazing. There were a few challenges but Mexican people helped me many times. What a victory to do that and have enjoyed myself immensely and met so many terrific people.

    Last spring I drove 6 weeks through 10 Central European/Balkan countries with no problems whatsoever, can’t get the memories out of my mind, and made lifelong friends.

    The more mundane victories I celebrate are conquering making flight and other bookings and using technology.

    Booking flights to remote places such as the Orkneys and Shetlands, Chechnya and Dagestan for later this year – done. Booking complicated (for me) itineraries — Vancouver to Moscow, Moscow to Madrid — Madrid to Vancouver – done.

    Using GPS, booking.com, downloading city maps from Google to phone, using Google translate including photo, downloading audio books to phone, loading the kindle, backing-up and transferring things between all devices – done. Next challenge — buying a sim card for data in Russia and using it.

    Travelling with carry-on size luggage – done for the last two years (for as long as 3 months on the road).

    Figuring how to travel for long periods alone without yearning for home – done (it’s down to the right comfort level, MacBook Air + WIFI, and intervals hooking up with friends or joining tours).

    I travel about 6 months of the year but always return to home base in Vancouver. I am ready to set up for a longer period somewhere. I think it will be Germany.

    • Wow – thanks for sharing your story, Dunny!
      Sounds like you’ve got lots of victories in your travel repertoire and lifestyle. Keep em coming! 🙂


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