One night, while camping at Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island, Derrick and I found ourselves reflecting on our first month of travel. A lot had gone wrong, a lot had gone right, and we realized we hadn’t taken the time to process any of it. We began recapping our many challenges and accomplishments and discussed what we’d learned from both.
We found this exercise to be so helpful that we made it a goal to discuss this at the end of every month. We also decided to share our top 3 lessons learned on the blog every month in the hopes of helping other travelers headed down the same wild and crazy path.
Lesson #1: Listen to the Locals
Some of the best adventures we had this month were thanks to recommendations from locals. After taking various suggestions from people we’d met during our travels, we decided that a minimal plan and a conversation with a local were the best way to explore an area. For example, we found a campsite on the shores of Salt Spring Island thanks to a recommendation from two born-and-raised Victoria, BC locals. We would’ve easily opted for the campgrounds near town had we not been told of this alternative, and would’ve spent far more money for far less of a view.
We also found one of our favorite places on Vancouver Island, Sombrio Beach, by following the coordinates on a beer can. No, that’s not technically a local, but the can was designed by one and purposefully shared with those who have good taste in beer!
We also suggest going out of your way to make conversation with people! This can include locals or even fellow travelers. Often, if someone asks where we’re from, or where we’re headed, we’ll get lost in a 20-minute conversation that results in various tips and recommendations for our upcoming destinations. We’ve found many remote campsites this way, plus spots that avoid a lot of the tourist traffic.
In a more serendipitous case, talking to a local didn’t earn us many recommendations, but it did result in one of our more memorable experiences of the trip. While on the ferry from Salt Spring Island to Vancouver, we struck up a conversation with the first mate while he worked on the anchors at the bow of the ship. Our 5-second question turned into a 10-minute conversation and an invite for Derrick and I to come up to the bridge. We excitedly accepted and spent a half hour meeting the crew, learning the radar system, and even steering the ferry toward the mainland. I did not do as well as Derrick and the ferry behind us ended up calling our captain to ask where in the hell we were going. Apparently steering a 500-passenger vessel with two car decks is not my strong suit. Another valuable lesson learned.
Overall, talking with a local can leave you rich with knowledge or rich with experience. Even if you’re uncomfortable engaging with strangers, doing so will force you out of your comfort zone which is one of the many reasons you travel, isn’t it?
Lesson #2: Wake Up for Sunrise
Our various camping adventures caused us to stumble on this lesson somewhat accidentally. Camping will often force you to wake up with the sun (or your neighbors). Luckily, these natural wake-up calls have resulted in some of our favorite mornings of the trip. Our first “dawn patrol” mission was at the beautiful Crater Lake National Park. A brochure we’d picked up pointed us to a few good spots to watch the sunrise, and we both immediately agreed we’d do it. With the help of mother nature, we rose at 5:00 AM the next morning and caught one of the most beautiful sunrises we’d ever seen in one of the most beautiful places we’d ever been. Not only was this early wake-up call worth it, but it got us on the road quickly, allowing us plenty of time to spend in the other cities we stopped at on our route north.
After this sunrise, we made it a habit to take in a handful of others throughout the month. While camping on the ocean at Ruckle Provincial Park, we left the doors to our tent open and naturally woke up with the sun as it rose over the sound. I can’t think of a more peaceful way to start your day.
We’ll be traveling throughout Canada’s major national parks this month (Banff, Jasper etc.) and plan to take in some other beautiful sunrises during this leg of our road trip. However, if you’re not an early riser, finding a spot to take in the sunset each night is equally as rewarding and doesn’t leave you needing so much coffee in the morning!
Lesson #3: Shit Happens (But It's Not That Bad)
When planning our trip and since departing, it has seemed like whatever could go wrong, did. However, when we sat down to create the list of “what went wrong,” we found we struggled to come up with many issues or challenges. Aside from 2-3 of the more obvious struggles like Derrick’s bike being stolen or my visit to the urgent care, we could hardly come up with issues that had seemed debilitating at the time.
We concluded that a lot of small, insignificant things go wrong while traveling that seem far worse than they actually are. We also realized that, after the initial problem, we often don’t remember it happening at all. This lesson can transcend from travel to a more routine lifestyle, but we’ve found that the unfamiliar element of travel can really exacerbate the mundane. It has been a great reminder for us to stop “sweating the small stuff” and realize that life may suck right then, but it won’t forever, maybe not even that same day.
To provide an example, one of the house-sits we’d confirmed in Victoria, BC, got canceled. The homeowners listed their property for sale on a whim after realizing homes in their neighborhood were selling over asking-price and sold it the very next day. When they told us, we were at a loss of what to do. We’d based our entire road trip on the house sits we’d confirmed; they were our only certainties. The homeowners knew the challenge this caused and generously offered us their lake home for a place to stay during that week. However, after the initial shock, we realized we had options. We applied for some house sits in the same area for similar dates and booked one in Vancouver just two days later.
If we’re being honest, it really sucked at the time. But less than two days later, we had it figured out and we’re looking forward to exploring a new destination that we hadn’t even planned on visiting. If there’s one thing we continue to learn from this life of full-time travel, it’s that small shit happens often and you can either decide to go with the flow or get covered in it. We’d like to think we’re flowing pretty well so far.
We hope you've found these lessons helpful or valuable if you're planning your own trip (or not). We'd love to hear some of your best travel lessons and encourage you to leave them in the comments below!