Year in review: 5×5 travel lessons we learned in 2015
‘tis the season to look through Instagram feeds and Facebook timelines: 2015 has seen everything from the birth of the Apple Watch to Justin Bieber’s surprisingly funky comeback and the long awaited awakening of the Force. For us, 2015 been a year of continuing to discover the world, and we’re here to share some of our favorite memories with you.
Lesson 1: Packing
Tom: 2015 made me face the hard truth that neither of my baggage options are convenient: it’s either my giant Kardashian-style cream-and-gold suitcase (an emergency purchase in the U.S.) or my stylish but tiny carry-on. The struggle was real.
Martinique: Roll up your jeans as tight as possible to save room in your bag. Backpacks are a godsend – you won’t ruin your bag on cobblestones or have staircase woes because of them!
Florence: Take out your transparent liquids bag *before* you reach security – not everyone wants to see your striped undergarments flying about as you rummage wildly through your suitcase.
Isabelle: I’m a notorious over-packer, but I bravely went on a one-week trip (which included a shopping spree, mind you!) with only a carry-on. That’s what victory feels like.
Simon: 2015 is the year I learned to pack like a goddamn pro – except the time I forgot the combination on my padlock in Cologne, but let’s not talk about that.
Lesson 2: Transportation
T: When using the subway in Asia, DO NOT form your own queue wherever you like. There are designated queueing spots that MUST be adhered to. Not doing this will earn you looks of disgust from other passengers.
M: Camels are most friendly when you name them something exotic, like Larry. Hop on, hop off buses are great for maximizing short trips, like in Malta. Check your flight departure and flight number so you don’t have to race across an airport, breaking your shoe, to get to the gate before it closes.
F: Not every bus in the world operates like a Swiss one – sometimes you just have to yell “STOP!” really loudly to get off the little speedster because there’s no button or designated stop.
I: If you look extremely tired and arrive at the check-in counter early, the chances for complementary extra legroom increase drastically.
S: You owe it to yourself to check out the metro stations of Stockholm that are located in a natural cave system.
Lesson 3: Food
T: Hipster restaurants in Hong Kong get booked up fast, so you can’t drop in unannounced. The trick is to stick around anyway and make friends with the waiting staff so they give you priority seating when a table becomes free. You’re welcome.
M: Try the street food on your last day of the trip, especially if you have a weak stomach. That way, you can experience the authenticness of the country without spoiling your whole trip.
F: Dessert is dessert: it rocks no matter where you are in the world.
I: 2015 was in year in which I discovered Shake Shack, which made me realize that “eating too many burgers” is a myth.
S: I learned to follow Isabelle’s burger advice. What she doesn’t know about burgers isn’t worth knowing.
Lesson 4: Language
T: In Arabic, yalla means a whole host of things; from “hurry up!” to “totally”. However, when you’re a sunburned British man ordering from Pizza Hut in the middle of the Mall of Dubai, saying yalla to the waiting staff just sounds weird.
M: Grazzi in Maltese or shukran in Arabic, means “Thank you.” Learn this phrase in the local language. Everyone will appreciate it, even if it’s the only word you say and, this way, you don’t end up looking like an uncultured swine.
F: When you don’t understand something in a foreign language, flash a little smile and give a little laugh. It works 99% of the time. And for the remaining 1%, just panic and run away.
I: What Florence said: own being lost in translation and just smile, observe the other person’s body language and repeat whatever they are saying.
S: I smiled so much this year.
Lesson 5: Instagram
T: Let me tell you this: running across hot sand to get a picture of Miami Beach at midday was not worth the pain. (I jest! It was completely worth it.)
M: Is it worth it to annoy your friends when you haven’t eaten for hours, the food finally arrives and you make them wait an additional minute to take a picture of your meal at the right angle? Yes! Always! Because those sausages from Jemaa el-Fnaa are life changing.
F: As much as you may appreciate artfully decorated cakes and carefully arranged salads, Instagramming photos of your food all the time is not enough – your followers WILL get bored and may actually want to see your face at some point.
I: If you go to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ, and photograph every botanical thing, use the Layout app to share your cacti obsession with the world. #sharingiscaring
S: I follow an unhealthy amount of animals on Instagram. Daily Dougie, anyone?
…and finally, our resolutions for 2016
T: Next year, I intend to finally master the art of packing appropriately. I will also not risk my life to take a stunning Instagram picture. I may not stick to all my resolutions (namely the Instagram one).
M: As every year, I try to visit a new country or at least a new city. Life begins outside of your comfort level and with an Instagram collection that beats Tom’s account.
F: I’ve decided to stray away from Romance languages and finally face my fears: this year, I am learning Swiss German.
I: I’m one of the three people in Switzerland who has never been to Barcelona. I think it’s time to pack my carry-on suitcase and go to Spain.
S: I will learn German. I will travel more. I will follow more animals on Instagram.