10 things I’ve learned on the road

Jul 8, 2010 by

10 things i've learned on the road

sunshine does a brain good
photo: paul bica

I’ve been quiet lately- I apologize, but my brain has been a whirlwind. I am alive, well, and working in Lisbon, Portugal.

As I have not been tethered to a computer for the last few weeks, I have had time to think, to write, and to pay attention to what I have learned thus far in my four months. I can’t act as if these are all new concepts or as if they are revolutionary- but they are real, and they are important to me.
In no particular order, here are ten of my favorite lessons I have picked up. Let me know if they ring true for you…

1. There are more good people than bad people in this world.

Sure, I’ve been robbed 1.25 times, been followed around by a rapist, and ran into a few other unmentionable obstacles, but of the months I have spent relying on the kindness and goodness of strangers- I truly believe the good people of this world outnumber the bad, and if not by number, by display of action.

The nature of humankind is to talk about the bad things we see around us, and I regret not writing a blog post every time someone gave me directions when I was lost, bought me a cup of coffee, helped me up when I fell (cobblestones + backpack = suck)…etc. Trust in the goodness of people and you will be rewarded. Not every time, but when it counts.*

2. You’re your best friend, and often times the only friend you’ve got- so, you better get along with yourself.

There’s nothing more miserable than a rotten travel companion- which is why I am traveling solo! As awesome as I am I’ve been stuck with myself day and night for the last 4 months. Sometimes we argue (yup, I’m talking about me, myself, and I) and sometimes we’re too funny for our own good, sometimes I want to talk to anyone else in the world because I am sick of talking to myself, and sometimes I literally run home (to wherever my home is that night) so that I can be alone with myself and my thoughts. End result? You better like yourself a whole lot to devote this much time alone with your very own yours truly– you’re gonna learn a lot about yourself.

3. You have Enough Stuff.

When I say “you” I mean me, but I’m 100% certain you also have enough stuff. In fact, I have TOO much stuff. I started with 18 kilos (do the math, my fellow Americans) and am down to 13 in the backpack… yet every time I look at the pack I find just one more thing I can throw away.

It’s laughable to me to think of all the things I used to own, all the money I poured down the drain on retail therapy (makeup doesn’t count, I don’t care what you say) and all the CRAP I had lying around cluttering up my life. I have Enough Stuff.

4. Don’t go on a date with a Bulgarian when you speak no common language.

It won’t end well, and you’ll probably wind up at home crying to a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label and lighting things on fire. Or maybe that’s just me.

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5. Street meat won’t kill you, and it will probably even taste good.

To be perfectly clear, I am talking about vendors who sell meat on a stick, meat in a gyro, just freaking meat foods- not the other street meat, which will probably kill you, and will not taste good. #

10 things I've learned on the road

I’ve got an idea.
photo: martisak

6. When you’re really lost, stop and have a beer- the directions are hiding at the bottom of the glass.

Seriously. Your backpack is heavy, you’re probably getting a sunburn or it’s pouring rain- either way, you’re lost and I bet your map is doing you no good. Solution?

Find the nearest dodgy looking pub full of old men (unless you’re an old man, then you’re competition- so, I guess you’re screwed, keep walking). Walk in and order a beer in the native tongue. The bartender will likely be gruffy and awkward, but will warm up once you flash a smile or money.

After you down one delicious beer, order a second and then ask people around you if they know of such and such street. Make it painfully obvious you’re not leaving until you have directions, and then start to chat everyone’s ear off until it’s in their best interest to help you find your way. Always works! **


7. You never have enough sunblock.

Well maybe YOU do- you and your brown magic- but I don’t. I packed 4 bottles of SPF 1 billion, sweatproof-waterproof-bulletproof-child-resistant zinc oxide and I am still a delightful shade of sunset pink. I will hereby award 1 US Dollar (better hurry while it’s worth something) to the first person who invents tattooable sunscreen.


8. You don’t need shampoo (gross, but true)

That’s right, I’m shampoo free since 3/3. No, I haven’t joined the forces of the euro mullet dread lock crowd- though, it’s tempting- look at these sexy do’s! Baking soda, my friends, baking soda. 1 tablespoon baking soda with 1 cup of water (awww, I gave the American measurements, I’m so nice) now, shake shake shake, and pour it on your dome.

Clean, shiny hair with no freaky chemicals seeping into your brain. I prefer to get my freaky chemicals elsewhere, don’t you?


9. Your problems are insignificant in the long run.

Unless you’re dying (in which case your problems will work themselves out rather shortly anyways) your problems probably AREN’T that big of a deal. omgwtfmalibubarbie*** I have nowhere to sleep tonight. Suck it up, sleep on a bench, and tomorrow, you have a whole day to look for accomodations. SweetJumpingKinkajoo It’s 40 euro to go 8 hours on a bus and I just spent all my money on beers and mascara. Get to the road, stick your thumb out and wait- you don’t have anything else to do.


10. (insert any non frequently traveled to country) is probably safe as there are thousands if not millions of people living there.

Colombia- Iran- Thailand- Greece- oooooh, I can literally hear knees knocking. There’s b-b-b-bombs there! There’s crime everywhere folks, and if you have a decent head on your shoulders and a good attitude, the odds are pretty good that you’ll come out of these places unscathed. ##

* In case you happen to trust in someone on my word and something really bad happens, I hereby claim absolutely no responsibility for your rash decision making abilities. Come on- didn’t your

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mom tell you not to talk to strangers?

# Again, if you decide to try a hot meat popsicle and wind up blowing up your bathroom from both ends or in fact, die, from eating meat on a cart on the side of the road- that’s absolutely your fault. You should never trust anything you read on the internet- especially if I write it.

** Try this during a World Cup Match and you’ll likely be killed and served as street meat. mmm.

*** Please note, omgwtfmalibubarbie came to me in a dream and is henceforth my cussword of choice, your partaking of this cussword hereby acknowledges the immense greatness of this phrase.

## In the unlikely event you 1) go to one of these countries 2) get bombed, kidnapped, sold for body parts, are used as a human mule, are sold as a mail order bride, undergo an unwanted sex change operation I hereby (again) assume no responsibility for your misfortunes, but I do reserve the right to laugh at you.



Brandy Bell loves the world and most things in it. she's been a solo female traveler since 2006: has visited over 25 countries, made countless international friends, and now writes to inspire you to travel, no matter your budget, nationality or experience. Follow Brandy Bell as she teaches you how to travel for free and without fear!


  1. glenda

    Thailand is ok. I live in Australia and Thailand is a hot spot for travel to the Australians. Almost every month i know someone who is going there for a holiday.

  2. I love the first one; I’ve run into a few bad people on the road but by far the majority are nice people who want to help.

  3. Mom

    Hey you! Love the 10 things you have learned. I only have experience with #’s 1,2,3 and will say “agreed”!!!!! I am curious about # 8 and might disagree with #9. I think problems can be wonderful gifts if we allow them to teach us something and therefore are significant in the long run. Just a thought. I have no point of reference for the rest of the #’s so I will have to rely on your expertise.
    omgwtfmalibubarbbie does seem to cover it ALL quite well when in need of a cuss word. In a dream huh? Very in-ter-es-ting! You are a wonderfully unique human being and I miss you. Are we going to get to hear about the concert or at least how you got in to see the concert? Very curious.
    Love you!

  4. Barbara Griffith

    Laughed so hard I cried, you can definitely put things into perspective.”When you’re really lost, stop and have a beer- the directions are hiding at the bottom of the glass”, yeah I just submitted that one to most famous quotes by Brandy Bell!! Keep your sense of humor girlfriend, you are going to be okay.

  5. Amy

    EXCELLENT! I have missed your wit, attitude and overall view of life! So glad that you are enjoying your dream. I look forward to every post…keep ‘em coming! Stay safe, be happy and raise a glass or two with me in mind!

  6. Debi

    The malibubarbie phrase is indeed STELLAR, and I’ll definitely have fun using it — sending good vibes your way as I do, of course. I’d not heard of the baking soda for shampoo substitute, and I’m eager to use that as well. Thanks for sharing this fountain of wisdom and sunshine!

    • yes, youll love the baking soda! in fact, try apple cider vinegar as a conditioner. mix 1 TB with 1 cup of water and have at it!

  7. Lisa Ortman

    omgwtfmalibubarbie is my new cuss word in the tasting room- i hope you don’t mind me borrowing it! thanks for being the smile in my day today!!

  8. Hanna

    Brilliant list for travel and some for everyday life.

  9. Ian

    Absolutely delightful and oh so true. Well said and with such humour. I don’t have personal experience with #4 or 7 but I do with everything else – right on. Thank you

  10. CharlietheInvisible

    You’re being very optimistic about traveling. Bad things do happen and many incidents are not heard about. People do need to be careful where ever they go.

  11. Erika

    I wish I could travel with you. You seem like so much fun. :)

  12. G.A.

    You’re hilarious. I just stumbled upon (meaning the website that is a complete waste of time… but utterly addicting and why am I explaining this to you? You probably know what that is!) your blog, and I’m laughing out loud. But, also, it’s good information.


    • stumble is a TOTAL waste of time, and my second favorite site… I am glad to bring laughter to your day, and hopefully curiousity to the people around you wondering what youre laughing at…

  13. OMG, you entertained me so thoroughly that I want to read more. I have to remember #6, because I a born lost and tend to get lost more and more because I keep walking – come to think of it, taking your advice will keep me drunk throughout my travels.

    • my advice is usually good for the soul, but bad for the liver. (apologies i missed this comment the first go round- better late than never?)

  14. Blond

    By any chance are you a blonde?

  15. First of all, this is one of the funniest pieces of writing I’ve encountered lately, and that’s from David Sedaris, George Carlin and Jon Stewart fan! Well done!

    Secondly, brilliant list – I agree 100%! (3 weeks before my 6-months trip to Asia I have managed to scale down my backpack to 8 kilos – btw, switching from eye-shadows to eyeliner pencils saved me enormous amount of space and weight, for make up I love too!)

    • hi Lena! Thanks so much for the compliments. 8 kilos?! congratulations! where in Asia are you going? As the closest I’ve made it to Asia is Turkey, I am super excited to follow your adventures! Keep in touch :)

  16. tom berlin

    Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is fantastic, let alone the content!. Thanks


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