Sanna and Stina's Travel Tips

Recently I met up with my friend and fellow nomad Sanna Hellberg. We are both what some nowadays might call "digital nomads" as we are long-term-travellers who carry our work with us as we travel. 

I am a storyteller, writer and student. Sanna is a freelance translator, writer and children’s book illustrator (check out her website here).

When Sanna and I met up in Edinburgh, we got talking about our travel experiences and started writing our own list of travel tips…

Here they are!

1.    Try travelling alone.

Travelling alone is a real eye-opening experience and a brilliant way of discovering who you are as a traveller and what really makes you tick. You might be surprised! It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but both Sanna and I love the freedom of travelling solo and also find it the best way of making new friends. 

2.    Stay long enough to really get to know a place well.

Stay for more than a few nights in one place – stay for a week, or several weeks if possible. Long enough to discover your favourite sanctuaries, cafes and walks. Long enough to make some new friends. Slow down. It takes time to truly get to know a place. When you stay for a couple of weeks you will be amazed by how much there is to discover.

3.    Listen to your heart

Listen to your heart. It won’t let you down! It may take you to some strange and unexpected places however so you have to be very open and brave when you follow the guidance of your inner compass. Sometimes you will find yourself drawn to places without knowing why. Something is waiting for you there – a gift, a friend, a new insight. Go and see!

4.    Don’t over-plan things.

Don’t plan more than what is necessary. Leave some space for unexpected things to happen. Go to places without having a list of all the things you “must see” there. Go and see what happens of its own accord!

5.    Talk to strangers.

Talk to people while travelling and listen to their stories. Ask them about their lives, their hopes, their dreams. Let the locals show you their town. Be open and don’t judge. Travelling is such a wonderful way of coming into contact with all sorts of people from all walks of life.

6.    You don’t need a fortune to travel.

Both Sanna and I have found on our travels that many people believe that you have a lot of money in order to travel. That is not true! There are so many different ways of travelling. What you do need to be is flexible. If you are on a budget then do your research before travelling to find affordable accommodation. Look into combining travelling with work. Look into volunteering. Camping. Airbnb. Couchsurfing. Hostels. Stay for longer periods so that you get a weekly or monthly discount. Look for self-catering options. Don’t eat out all the time. Walk everywhere! 

Photo by Sanna Hellberg

7.    Be present.

Slow down. Live in the present moment. Turn your phone off and give up the desire to document everything all the time. Capture the moment in your heart instead of photos.

8.    Learn some of the local language.

Learn some simple words and phrases in the local language. Be willing to look a complete fool! It makes people happy to see you try.

9.    Travel light.

You don’t have to bring everything with you! Pack your bag lightly and you will thank yourself for it later. If you should forget anything then you can always buy it later. I often find things at second hand stores while travelling. Bring comfortable clothes that match, can be worn in many different combinations, and that dry quickly. In cold climates, bring clothes that you can layer. Bring a good rain jacket and good shoes. Send things home that you don’t need anymore. Skip the books – you will find plenty of things to do and read along the way! While travelling I find books everywhere – far too many. Leave some space in your backpack for new things to come your way!

10.  Skip tourist attractions

Both Sanna and I have found on our travels that the best experiences often come from simply walking around, meeting people, sitting at cafes, trying new food, going to local markets and checking out what's happening in the area. Go to the local library and check out the notice board. Attend a workshop, a local concert, a storytelling night, open-mike event, or a yoga class. Go see what’s happening! We also urge you to travel to small and isolated places where not many tourists go! Skip the attractions and create your own adventure unlike any other. See what “normal life” is like in the country where you are travelling.

11.  Don’t decide when the journey will end.

Leave the journey open if possible and see where it takes you.

12.  Walk

Go for long walks everywhere – in cities, towns and out in nature. Let your feet lead the way. Don’t plan where you are going to go. Just wander and let the path surprise you!

13.  Forget the time.

As much as possible – forget the time and turn off your phone. Live in the present moment.

14.  Try local foods and customs.

Be open and willing to try new things. Let go of old routines as much as possible and look at the world from the eyes of the people you meet.

Some goodies we found at a market in Edinburgh.

Useful links:

Ted-Talk “How to travel the world with almost no money”:

Travelling alone is the best way of making new friends.


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