Twelve Things Travel Taught Me in 2012

By Abi King | Inspire Me

Jan 04

Travel walkway - 12 things travel taught me

It’s time to look back at the year and reflect on the things travel taught me…

1)      That where you’re from matters more than I want to believe. 2012 was the first time I understood the concept of home.

2)      That tequila can taste good. No, really.

3)      That the world can still surprise me

Every now and then, I fear there won’t be any travel surprises left. 2012 laughed in my face when it got wind of that.

“What about Ghent in Belgium, pierogi in Poland and optimism in Britain?” she cried. (Or he. I’m not really sure about the gender of post-millennial years.) “The aerial views in the Maldives, the heights of the Atlas mountains or the quiet corner souks in Dubai?

He/she went on. “Who cares if it’s not a surprise for everyone else in the world? It’s a surprise for you and that’s what counts. Your travel. Your life.”


4)      That there really is room for everyone

For a long time I felt guilty about leaving medicine to write. Then someone pointed out that I’d free a hospital career slot for someone who really wanted it. And that the world benefits when people do the work they love to do.

I hesitated. Surely, everyone would go for the “fun” jobs and the serious work would never get done. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. People create passionate careers out of almost everything there is because what’s fun to one person is dull or draining to another.

Social Media for Photographers - FerranTravel just keeps on teaching me that. Who knew you could have a career in, say, shark photography or making baubles for the pope? Or by taking your family kitchen and turning it into one of the best restaurants in the world? Or even, that many prefer to stay at home and to keep a “traditional” job. Or even more…that I can’t help but bring the serious into my current “fun” job anyway ;-)

5)      That opinion is fickle

Awards are lovely. I’m thrilled by every single one I receive (with 2012 highlights including a mention in National Geographic Traveller and a prestigious Caribbean photojournalism award for this post.) Yet a visit to the Sydney Opera House revealed an interesting twist in the tale of recognition for your work. Today, the world sees those interlocking sails as one of the icons of global architecture, a triumph of science and inspiration that went on to define a whole country. But back in 1966, Sydney gave the architect the sack. So roll with the good and the bad, 2012 says, when it comes to what others say about your creative work. You never know what the verdict will be in the end…

 6)      That there are more than 50 shades of grey

The conflict between travel, political ideals and environmental concerns showed no sign of slowing down in 2012. And I’m still finding my balance between “ooh isn’t that beautiful” and “let’s talk about the serious stuff.”

7)      That forest fires can be good

8)      But that crocodiles are not

9)      That there is more to see than can ever be seen…and yet…

10)   That I need to slow down

11)   That seeing a snowman cheers me up

12)   That following convention works for the outside publishing world. But here in the lab I’m free to indulge myself ;-)

13)   That Colombia is stunning

14)   That Paris can be bleak

15)   That GCSE German wasn’t a waste of time

16)   That Mozart had a sister (and that inequality of any kind results in a loss to the world)

17)   That the rain can be beautiful

18)   That “Romeo and Juliet” is a farce

19)   And that Daniel Craig is small

20)   That I can watch the same “romcom” back to back on a plane when unable to sleep.

21)   That people will turn up to hear me talk about philosophy

22)   That Basel is gorgeous

23)   That everything changes – including us – even parts we thought never would

2012 gave me my first ever wallop of seasickness as well as showing me who was boss in Mexico, where the crowds and clouds swarmed across the previously pristine ruins at Tulum. Who’s the boss? Time, that’s who. It alters us all and there’s no going back.

24)   That a hot cheese fondue on a biting winter’s night can taste better than a luxurious three course meal

25)   That Paris CDG airport is worse than I remember

26)   And that Bruxelles Midi Station is even worse than that

27)   That using an InterRail pass in Germany feels like freedom, in France like endless red tape

28)   That persistence pays off

29)   That I should listen to my instincts more

30)   And say “yes” to insurance on hire cars

31)   That Amsterdam has gleaming skyscrapers

32)   And that B&Bs are just not for me

33)   That love and happiness beat any form of travel

34)   And that it always pays to dream – and then to go right ahead and to act on those dreams.

All the best for 2013 everyone. What did 2012 teach you?



About the Author

Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on

Gayla January 5, 2013

Wonderful! 34 timeless lessons from 2012. I particularly like #23: ‘That everything changes – including us – even parts we thought never would’. 2012 taught me that travel changes us, and the more I travel the more I sort of embrace change. I don’t typically like it, but sometimes it’s inevitable :-) All the best to you and happy travels in 2013!!

    Abi King January 11, 2013

    All the best to you too! Yes, I don’t like change all the time either…but sometimes it’s a welcome relief! So, I suppose we all have to hope that it comes out in the wash in the end…;-)

Christine King January 5, 2013

Found you on Darlene Foster’s FB. Love your. log and have signed up!

    Abi King January 11, 2013

    Fantastic! Pleased to “meet” you! (And great last name by the way ;-) )

Alvina January 5, 2013

My 2012 has brought me friendship of a kind I thought I was beyond experiencing again. To trust again….

My 2012 reminded me to live for today, the past can not change and who knows what will happen tomorrow.

My travel in 2012 taught me that there are many places where women are still oppressed, how grateful I am to be independent, to be able to travel, to take my own decisions and decide my own destiny.

    Abi King January 11, 2013

    Wow. Beautiful words. I’m not sure what to say…I hope that 2013 brings me your first point. Best wishes for 2013…

Jenna January 5, 2013

I enjoyed reading all of these and was pleasantly surprised by #33–that love and happiness beat any form of travel. I have to say that I agree with you. Having love around us and being happy can (and should) happen anywhere, and those are the substance of life.

    Abi King January 11, 2013

    Oh yes – if I had to choose between #33 and travel, #33 would win every time! Let’s hope that there are more opportunities for both together – but if that’s not possible then let’s go for #33 ;-)

Jess Hardy January 5, 2013

The simple travel memories you least expect to treasure are the most important.

I think I am going to use your idea as inspiration for my own blog! 12 travel lessons from 2012 – such a great concept and perfect opportunity for reflection :)

    Abi King January 11, 2013

    So long as you don’t restrict yourself to twelve lessons ;-)

Kudos to you for doing what you feel is right for you.
Your question: what did 2012 teach me? I got ill in 2012 due to stress in the workplace, 2 years before my retirement. I considered throwing in the towel, but that would have felt like defeat. I took time to recover and developed a healthier way of being: be patient, be kind to self and others, trust, enjoy. I am now very appreciative for my mental and physical health and will enjoy my retirement even more when it will arrive on my doorstep. That means being in warm countries, visit with people I love, and write full time. I share your love for a nice anejo tequila , or even a reposado.

    Abi King January 14, 2013

    Sounds like quite a year. So glad that you could find a valuable lesson in all the suffering. I’m a big fan of visiting people I love – and writing – so let’s say cheers to that! As for the anejo tequila – I think I’ll save that for when I’m in Mexico. Happy 2013!

Linda McCormick January 6, 2013

Ah, what did I learn? Waaay more than I bargained for!
I agree with you totally on the concept of home. I also learned that no matter where I want to be, it’s sometimes decided for me. And that I need to find a way to be ok with that. Still working on it!

Hope you have a wonderful 2013 :)

    Abi King January 14, 2013

    Ah, yes. We have far less control over what happens than we sometimes like to believe! But I like your approach – finding a way to be OK with it, whatever happens.

    Hope you have a wonderful 2013 too :)

Andrea MacEachern January 6, 2013

Very inspiring! Travel does teach us many things and enriches our lives in ways that sometimes can’t even be explained!

    Abi King January 14, 2013

    Thank you

Sophie January 6, 2013

Nice twist to the year-end posts. I’m generally not too keen on B&Bs myself, unless they’re the self-service variety.

    Abi King January 14, 2013

    Shh! Don’t you know that’s supposed to be a secret? I think you’re the only person I’ve ever met who isn’t keen on the whole B&B shebang :-)

Red Hunt January 8, 2013

Fun list….hooray for love, happiness and tequila! As for crocodiles….they’re pretty tasty! ;)

    Abi King January 14, 2013

    Hmmm….If you say so! Perhaps I’ll have to add tasting crocodile to my wish list for 2013…I’ll give it some thought…

Hogga January 8, 2013

happy new year!

    Abi King January 14, 2013

    Same to you Hogga!

Sonya January 12, 2013

Super list! This is a charming and entertaining list of things travel taught you. Daniel Craig, really? And YES to 33 – “That love and happiness beat any form of travel.”

    Abi King January 14, 2013

    DC? Alas, yes. I saw the various “costumes” at the James Bond’s 50th exhibition. But as to number 33? Yes, yes, yes :-)

Lola January 15, 2013

Here’s to an even more amazing 2013 for you! I definitely hear you on the slowing down part for sure.

    Abi King January 19, 2013

    Yes, I read your post. Agree entirely (although I don’t think I was superwoman to begin with!)

Abby January 15, 2013

Love :) Happy New Year!!

    Abi King January 19, 2013

    Thank you! Happy New Year to you too!

Robert January 18, 2013

Some great points and quotes. As they say: “Don’t Think About What They Say … Go See!” Thanks for sharing!

Ross Hodgson January 19, 2013

Loved your post and wisdom on all points … Other than #32…. All B&B ‘s are not created equally, and you just haven’t stayed at the right one yet!
Don’t count out B&B ‘s yet…. In fact come visit Stratford, Ontario Canada, and stay with us, and we will change your mind!
Stratford is a must see for any world traveller….
Ross Hodgson
Hughson Hall B&B

    Abi King January 19, 2013

    Well, OK then, I’ll dig out one of my old ones. Never say never!!

Wil January 22, 2013

I’m beginning my travels this year. I hope that my travels impact me like your travels effect you. Travel is a great way to grow as an individual.

    Abi King March 30, 2013

    Well, happy travelling then!

Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans February 8, 2013

2012 taught me that I need more samba in my life, more writing, even more adventure, and more time with my family…

    Abi King March 30, 2013

    Then I hope you work out a way to get that this year. Good luck!

Suitcase Stories - Nicole February 15, 2013

2012 taught me dreams CAN come true. In March 2012 we left our ‘conventional’ life for a life on the road – Our dream life. Its been an amazing (almost) 12 months! In that time we have learnt so many things, too many to list!

I really love your blog. Only stumbled across it recently but have been thoroughly checking it out :)

    Abi King March 30, 2013

    Thank you. And I’m so glad to hear that things are working out well for you. Too many good things to list is certainly a good problem to have! Happy travels…

Samantha M April 23, 2013

Traveling can be so much more educational than any textbook, that’s for sure!

Lilian May 11, 2013

Wow! That’s a lot of lessons. You’ve had such a fruitful 2012.

    Abi King May 13, 2013

    Suspiciously I have a feeling that I’ll learn thirteen lessons in 2013. We shall see…;-)

Daisy June 9, 2013

Love this list!

Isabel June 23, 2013

Excellent list! I especially agree with number 8!

    Abi King June 29, 2013

    Haha! Yes, I had to get eye to eye with one before I truly appreciated how nasty they are…

Travelgraphy July 26, 2013

I’m inspired by you, truly! :) have followed your awesome travel blog with the secret wish that i’ll one day be as great as you – in terms of courage, writing and photography skills!

    Abi King July 30, 2013

    Well, I’m glad to have been a source of inspiration! Although, I suspect that my friends and family would chuckle at thought ;-)

Tarek January 18, 2014

It really seems that you didn’t like France at all ! 3 French bashing points out of 30 !

Becky March 3, 2014

Haha, some of the things on your list are really interesting. :) It’s really good to see that even though you had second thoughts about giving up on your medicine carreer in order to write and travel, it still worked out, and did so in a way that enabled you to have lots of new experiences and unique chances to get to know yourself better.
I really like reading your blog, I find it an awful lot inspiring. Keep writing and have a great day!

Daniel Reem and Eldad Seter May 12, 2014

Hi Abi,

Nice blog and post indeed!

However, when one looks around inside your lablog, one may get the feeling that something is currently missing: Israel. It’s really hard to tell what a missed opportunity! Following items 3, 4, 5, 13, 23, 34 mentioned in your interesting list above, as well as the rest of this inspiring post about the things that travel taught you, we believe that 2014 and the years to come can teach you and others several very positive things regarding Israel!

Indeed, just think of all the special gems that are waiting to be visited: the outstanding Ramon crater (Makhtesh Ramon) in the Negev; the interesting aspects of life which the Dead Sea offers (you really know it!); the various ancient fortresses (Masada, Belvoir, Nimord, Herodium, Montfort Castle, etc.); the unique coral reef in the Red Sea near Eilat; the beautiful Bahai gardens on Mount Carmel and near Acre; the delightful scientific journey one can embark on in the National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space in Haifa (and in its brothers: The Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem and the Science garden at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot); the overall perspective that is unfolded before us on the way to and on top of Mount Hermon; the beautiful, European-style landscapes we enjoy in the Golan Heights; the mesmerizing view of the Sea of Galilee; the exciting things we can find in Tel-Aviv, the city that never sleeps; the secrets we can uncover in Jerusalem, the city whose name speaks in and of itself. And how can we forget the rich history of Israel, its cutting-edge innovation, its food, its people; and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

North, South, East and West: Israel is on the map and it has so much to offer, in all directions, certainly beyond the narrow image that one may perceive before actually coming and seeing it in real time; before feeling it in real life; and before understanding it without seeing it through the media’s filter. To illustrate further this claim, let’s consider briefly item 13 in your list which discusses, in particular, to which extent Colombia was safe in 2012: it may worth saying that Israel is safer than the majority of countries on Earth, including various places located in the western world. And continuing more with item 13, we believe that as in Colombia, you will have some of the best times of your life in Israel and that you will feel at least as alive as you felt in Colombia: in its own way, Israel is stunning too. We believe that other people can enjoy similar experiences, and this is true either for a first time visit or for a recurrent one. Don’t miss this opportunity and don’t let your readers miss it!

Good luck! :-)

    Abi King May 12, 2014

    Oh, I would LOVE to go to Israel! Definitely! I seem to remember some passport/visa issue the last time I looked in to it. But I have a new passport now so as soon as I’m well again I’ll start looking into it. Thanks for all the recommendations – now I have a handy shortlist to consult!

      Daniel Reem May 14, 2014

      You are welcome :-)

      [From my cousin Eldad and from me]

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