At eighteen, I had no real dreams of travelling the world. Instead, I was being practical and had my sights set on my education.

It wasn’t until an opportunity arose to move over 9,000 miles from Australia to the UK, that the idea of transporting myself out of my cosy little comfort zone started to intrigue me.

Fast forward five years and I am a Trip Leader for Topdeck. And what a journey it’s been.

I’ve learnt plenty along the way, so if you’re considering stepping outside your own bubble and planning your own once-in-a-lifetime trip – there’s a few things I think you should keep in mind.

Don’t be afraid to make big life decisions.

To date, the best decision I’ve ever made was taking the plunge and moving across the globe.

The second was leaving the UK three years later for New York to work in a summer camp.

And the third? Applying to work for Topdeck as a Trip Leader.

Turns out, this role was what I had unknowingly been training for since moving to the UK. And it wasn’t until I was out on the road – absorbing the wonderous knowledge I had only skimmed the surface of previously, that I really started to flex all the skills and life lessons these big decisions had ultimately developed.

You never know where your big decisions will lead. So, make them and find out.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

I know firsthand the massive amounts of time, money and energy that goes into planning a trip.

Some of us save for years (literally) to come to Europe for just four weeks.

And if there is one thing I can stress, it’s that your once-in-a-lifetime trip may not go as planned. Your plane may be delayed; the queue for the Colosseum is ridiculously long; there could be a global pandemic going on!

So, the best thing you can do is breathe and accept what is thrown your way. Try not to sweat the small stuff or what is out of your control.

Sometimes the most annoying disruptions can lead to the most unique experiences.

On my second trip as a Trip Leader, we got stuck in a traffic jam on an autobahn outside Berlin for over an hour. Fortunately, we found a way to make this moment memorable and it led to a dance party on the coach that spilled out onto the autobahn itself.

You can’t always control what happens on the road, but you can control how you react to it.

Travel smart, be reactive and embrace the situation. After all, how many people can say they danced the middle of a German autobahn?

Always have a buddy.

I know, I sound like a worried mother – but stay with me.

My #1 system IS the buddy system and all of my passengers (including those who had a few too many beer towers in Florence), will attest to this!

Even if you’re a solo traveller, it is alwayssafer to have someone know where you are staying and what your movements are.

When I was hospitalised in India due to heatstroke, I thanked my lucky stars that my uncle knew the vicinity in which I was staying to send a friend to my aid.

Trust me, the buddy system is essential for staying safe on the road.

Don’t wait for tomorrow.

The first thing I will admit about myself, is that I’m tight with my money – sometimes even a bit too Scroogy for my own good.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken the cheap option or said no to an activity because, “I’m going to need money when I get home.”

And yes, at times I’ve been naïve and taken my experiences in countries for granted.

The Beer Spa Žitná in Prague, was an activity I told myself I would experience next time. ‘Next time’ came and I said the same thing – then before I knew it, coronavirus plagued our world.

Now, who knows when I’ll have the luxury of bathing in a literal spa full of beer?

Learn from my mistakes: when you have saved your dollars for that once-in-a-lifetime experience, don’t let money be an obstacle.

You never know when borders will be bolted shut, and the opportunity taken away.

Collect memories not things.

This one really speaks for itself.

I know that when I reach the last stages of life, it won’t be that $30k car I remember – it’ll be those pure and intangible experiences I’ve had whilst travelling; the memories of seeing what the world has to offer.

So, make sure you go out and collect some for yourself.

Justin Clarke
World traveller, teacher, lover, travel agent and self-proclaimed theatre aficionado. I believe the best thing you can pack is a pair of good walking shoes and a phone with a high-quality camera. Preferred method of transport? A Lime Scooter.