This is more for my own edification than anything else, but as we travel I'll try to keep an updated list of rules we learn along the way. Most of these are good practices to level-set expectations when on the road.
1. Live the adventure. And its requisite corollary: embrace the suck.
- Appreciate small moments while you're in them.
- You will get scammed and hassled. As our program instructor put it when we lived abroad in Spain, "try to think of getting pickpocketed as a form of effective wealth redistribution policy."
- You will be late, you will miss transit. Sometimes it will miss you.
- You will lose things and leave them behind.
- You will get sick and sleep-deprived.
2: Never book in advance.
We alternately get rewarded and punished for this rule of thumb, but we found that travel reservations in southeast Asia don't escalate enough in price as you get closer to the date to merit booking too much in advance. At the end of the day, flexibility is a more valuable commodity on the road than predictability.
3. Travel and vacation are not synonymous.
4. Everyone has their own reasons for being on the road.
Some people want to 'find themselves,' some people want to run from something, and most just want to travel and have fun. The reasons people have for traveling normally affect how they act and what they want out of it, but there is an unspoken rule of no judgement; let people live how they want to.
5. Never leave your bag alone.
6. Always agree on the price first.
It's better to be upset about overpaying for something in advance than to get something (especially something that can't be given back, like a tuk-tuk ride) and then find the vendor overcharging you by even more later.
7. No neat-nancy's or hygienists allowed.
Living cheaply and in the third world forces you to reevaluate your standards of cleanliness, often leading to the insight that they were set too high anyway. But a warm shower is always something to be thankful for.