100 Lessons from the First 100 Days of Traveling Around the World

I successfully found fish I didn't hate in the Amazon.

100lessonsToday is the 100th day of our round the world trip. As a meaning maker, I am constantly looking for larger themes and digging at the experiences we have had so far. The world is so big, and we have barely scratched the surface. Making sense of what we have seen and continue to see will be a lifetime process. But in the meantime, here are 100 small–probably trivial, but slightly humorous–lessons I have learned from the first 100 days of traveling around the world:

1. Experience shows that when I am in an earthquake, my most immediate and pressing concern is quickly putting pants on because I don’t want to be found dead without them

2. Australians seem to travel at the rate Americans stay home

3. Calories are cleverly labeled “energy” on many international food labels

4. Nothing humbles you faster than trying to learn a new language

5. You never know how important the Spanish word for soap is (“jabón”) until you are in dire need and performing charades to help the Amazonian locals guess your meaning

6. Peru is home to the world’s most terrifying mannequins

7. I married a man who gets teary eyed reading the inspirational quotes in the US Passport (context: no sleep, just deported)

8. A large chunk of Peru looks uncannily like Utah

Number 6: Need I Say More?

Number 6: Need I Say More?

9. You don’t magically “pick up” languages by hiding in your apartment because you are too scared to talk to people

10. One of the sweetest Thai men I have met was named Gun

11. LDS churches are the best places to find free filtered water

12. When you don’t speak the language, making swimming arm motions and waterfall hand movements will still communicate “stop this car I’m going to vomit”

13. Hot pink is the new black in Thailand

14. There is no such thing as too much mango sticky rice

15. Thailand is home to the world’s worst cookie counterfeits

16. Singapore is likely the best place to set a dystopia story in the making


Number 19 Baby Tiger

17. Americans seem to be the ones most freaked out by unisex bathrooms

18. Checking a bag can cost more than the original flight price

19. Baby tigers love having their bellies rubbed. So do full grown tigers, but if you don’t scratch firmly enough they think you are a fly, and they will hit you in the head with their tail hard enough to give you a headache

20. Passion fruit resembles boogers more than fruit

21. Goodbyes come too quickly and never get easier

22. Piranha actually tastes pretty good

23. Thai lady boys rock platform heels and sequin club dresses better than I ever could

Number 22 Cooked Piranha

Number 22 Cooked Piranha

24. Packs of rabid Amazonian dogs (Austin would like to interject: “like Shelob”) are afraid of flashlights in the dark. This small fact could save your life

25. Eighty degrees is cold enough for some people to bust out their down coats

26. It is possible to re-read the entire Harry Potter series in a week and a half when you don’t have a job

27. Dressing nicely for the Indian consulate, as they recommend, will mean you are stepping into a trap for a bribe

28. Missing flights isn’t as big of a deal when you don’t have anywhere you need to be

29. Sometimes you only think you know Spanish

Number 32 A Graffiti Wall in Bogota

Number 32 A Graffiti Wall in Bogota

30. Just because you book and pay for a hostel from a reputable website does not mean said hostel will exist when you arrive in Colombia at the address at 1:00 AM

31. The only thing a Thai immigration officer will ask while reviewing your visa extension paperwork is what you think of his Facebook photos of rescued animals

32. Bogota’s graffiti is a free, open-air art exhibit

33. The world’s best hot chocolate can be found at a no-name café in Cusco

34. “American pizza” means pizza with corn on it

35. Sugar is the actual bread and butter of Thai cooking

36. Remote controls exist for certain toilets, featuring massage and cleaning buttons

Number 39 Epic Nose Ring

Number 39 Epic Nose Ring

37. A tarantula will hide if you scream

38. Mosquitoes will wait till you are in the outdoor shower to get most friendly

39. The biggest nose rings I have ever seen are on display in Colombia’s Museo del Oro

40. A bad translator was largely responsible for the final downfall of the Incan Empire

41. You have to ferment cocoa beans to make chocolate

42. Pink dolphins are real and adorable

43. There is no deus ex machina to help you when you accidentally enter a country illegally

44. Some people with night terrors have no problem checking in to 12 person dorm rooms

45. Not having a job is like having a life of Saturdays

46. Elephants can learn to paint pictures

47. Guinea pigs are a traditional delicacy, similar to the thanksgiving turkey, in certain Peruvian feasts

Number 49 Incan Stone

Number 49 Incan Stone

48. Alpaca meat is actually really tasty

49. Each Incan building stone took about a year to move and carve from start to finish

50. The Japanese win the award for the friendliest airport workers

51. Driving on the ‘opposite’ side of the road is doable, just plan to hit the windshield wipers every time you try to use the turn signal

52. There are so many fish in the Amazon River that they literally jump into your boat

53. The condor is the world’s largest bird. We waited around for two hours to spot one, but only later did I learn that it was a giant vulture

54. Making dumplings is an art

55. The main reason people seem to go to Iquitos is to overpay to get high on ayahuasca in the jungle

56. Singapore’s famous airport lives up to expectations, especially the swimming pool

Number 58 A Cherimoya Fruit

Number 58 A Cherimoya Fruit

57. Caffeine is a terrible idea when recovering from jet lag

58. Cherimoya, a fruit once reserved for the royalty in Cusco, is almost impossible to find anywhere else. Naturally it is my new favorite fruit

59. When deciding whether to eat 7 plates of a cheese and chocolate buffet or swimming first, you should always swim first

60. Famous Thai courtesy takes a backseat on Bangkok trains during rush hour

61. The worst alarm clock is a cement drill outside your window

62. There are glorious places in the world that do 1 hour massages for 5 dollars

63. Be careful where you launch a floating lantern (krathong). It might get caught in a tree and erupt in flames

64. A toucan bird can take on a dog

65. Ice cream cones do wonders for episodes of culture shock and western food cravings

Number 69 Rock Ripe with Guano, Still Exported Here at Pisac

Number 69 Rock Ripe with Guano, Still Exported Here at Pisac

66. Thai women pluck their gray hairs out with tweezers rather than dye their hair

67. The best kind of sweet potatoes are bright purple

68. Things take forever to boil at 11,000 feet above sea level

69. Eighty percent of Peru’s economy once came from exporting massive amounts of guano, also known as bird poop

70. Peruvians are passionate about their elections. They will paint the entire exterior of their house to show support for a candidate

71. Chinese dim sum is like opening Christmas white elephant presents from a stranger. You never know what you are going to find when you take off the lid

72. In a war, backpack vs motorcycle wheel, the motorcycle will win (but not without a fight)

73. The worst collection of American movies are reserved for night buses

74. Ordering a hamburger with chips in Peru means you’ll have a hamburger with grated French fries as a layer in a sandwich

75. Thai people are comfortable with random people picking up their children and playing with them

Number 80 Dune Buggy

Number 80 Dune Buggy

76. Alligator eyes appear red at night

77. Coca leaves are ubiquitous in South America. These leaves are also used to make cocaine

78. There is a traditional dance in Peru featuring two partners fighting over an orange and taking turns whipping each other. They claim it is about Parkinson’s disease.

79. Sandboarding is like snowboarding, but the sand slows you down and you fall a lot harder

80. Make sure you leave a will before ridding in a sand dune buggy

81. You can unclog a toilet with a hose

82. The best pad thai dinner I’ve ever had cost $1.25

83. Check a taxi’s registration stickers before getting in and heading to the airport, some are totally fake

84. Thai teenaged boys know more lyrics to American pop songs than anyone I’ve ever met, and they delight in singing them to you

85. McDonalds at 3:30 AM in Hong Kong is the place to be for game nights, sleep overs, after parties, or snacks for the jet lagged travelers

86. The Hong Kong airport appears to be first and foremost a massive mall where you can catch a plane downstairs if that sort of thing interests you. Hong Kong in general has a ridiculous amount of malls.

Number 86 Mall in Hong Kong

Number 86 Mall in Hong Kong

87. There are not 4th floors in many Asian buildings like there are not 13th floors on many in the U.S.

88. The Spanish Conquistador’s Jesus was as far as you can get from Greg Olsen’s Jesus

89. Fruit sellers in Peru use megaphones that sound like Islamic calls to prayer

90. MSG is also known as “tasty powder” in some cuisines

91. Asian bathrooms are small, and usually the shower is right over the toilet. This is convenient for shaving

92. Most of the artifacts from Machu Picchu were taken back to Yale by Hiram Bingham, a professor who didn’t exactly “discover” Machu Picchu in 1911

93. We can thank the Incans for a lot of our food staples (tomatoes, corn, potatoes, etc.) from their agriculture experiments

94. Traveling is a privilege

95. You need very little amounts of “stuff” to survive. Having only one bag on your back is very liberating

Number 92 Machu Picchu

Number 92 Machu Picchu

96. We have some of the best, kind, and generous friends all over the world

97. I’ve spent too much time hiding behind a busy schedule instead of confronting my depression and other emotional kinks head on

98. You don’t always need to be suspicious of people

99. Saying yes to random opportunities and risks almost always pays off

100. I can spent 24/7 with Austin and not just spare his life but enjoy (almost) every minute of it

Rachel Rueckert

Rachel Rueckert is a writer, photographer, teacher, and travel addict with a background in English and anthropology. Though she is based out of Boston, she is currently backpacking around the world doing an independent writing and research project on marriage around the globe with her new husband.

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