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July 22, 2009

Handy skills every traveler should learn

Apart from time, some money, and an open mind, the act of traveling doesn’t really require much from the traveler. Still, there’s always an incident where I find myself saying “I wish I knew how to do that”. Here are some skills I wish I learned before I started traveling:

Tying knots. I used to think that knots were mostly for scouts – until I was forced to deal with an uncooperative clothesline. For clear instructions on how to tie knots, visit Apart from having an animated tutorial, the knots are categorized based on use – such as boating, camping, and home use.

First aid. From stomach pains after an unusual meal to a sprained ankle while hiking, there’s no shortage of situations where you’ll need a bit of first aid knowledge. The Mayo Clinic website and Health World both list emergency first aid procedures. Nothing beats a real-life demonstration so attend a first aid class or workshop, if you can. Keep in mind that first aid is only emergency care. It’s not a substitute for a licensed doctor’s help.

Map and compass reading.
While many writers have said that the best part of travel is getting lost,  too much of it can be an inconvenience. No matter how adventurous you are, there’s always the odd situation where you need to find your way back. This is where reading a map and a compass comes in. This PDF file from Britain’s Ordnance Survey discusses the basics of map reading. As for using a compass, the Learn Orienteering site has several illustrated lessons.

Camping. If done right, camping can prove to be a cheaper and more exciting accommodation alternative when you’re traveling. Of course, this depends on the campsite, your level of experience, and your expectations. For a beginner’s guide to camping, check out, Love the Outdoors and Smart Camping Guide. Local state parks also often have camping workshops. For me, the most intensive way to learn is to go on trips with friends or relatives who are already experienced campers.

What other skills proved to be valuable during your trips? Share them with us in the comments.

Image by mioawee from

Posted by | Comments (5) 
Category: Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Travel Safety, Vagabonding Advice

5 Responses to “Handy skills every traveler should learn”

  1. Liv Says:

    Learning a bit of the local language always goes a long way for me. Haggling is a good skill to learn as well – everyone wants a piece of the stranger. Thanks for this post! I’m one of the perpetually lost travelers – north, south, east, and west just don’t make sense to me – so I can definitely benefit from the Orienteering site you linked to. Great topic!

  2. brian from Says:

    Learning CPR is good for traveling and at home. What could be better than saving a life?

    Driving stick shift is one that I know will come in handy. I have to do that myself.

  3. Rich Says:

    Every traveler should know how to swim (or at least tread water).

  4. Nick Taylor Says:

    Traveler’s should know how to take a photograph. Not just operate a camera but understand points of focus, perspective, light sources. A course in photography isn’t required but often when I ask other travelers to take a picture of me in front of something I am startled at how un-centered and unfocused they are.

  5. Josiah Rener Says:

    Proper thanks are due for this awesome article. I’ve read id for some months now and perhaps they are always very informative. Thanks!

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Jeanette Matlock: Well written post that certainly changed my perception. Definitely...

Michael M: Great summary. I usually wind up traveling alone because my friends dont...

Nicole: Thanks so much Roger!

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