My trip to Central America was full of trial and error. Despite reading hundreds of travel blogs over the past few years, I still felt like I had no idea how to travel.

Packing was a stressful nightmare and the days leading up to my departure were full of anxiety. I did a lot of things right, like starting off in Orosi and arranging airport transport (I figured late night in a foreign country was not the best time for my first bus ride), and, honestly, for the first time doing anything solo, I think I did pretty well. I have no true regrets from my time in Central America.

However, there are a few things I will do differently when I travel again.

Lagoon Sloth Sanctuary Costa Rica

One of the last pictures I was able to take before my iPhone broke

1.) Take more (better) photos. My biggest regret as I click through photos from my trip is that, honestly, there really aren’t very many of the things I want to remember and, well, the majority of them are pretty terrible. I was traveling with an iPhone 5 as my primary camera and and oldish point-and-shoot as back-up. When my phone stopped working on Costa Rica, I was left with a point-and-shoot that really wasn’t up to par. Plus I felt so awkward carrying around this crappy camera which led to me not taking it out or going out of my way to get the perfect shot.

Before I head out on my next adventure I’ll be purchasing a new camera (I’m looking at THIS camera) and, of course, a new phone. However, more importantly, I’m working on improving my photography skills. A good camera is nothing if the person behind it is clueless.

2.) More skirts, less dresses. I wear a lot of dresses in general so packing dresses was a no-brainer. However, I never stopped to realize how noticeable bright, bold prints were – I was frequently complimented when I wore them but that also meant where I wore them again and again, people noticed.

If I had been moving around more frequently, this wouldn’t have been an issue but I was staying in each location for several weeks. While I could get away with mixing and matching my shirts and shorts, maxi dresses leave little room for creativity in presenting a new outfit.

On my next trip, while I absolutely intend on taking a few dresses, I’ll be leaving a few behind in favor of skirts. I’ll still get the same casual, flowy feeling as the dresses but offer more outfit options when paired with shirts to mix-and-match.

Laguna de Apoyo Granada

Laguna de Apoyo was one of the only places I explored outside Granada

3.) Bring liquid shower gel. I’ve never been a bar soap girl, I’ve always used liquid shower gel. When packing my bags, I threw in a few small bottles, just as I did with my shampoo, but figured I’d be able to buy it during my travels, as I would my shampoo.

Wrong.

Whether this is particular to Central America, I have no idea, but it was virtually impossible to purchase liquid shower gel. When inquiring at the market, we were often handed hair shampoo and conditioner or simply given a blank stare.

Lesson learned. Next time I’ll be bringing a full bottle with me.

4.) Stop “waiting for tomorrow”. My biggest regret from my time in Nicaragua is that I didn’t take more time to explore. Since I planned on staying in Granada for 3 months, I found no need to rush from place to place every weekend or even leave our house some days. There was always “tomorrow” for that.

Except tomorrow never ended up coming as I left unexpectedly. I spent a month in a fantastic city, in a country that I loved, and can barely tell you anything about it. How pathetic is that?
Next time, no matter how long I plan on being there, I want to start exploring right away. It’s hard to run out of things to do in a new city but waiting to explore can unfortunately mean that you never get to it at all.

5.) More money, less things. This can also be applied as a general rule for life but I wish I had carried less things and brought more money. When I was packing to return home, I realized how many things in my backpack had never been touched at all. Not only was that wasted space and extra weight on my back, it was money that could have been saved.

Money was tight before I left the country – I always knew that I’d need to budget to keep expenses down. But when I had to start saying “no” to fun activities a month into my trip, I was wishing I had a little more. I don’t regret leaving with a limited budget but I do know that next time I’ll make sure there’s a little more padding in the bank.

Luckily, all of these things can be easily remedied on my next adventure – and none of them truly took away from my first experience abroad. What will you do differently the next time you travel?