Travel isn’t just about seeing new cities and discovering new landscapes. Many times, the physical journey leads the traveler on an internal journey, as well. From my experiences backpacking solo, volunteering abroad, living with families in other countries and being open to new adventures, I’ve learned a lot about life and my own capabilities. While I could write a list of 100 life lessons I’ve learned from traveling, I’ve narrowed it down to my 10 most important.
From traveling, I’ve learned…
How To Be Very Open Minded
Getting to experience unique cultures is one of the best parts about traveling. Actually, getting to meet people who are different from ourselves is one of the best parts about life. When I tell my non-traveling friends about the customs, traditions, dress, foods and living situations I’ve encountered abroad, many of them shake their heads in terror. A more enriching reaction, however, is to immerse yourself in the culture and learn about it instead of looking from the outside in. Thanks to how open-minded travel has helped me become I’ve gotten to have many unforgettable experiences, like doing a homestay in Ghana, teaching English in a Thai village, eating guinea pig in Ecuador and dancing in a traditional ceremony in China.
That Having A 9-to-5 Job, Getting Married And Owning A House Isn’t Everything
I’m in my mid-20s, meaning now is the time all my friends are talking about how they must soon get married, buy a house and get settled with their perfect office job. When I talk of my plans to have a nomadic lifestyle for as long as possible, their usual reaction is, “But, when will you get a job and get married? Don’t you want to buy a house? You can’t travel with children, you know.”
Just because my job doesn’t confine me to an office or have traditional hours doesn’t mean I don’t have one. Moreover, owning a house isn’t something I want — ever. And, it is definitely possible to travel with children. Lastly, I do want to get married, but hopefully to someone who has the mindset about travel and seeing the world as I do. I’ve found deep happiness doing what I do, and just because it doesn’t fit the traditional mold of what a person’s life should look like doesn’t mean I can’t do it.
Being Patient Can Give You A Positive Outlook In Any Situation
Traveling can be frustrating. In many cultures, being prompt is not important. This means, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting around for buses, trains, food, tours, taxis and people to show up to meet you. While this can be aggravating, the less you let it stress you the more you’ll enjoy your trip. Think about it. Say your bus in Peru is running an hour late. You can either sit there and be angry, or you can take the time to write in your journal, look through your guidebook, go through photos or sample a new food in the station. By being patient and keeping a smile on your face, your general outlook on life will be more positive.
That Happiness Is Appreciating What You Have And Not Pining For What You Don’t
One trait I’ve noticed in many of the “poorer” countries I’ve visited is the people actually seem happier than in the United States. That’s because these people aren’t constantly looking for material possessions to bring them joy, but instead place value on things like family, health, food, dance and tradition. Life is about finding happiness with what you have, not pining for what you don’t. The truth is, if you just keep wanting you’ll never have everything you desire, because as soon as you get something you “want” you’ll just keep wanting more.
To Take Pride In Every Task I Take On
It’s funny to me how many people in the United States view waitressing as a college job to pay off loans or McDonald’s as a place you work only out of desperation. In many other countries, everyone from the street sweeper to the company CEO takes pride in their job and is regarded with respect. Your job is only as lowly as you allow it to be. By taking pride in what you do, even if it’s as simple as fetching coffee, you’ll be more fulfilled and feel like you’re serving a valuable purpose (because you are!).
How To Appreciate All My Relationships
When you’re around your friends and family all the time, you can take these people for granted. Being on the road most of the time, you begin to appreciate these people a lot more. When you’re out of money and living on crackers your parents waking you up early for Sunday breakfast won’t seem to annoying.
That I Really Am Capable Of Anything I Set My Mind To
The first time I set off go on a solo backpacking trip, I was 21. I was originally supposed to have four other girls going with me to Europe, but they all bailed last minute. I was dead-set on going, however, and didn’t want to give up the trip of a lifetime just because I had nobody to go with. Although I was nervous beforehand, once I got to the continent and began using my problem solving skills, crossing cultural barriers, making plans despite language differences and maneuvering my way from Ireland to Greece without any major issues, I realized I truly am capable of anything once I set my mind to it. Now, I confidently go on at least one major solo backpacking trip each year.
How To Be Smart With Money
When traveling, it’s imperative to be smart with your money. Everyday you’ll be shelling out for accommodations, food, tours and transportation, so unless you won’t to go home with an empty bank account, you’ll need to become budget-savvy. Taking local buses, grocery shopping, staying at hostels or CouchSurfing and searching for free tours or do-it-yourself itineraries can help you save a lot while still giving you a worthwhile experience. Luckily, after getting into the habit of being smart with money abroad, I’ve been able to bring the skill home. Before making a purchase, I first ask myself if there is a cheaper option. Then, I analyze whether the more expensive option is something I really need, really want or just desire for the time being.
There Is No Day But Today
If there’s something you want to do, do it now. Is there a destination you want to travel to? A site you want to see? An experience you want to have? The world is changing rapidly, as are you, and just because you can do something today doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it tomorrow. Do it today.
The World Isn’t As Scary As Most People Think
Granted, there are many terrible things that happen everyday, and you shouldn’t trust everyone meet. That being said, people seem to think every country that isn’t westernized is a war zone. Traveling through Ghana, Morocco, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil, I was constantly being told how dangerous it was, especially for girls traveling on their own. The truth is, while I heard a few stories of pickpocketing and theft, I didn’t encounter other backpackers who had had any life-threatening problems. You can’t base an entire city or country on one story you hear or a negative stereotype. There are many wonderful, interesting people to encounter all over the world.
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