I’ve officially been traveling the world for a year now. I’m actually getting all tingly inside from reading that first sentence. This past year of travel has honestly been the best year of my life. In the past 365 days, I’ve traveled to 72 countries, turned strangers into friends, overcome many of my fears and learned a lot about myself. Here are some meaningful lessons that you too can learn from traveling the world.
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1. Travel Is the Best Form of Education
I’m now a firm believer that you learn the most important and valuable lessons outside of the classroom. Before I started traveling, I thought that textbooks and teachers were the only resources available to learn new things. However, traveling debunked that theory of mine. I’ve learned more from these real-world experiences than I have sitting in classrooms.
In all honesty, I don’t remember much from my history classes in school. However, I still remember all of the historical facts I learned from visiting the Pyramids in Egypt and Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. I also learned how to appreciate and learn from other cultures. I never learned that in high school and college. Traveling is the only thing I have done that has impacted me socially, intellectually and emotionally.
2. Traveling Does Not Mean Vacationing
Traveling is hard. I’m not even going to try to hide that. Traveling is walking twelve miles in Paris and getting blisters on your feet because you can’t afford to spend $15 on a ten-minute taxi ride. It’s packing up your belongings every three days to explore a new city. Traveling is taking red-eye fights because you need to pinch pennies wherever you can. Traveling is doing your laundry in the shower because you don’t want to pay $50+ at your hotel to get it done. For the most part, traveling isn’t all that relaxing.
In my opinion, vacationing is laying in your hammock on the beach in Turks and Caicos with a pina colada in your hand. Vacationing is all about relaxation. You spend a week at the beach to escape stress. Vacationing doesn’t make you a better person or aid in your personal growth. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that vacations are a bad thing. I love vacationing. I’m just pointing out the difference.
3. There Is No Right or Wrong Way to Travel
Traveling is a skill and there’s really no right or wrong way to do it as long as you’re making the most of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re staying in five-star hotels or you’re crashing on someone’s couch. It also doesn’t matter if you’re paying for city tours or exploring on your own. Just because someone travels differently than you doesn’t mean they’re wrong. The trip you go on is yours and you do you! Don’t listen to the haters. Haters gonna hate. Travelers gonna travel. I probably don’t have a shot at being a traveling comedian and that’s okay. I’ll keep using my corny jokes on you.
4. Some People Just Don’t Get Why You Travel and That’s Okay
One of the most difficult things we have had to while traveling is to explain our lives to people who don’t really understand traveling. My friends and family ask me all the time when I’m going to get a real job and have kids. These questions used to bother me a lot. However, I’ve come to realize that the life I’m living isn’t considered “normal” by American standards. These befuddled reactions are worth it when I meet people during my travels who are doing what I’m doing and value the importance of traveling. It’s not your job to justify your passions to people who just don’t get it.
5. A Smile Is the Most Beautiful Thing You Can Wear
Smiles really are a universal language. It’s the easiest way to eliminate language barriers and make friends with someone. I went to a coffee shop one day and I happened to smile really big at one of the servers. She immediately noticed it and said that she loved my smile. I apparently reminded her of her daughter that she only gets to see once a year. She said that my smile made her feel like she was with her daughter again. I always smile at locals when I travel. But, after this incident, I make more of an effort to do so. You never know how much your smile can make a stranger’s day. It doesn’t require any effort. Give your smile out like you happily give your money to the Starbucks barista.
6. Travel Insurance Is Worth It
We were in Koh Samui for the past month and a half. We decided to rent a scooter while we were there so we could get around the island. For those of you who haven’t been to Thailand, driving is a little scary there. We saw many tourists get hurt pretty badly and didn’t have travel insurance. We were able to drive our scooter around without any fear and anxiety because we had insurance. I know some of you try to be frugal and skip travel insurance to save a few extra bucks. However, you’ll be wishing you spent those few extra bucks beforehand rather than footing a $10,000 hospital bill because you didn’t buy travel insurance.
7. The World Is Not a Scary Place
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been told by my friends and family that the world is a scary place and that I’m bonkers for going to some of the countries that I’ve been to. I totally get their concerns. The media makes some places look scarier than they actually are. I was told by some friends not to go to the Philippines because they saw on the news that there was a lot of crime against tourists. We tend to do the opposite of what people tell us to do so we decided to visit. We felt very safe when we were there and had no issues. I was also a little apprehensive about visiting the Middle East because of the news that we’re fed as Americans. The Middle East is actually one of my favorite regions in the entire world. I feel safer in the Middle East than I do in the States and the people there are so warm and friendly.
8. Experiences Are Better Than Things
I know, I know. This is a huge cliche. But, it’s so true. I remember that agonizing moment when I listed my favorite personal belongings for sale before I started traveling. I thought that my world was going to end without a pair of tennis shoes that I had barely worn. I genuinely don’t miss any of my belongings back home. Actually, I don’t even remember them at all. I can always buy more things. But, I can’t always have the experiences that I’m currently having. When I’m 80, I’m going to remember the moment where I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time. I’m never going to remember that brand new designer purse I bought.
9. Everywhere You Go Becomes a Part of You
Every place you visit and every experience you have becomes a part of you forever. The memories you make in each place will forever live in your heart. I am a culmination of every place I have visited.
10. You Fall in Love With Being Alive
I can’t even tell you how many strangers have touched my soul and made me smile. These two things alone made fall in love with being alive. I am the best version of myself when I travel. Traveling makes me want to take another bite of whatever I just took a bite out of. It coerces me to live my best life.
11. You’re Capable of More Than You Think You Are
Traveling has fully pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I used to be this girly girl who always hung out in her little safety net. I’ll always remember how scared I was as I boarded my flight to Bali to set out on this world adventure. I was leaving everything I had ever known behind to pursue the unknown. A few days after I got to Bali, I was rocking and rolling. I was making friends with locals. I was immersing myself in the culture. Above all, I was gaining confidence.
Don’t laugh at me. I don’t know how to swim. Okay, laugh at me. I can’t hear you anyways. I went white water rafting in Bali and had the time of my life. I thought I was going to die a few times, but it was so worth it. YOLO. Do people even still say that? Traveling pushes me to my emotional and physical limits. Even when I don’t think I can do something, I push myself more and don’t take no for an answer.
12. We Are All the Same
People are people. It’s that simple. Traveling makes you realize that we are all the same no matter what language we speak, where we are from and what color our skin is. One of the most touching moments I’ve had from traveling was in Istanbul at a cafe. One of the employees asked if we were American and we said yes. We asked where he was from and he said Iraq. Our hearts sank when he said that because we felt remorse. He sought refuge in Istanbul because of the war. We also thought that he was going to treat us differently because of the political tensions. However, he welcomed us with open arms and said that he was excited to meet two wonderful Americans. That truly was a defining moment for me in regards to this aspect. We all crave love, security, safety and validation. You have something in common with everyone as long as you look past the things that divide you.
13. You’re Infected Once the Travel Bug Bites You
When we first started traveling, we were only planning on being gone for a few months. It’s been a year and we’re still going. Yes, I get exhausted and I miss home. Despite that, I can’t imagine doing anything else. New experiences and cities are calling my name. I still have so much of the world to see and I’m just getting started.
What have you learned from your travels? Let me know in the comments below.
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