St. Augustine once said “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Travel is the best education you can get. There is so much to see and explore in the far corners of the earth, and with every travel adventure come amazing life lessons. When you step out and explore the world, learn about new cultures, meet new people, taste new food or wander through the streets of an unfamiliar city you can’t help but be enriched by the experience. Here are 10 things travelling taught me.
Nobody enjoys a lesson in patience but if it’s going to happen, where better than travelling on a crowded train in India, or waiting for a bus in Africa? In Malawi I once had to wait for a bus that arrived four hours late, but this is Africa and things run on “African time”. Nobody is in a hurry. When you can wrap your head around that way of thinking you can slow down and appreciate the things around you.
I’m not the most spontaneous person. I’m the person who has the entire travel itinerary carefully planned out several weeks before departure. But travelling has taught me to loosen those reigns a bit. Sometimes it’s best to just go with the flow, because even though there is fear of the unknown, it’s much more exciting. Let yourself get lost in the cobbled streets of Annecy, venture off the beaten track in Chile, or backpack in Bhutan. Go bungee jumping or white-water rafting. Add a little excitement to your life because you don’t want to look back and think “I wish I had…”
When you’re in your humdrum daily routine it’s easy to complain about the things you haven’t got, or how you wish things were different. Travel has made me see myself and my circumstances with new eyes. I’ve slept in a mud hut in the middle of rural Zambia, where the family I was staying with owned nothing but a few chickens and a goat. How quickly we forget how much we have to be thankful for! I think it’s hard to truly appreciate what you have until you travel somewhere where there is abject poverty, or to a place where people don’t enjoy the same freedom we have.
When you travel for any extended period you quickly learn not to stress about the little things. Travel puts things in perspective. When you’re watching a Santorini sunset with someone you love you realize it wasn’t really a big deal that your flight to Greece arrived 20 minutes late, or that you spilled your drink all over your new shirt at dinner. You learn to re-evaluate your priorities and you realize that experiences have more value than material things.
The world is made up of so many different people with different beliefs and a different way of doing things. There is no room for narrow-mindedness when you’re travelling. You don’t have to agree with somebody’s beliefs or traditions to appreciate their culture.
Things are bound to go wrong when you’re travelling and if you’re a control freak like me it’s not very easy to just roll with the punches. The truth is that there is a limit to the things that you can control, and if you accept that you’ll find it’s easier to look on the bright side of a bad situation. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This lesson was brutally reiterated on a disastrous trip to Malawi, where everything went wrong, from cancelled flights that resulted in a very long and bumpy bus ride, to the resort chalet burning down in the middle of the night and a mild concussion. I can honestly say it was one of my favourite holidays ever!
Memorable moments are sometimes the simplest ones…swinging in a hammock on the beach, watching a sunset, lying under the stars. If you don’t take time to absorb your surroundings you’ll miss half the fun. As somebody who appreciates good travel photography, I think looking for photo opportunities on your travels is a wonderful way to look for joy in the simple moments.
8. How to pack!
If you can’t pick up your bag you packed too much. When you spend a lot of time travelling you learn to pack like a boss. Forget the high heels and bulky holiday reading. Buy a kindle or e-reader, pack lightly, wear sensible clothes and invest in a comfortable pair of shoes. It may seem like a trivial lesson, but you’ll be glad you learned it when you’re lugging all your belongings on your back like a tortoise.
If you’re travelling to a country where they don’t speak your language, at least make an effort to learn the basics like “hello”, “please” and “thank you”. Not only is it polite, but it also impresses the locals, who are often used to obnoxious tourists who expect the locals to speak English but make no effort to learn their language.
Life is short, do what makes you happy.Time flies and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to reach the end of my life and wish that I had done things differently. Things don’t just fall perfectly in your lap without any effort on your part. Be proactive about your own life. At 31 years old I’ve finally realized what it is I want to do with my life. Figure out what makes you happy and do it.
Travel changes you in magical ways. To quote Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
How has travel changed you?