10 Things that Traveling has Taught me

Boarding our speed train from Chongqing to Chengdu
Boarding our speed train from Chongqing to Chengdu, China

As soon as you leave your comfort zone and step out to see the world, you meet new people, get acquainted with different cultures, taste new cuisines and simply breathe in the unfamiliar surroundings!

While traveling is a big adventure it can also be frustrating and challenging at some times. I learned countless lessons by going through adventures and misadventures, tears and laughter while exploring the world. I know I still have so much to discover and so many things to learn.

But so far traveling has definitely enriched my life and taught me so much, not only about the world around me but also about myself.

Here are some lessons that sometimes I had to learn the hard way.

Chong Kneas floating village
Chong Kneas floating village in Cambodia

1. Appreciation and Understanding

Traveling around the world and seeing people in all sorts of circumstances makes me appreciate my freedom and life more and more. I don’t think you can truly appreciate what you have until you travel somewhere and are faced with poverty, or to a place where people don’t have the same freedoms we are blessed with back home. That is where I consider myself lucky, and I don’t think I would have ever come to this realization without traveling so far and wide.

I have learned to accept others for who they are and have created bonds with people outside my own culture. This has taught me to respect their beliefs and customs although I don’t always understand them. Sometimes I think as a society we have very closed minds to other cultures and I believe travel teaches you to understand and appreciate other cultures and what they stand for.

2. Relax, don’t get so worked up

It used to be if things didn’t go according to plan or didn’t work the way they were supposed to I would get upset and would then in return get angry and all worked up.

However, while traveling I quickly learned that there is only so much you can control. Most of it is out of my hands and because of language or culture differences things get done differently everywhere else, and sometimes not at all. 

It took me some time, but I have adapted to the mentality of “look on the brightside” when things start going wrong and believe me patience is a virtue.

3. Slow down and look around you

The Beautiful Streets of Santiago
The Beautiful Streets of Santiago, Chile

Traveling has definitely taught me to slow down and notice everything around me, rather that rushing through life and not appreciating the world.  Go for a stroll trough the park and enjoy the journey, its not all about the destination. Sit down and enjoy your coffee and make time to relax with a good book. Leave home earlier than needed so that you can enjoy your travels and not rush around and so end up missing things around you.

4. Talk to strangers

I have learnt to mingle with people and actually talk to strangers. Although I am a reserved person – I don’t speak much when I am around unfamiliar people, and especially when confronted with a group of people. I now pretty much interact with people on my travels and will even initiate conversations with random fellow travelers. I believe if you don’t interact with your fellow travelers and the locals of your destination, you barely experience a place.

porters who carry resources up the mountain on foot
Porters who carry resources up the Yellow mountain in China on foot

5. Pack conservatively

When you have to carry your life on your back like a turtle, you quickly learn to the difference between what would be nice to have and what you can’t live without. 

 Here are my best packing tips:

  1. Buy an e-reader if you can’t travel without books
  2. Make sure you have a great guide book so that you can find your way around the city without having to struggle in a country where you don’t speak the language.
  3. Sort your clothes in clear plastic bags so that you don’t leave your bag a mess when searching for something.

6. Become a chameleon and Adapt

When you travel you are constantly adapting to your surroundings, you have to try new things that you usually wouldn’t try at home. I had to eat food I usually wouldn’t eat and dressed in clothes I wouldn’t usually wear at home. I had to learn to be ready for anything as sometimes things didn’t go according to plan and I had to be able to change my plans at the drop of a hat. I also lived and worked in different countries, each where they do things in a different way and I had to adapt to a different lifestyle and work style every year.

Being able to adapt to any situation is a key skill that you learn when you travel. You will learn to welcome change and embrace it as a part of your new life.

7. Try Anything Once

Food Market of Phnom Pehn
Dont know if I want to try this….

When you travel you tend to not hold back and you are willing to give anything a go, well almost anything. You tell yourself that you may not be in this situation again so you better try it now. Whether you are trying a new food or doing an activity like hot-air-ballooning, it is important to always give it a go. Don’t be the one who wishes you did it years later. Be the one that gave everything a try.

My motto is if I don’t try something I will never know what it is like and there is no time like the present to do it. Be a risk taker, but within reason and live life to the fullest.  You will be amazed at how many more adventures you will be by simply saying yes more than no. Give it a go and try it at least once.

8. You really do make lifelong friends while traveling

Yes, it’s true that traveling long-term often means having to say a lot of goodbyes. Frequently. But it also allows you to meet a ton of amazing people who love traveling just as much as you do. Occasionally, you’ll form bonds so strong that things like distance and time won’t matter. With technology today, maintaining international friendships is easy and sending postcards to each other from all the new amazing places we are exploring is one of the things that I love doing. My postcard collection is growing and this way I get to see places I might never great to explore myself.  And having friends all over the world is never a bad thing.

Watching the Sunset over the Old City
Watching the Sunset over the Old City of Jerusalem

9. The world is big, and I will never see it all

With each new country I visit, I become acutely aware of how many there are left for me to see. The world is a big, amazing place, and I will likely never run out of places that I want to explore. It’s like Socrates said: “The more you know, the more you realize you know nothing.” This is true of travel, too — the more you see, the more you realize you’ve seen nothing.

10. Travel WILL change your life

Lastly, I’ve learned that travel — no matter how, where, or how often you do it — truly can change your life. Maybe travel will inspire a huge change, like convincing you to quit your job or move abroad. Maybe it will just inspire a little change, like opening your mind up to new foods and cultures. But I have no doubt that travel IS life-changing.

 

What has traveling taught you?

Judith and I making snow angels right in front of Saint Isaac's Cathedral
Judith and I making snow angels right in front of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg, Russia
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62 comments

  1. I have learned these lessons too while travelling. And another one is: don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most people are genuinely willing to help and if they can’t, they will find someone who does. In my experience the locals love showing off their home town and, with a lot of hand gestures, are able to show off their pride.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with #9 but it is important to know that if you were in a country today, it might be very different
    in short period of time. It is also important to know that being in one area of a country does not mean that you know the country. There are no limits to travel in time and regions.
    I left Russia 40 years ago. It is a different country today in many aspects.

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  3. I love this post! It contains the essence of everything traveling is all about and what you get from it! Oh, and traveling taught me to appreciate art and architecture. I was never really into it until I saw all the diversity and styles the world had to offer, with my own two eyes.

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  4. I couldnt agree more!! Especially with 3, 8 9 and 10!! I also learned that you have to appreciate the place you are, it might be that you never return there; and that saying good bye will never become easier, you just learn to deal with it 🙂

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  5. Everything you have said is so true- I think travelling has taught me that I love to experience new things and places and to meet new people. For me travelling is addictive and I am constantly thinking about where I would like to go next 🙂

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  6. Talking to strangers is essential for me. I had to work up to this style, but I come away with a much better understanding of the culture. I have learned to be a more tolerant person and not form preconceptions. I’m usually wrong. Thank goodness. 🙂

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    • The talking to strangers part was quite difficult for me in the beginning as I don’t easily trust people and when approached by strangers I am immediately on the defensive. But I have learned to be a bit more trusting and to even initiate conversations with complete strangers.

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  7. Very good post! Yes, we have to be a walking metamorphosis and adapt! People who are usually set in their ways have such a hard time travelling! In my two last posts, I wrote about my routine of pre-travel plans. I usually travel by myself, but yes, I hang around with people I meet all the time. That’s the point of travelling… meeting and learning, in my opinion. I see people bringing the point of “being culturally tolerant”… well, when i take my trips, I don’t even thing about the cultural differences between me and the people… it’s something that never came up. I know how they are, how they behave and act accordingly. No arguments! LIke you point “don’t get worked up”…

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  8. i couldn’t agree more with you…am just back from a 10 day trip to one of the not easily accessible parts of my country and it has been such a wonderful experience..i met some amazing people…ate some tasty food and spoke to many strangers,who kindly let me take their photos…and came back so thankful for the life i have,as people in these parts have a really tough life…but they still smile readily…more power to them…

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  9. Great post, and I especially like “try anything once.” My wife and I try to live by this wherever we go, and it’s been fun. It’s particularly true with local cuisine. From eating chiles in New Mexico to conch fritters in the Keys, to more exotic stuff like octopus, squid, seaweed, and oysters in Taiwan, it’s really opened our minds.

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  10. Great list. I think it also helps to learn at least a few words in the native language of the country you are visiting, if possible. I am not very good at trying everything once but I am getting better. 🙂

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  11. I totally agree with you! Traveling changes the way we see the world. You will realize that latest when you return back home and talk to people who have never traveled for an extended period of time and notice what a narrow and sometimes ignorant view of the world they have. Keep on traveling!

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  12. All wise lessons learned! The hard one for me is the food. I am a veggie, pretty much vegan, and always worried someones going to slip me some meat or cheese! 😎 “lol”

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I agree with Marie’s top tip on trying to learn a few words in the language of the country you are travelling in. Also, respect the culture of your host country and, finally, travel with a smile on your face – people will engage with you much more readily if you look happy!

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  14. All great things to have learned and some great advice in there. Talking to strangers is probably the number one most important if I had to pick one – so many great travel experiences are born from that simple act, which can be hard to to. Thanks for sharing!

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