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