10 Things I Learned From Traveling
When I was younger, I announced to my parents that I wanted to travel around the world. They didn't shrug it off because they knew I was a determined kid. Once I put my mind to something I tended to leap in. In fact, out of fear, as this was coming from a dad who traveled extensively, he said, "People and places are basically the same everywhere you go." I didn't take heed as I was set on seeing and exploring the globe.
Years later after declaring my desire to travel, and saving up enough money to get by, as I figured I'd work along the way, off I went with my backpack and enthusiasm for adventure.
Here's what I learned after 2 1/2 years of travel ....
1. You Are More Resilient Than You Think
There's nothing like jumping into the deep end to realize that swimming is your only wise option. Keep kicking your feet no matter what. Travel taught me that I was way more resilient than I could have ever imagined - especially in countries that, at the time, were not welcoming to single travelers. I always needed to have a contingency plan in case plans fell through. Plan B was always in my back pocket.
2. You Learn To Be Street Smart, Fast
This one was crucial. More than anything else I relied on my street smarts. Trust me they weren't there at the beginning of my journey. I tended to be way too optimistic about the people and places I travelled. Not to say that I was too trusting, but I needed to learn to be more aware. To learn to read people better and ask better questions. The skills I developed overtime have been invaluable.
3. Inspiration and Ideas Are Everywhere
As a curious person my eyes tend to be wide open most of the time - always looking for ideas and ways to create stuff. Traveling gave me a different perspective. It expanded my creativity. I saw opportunities everywhere. I was like a kid in a sports store (candy is brutal for your health 😀)
4. Be Brave
There were a lot of tense and scary moments throughout my 2 1/2 years of travel. I remember getting lost in the jungle in Malaysia. Getting stuck in a black-market situation in a town in Siberia. Authorities almost kicking me off the Trans-Siberian Express because I snapped a photo I wasn't supposed to. Who knew? Oh ya, and the boat from Bangkok to the Island of Ko Samui hit a rock out at sea and almost sank with me on it. Stuff like that ...
When I came back from my travels, I never told my parents any of these stories until years later.
5. Check Your Backpack At Every Border
Whoa the horror stories when crossing borders where students were pulled over and their backpacks ripped apart to discover drugs had been smuggled. Unsuspecting students would be targeted, and drugs placed in their packs by smugglers on one side of the border and another waiting on the other side to retrieve the goods. They'd befriend students and find any excuse to jostle their packs.
At every border I took apart everything and packed it all up again. This has been a good and practical life lesson for me in who I can trust. For the most part it's been super handy!
6. You Become A Great Negotiator
I found that I needed to negotiate, discuss, converse a lot to gain a common understanding - this was due to language barriers and the various culture differences I encountered. Overall, it was fabulous as I learned a number of different ways to communicate that proved helpful all round.
7. You Learn To Have Meaningful Conversations
Mostly due to cultural differences and of course the language barrier, I learned very quickly that I better learn the language so I could converse at some small level. I immersed myself wherever I went and didn't shy away from communicating. In fact, conversations where more intense because, although very frustrating, I had to hang in there if I was to meet people. Patience is an absolute virtue. 😀
8. You Can Absolutely Live Without Devices
Why would you want too and yet - I didn't have a choice. I had no idea what I was missing or living without because devices and computers hadn't been on the scene yet. I relied on phone booths and letter writing. This is probably why my parents were so worried about me. I needed to go to the local post office wherever I traveled and place (collect) calls.
However, what not having devices taught me is that now that I have them, I'm not stressed or obsessed when I'm not on my phone or computer.
9. Receiving Letters From Home Is Life Saving
This was important. There were MANY times I was home sick. Longing for my parents, brothers, and sister. The very first place I'd b-line it when I got off a plane, train, automobile, or boat was the post office to check if I had any mail from home. When I did, WOW. I cherished those letters.
You see, I'd let my family know where I was traveling to so they could send me letters ahead of time. There were only a few times when I ended up not going to various places - I often wonder if the unopened letters are still at those post offices?
10. You See Everything Differently
When things aren't going the way I hope, or I find myself thinking all kinds of fearful things, I am always reminded that no matter what, I'm going to be just fine. I know I can live (although I don't really want to test this out) with just a pack on my back. I have a real appreciation for not wanting a lot of stuff. It's very freeing for me.