10 Life Lessons I Learn From Traveling

Travel teaches me not with agenda or curriculum, but simply through the act of movement. It slowly covers me in its warmth, gifting me knowledge, understanding, and true experience as I make my way through the world. When I take that leap into the unknown I am then able to learn about diverse cultures, meet new people, and taste new food. At that moment I am gaining something that though it is intangible, it is worth more than all the possessions of a lifetime.

There are so many special gifts that travel gives me, it is impossible to describe them all. What is more important than any of these things is that you open yourself to what travel can teach you as an individual. So, use these as inspiration for getting out there and finding the personal treasures travel has in store for you.

  1. Travel Teaches Me About Time: Living in a fast-paced American city I’m used to the buzz and bustle of modern society. Waiting for things or something taking longer than I think it should use to drive me crazy. When I travel that limited understanding of time goes out the window and there is nothing I can do about it. Outside of my small world people operate on all types of different time concepts and life moves accordingly. It’s inevitable that something will go wrong on any trip; a canceled flight, illness, bugs in the bed. The more I embrace a different paradigm of time and am open to what it brings, the more open I am to each moment around me. This practice in patience follows me home too and I don’t get so upset when the metro bus is late.
  2. I Embrace Living Simply: The culture around me, for the most part, operates with a surplus of “stuff.” Yes, there are many among us who lack basic necessities and whose lives are much different than mine, but on the whole American society loves “things” and we have way more than we need. Travel has taught me about what a necessity really is and what things actually enrich my life. As long as I have access to food, a roof over my head and myself and loved one’s are healthy and safe, I’m doing pretty damn good. Everything else is a luxury. Travel helps me strip away all the extra clutter and reduce my necessities to what I can fit in my backpack. Travel helps me see things in a different way and redefine what truly brings me happiness. I have met people who, by my cultural standards, have little to no possessions but are happier than me and the people around me at home. It teaches me that
    true joy comes not from our possessions but from our connection to the world around us.
  3. I Develop A Deeper Sense Of Empathy And Understanding: Before I started traveling I had a hard time understanding different peoples points of view or way of life. I had limited knowledge of the larger world around me and the different life experiences that people lead. As soon as I started spending time in unfamiliar cultures, different contexts, different ways of life my outlook and understanding of my human sisters and brothers expanded greatly. Traveling has helped me to be more sympathetic and understanding to issues and injustices that I may never experience. It gives me a chance to build compassion and embrace my connection with the larger web of humanity regardless of the lines on the map. I have learned that everyone is just trying to do what they think is best for their families and communities, just like I am.
  4. Learn How To Roll With The Punches: When I firsts started traveling “rolling with the punches” was not my strongest quality. I was easily derailed and small inconveniences would put me in a sour mood. But I have learned through experience that these instances of momentary irksome events hold beauty if only we are looking for it. I have had many flights not go as planned, had all my money stolen, been stranded in more villages and airports than I can even count and the best thing I can ever do is just roll with it. It tends to always work out in one way or another and after the fact I always look back and realize it was part of the adventure. Seeing things this way helps me let go of the control I think I so desperately need and connect more with how life and the universe whirl around me in a beautiful symphony that I am just a small part of.
  5. I Allow Myself To Be Curious: Travelling gives me a chance to be curious about life again. To engage that adventurous and explorative spirit that lives in all of us. It’s so easy to get stuck in the day to day life; work, school, kids, home. As human beings we have an innate sense of exploration, a thirst for discovery that we have beaten down with the conveniences and predictability of modern life. But when I travel it opens me to a different place, culture, food and language, giving me the chance to be curious again. To explore again. To discover again not just new things, but a part of myself that gets lost in daily life. Travel is truly the frontier of my soul, the last undiscovered part of who I am and without choosing the road that part will forever stay buried and lost.
  6. I Develop Perspective On My Own Life And Culture: Traveling gives me a perspective that is hard to get through traditional formal education or through a sedentary life. When I travel the world I gain a new understanding that everyone is trying to do their best no matter where they live. That poverty and suffering and injustice are real things that happen to real people. They are not just some commercial that I see on TV. This is a gift, but also presents challenges in my personal life. Once I have seen how most of the rest of the world lives, how my actions and choices and those of my neighbors impact the rest of the world, and how the paradigm I live in is not the only one, committing to the western way of life is not as easy. Part of traveling is understanding my privilege and doing what I can in my day to day life to help even the playing field.
  7. Diversity Is Truly The Strength Of Human Beings: The world is made of up multitudes of different people, religions, cultures and histories. Different food and music and cultural norms. I have listened to the Call To Prayer in Kenya, spent time with Monks in Nepal, and chatted with Sikhs in India. I have learned that this fact is what makes the world so amazing. We don’t all look alike or live or pray the same. We don’t all speak the same or share the same views on politics or sports or music. But at the end of the day we are all still part of a vibrating, living, vast web that connects all of us together. If you are feeling disconnected. If you are feeling spiteful or negative toward those not like you, I challenge you to go somewhere new. Strike out with an open mind and meet people. I think you’ll begin to cherish our diversity, because if we were all the same it would be pretty damn boring.
  8. I Have Made Lifelong Friends: One of the best things about traveling is meeting new people and forming new bonds with folks I might never otherwise meet. When I am traveling I am less guarded, less skeptical, less distrusting. Yes Dad, I am still smart and safe, don’t worry. I am just more open. It’s easier to strike up conversation in a taxi, on a train, or at a restaurant. Traveling forces me to let my guard down and be open to all different types of people. To rely on the kindness of strangers sometimes. It is in these experiences that I have met friends that I will know forever. I have had one of a kind experiences that I could have never dreamt of. I have shared laughs and tears and connected in ways I never have before. Traveling has given me that and I will always be grateful.
  9. I Gain An Education: Traveling is not like formal education as we know it. There is no classroom or textbook, no report cards or parent-teacher conferences. There are no fancy degrees or social networks. What travel teaches is about life, about living, and about why we are all here. The experiences I have had traveling add more value to my life than any number of years of school. I have learned to speak new languages, cook new foods, connect with people, learn about different cultures, and understand my place in the world better. I have learned joy and peace and purpose and passion. I have learned about being a woman, a daughter, a partner, and a friend. When I am old and grey and broken from time the things I will hold close with my last breaths will not be my degrees or my money or my possessions. What I will cherish the most are those lessons that travel has taught me and the knowledge I will take with me to whatever comes next.
  10. I Reconnect With Life And Disconnect From Technology: Trust me, I know the struggle of disconnecting from screens and social media on a day to day basis. I am writing this article on a laptop which I will then post on my website and Facebook page. So yeah… irony. Technology and social media are woven into our lives like embroidered logos on your favorite pair of jeans. Though there are many ways in which technology enriches our lives, there are equal number, if not more, ways it bogs us down and drives us away from ourselves and each other. Sometimes I just need time to pull myself out from under the pile of garbage that covers me. Travel gives me that time. Travel reminds me that most of the technology I take for granted as necessity is not that at all. It is luxury. It is distraction. That true experience of being human comes not through post clicks and likes, but through seeing, touching, listening, hearing. Even though most places in the world now I can get wi-fi or cell signal doesn’t mean I have to. I can put your phone down and pick up the moment I am in. Once I get through the withdrawals, the inevitable backslide, and the shame and guilt of being controlled by my phone I break through into a world of beauty and truth that exists all around me. It is an added bonus that when I return home I will have created new habits and instead of walking down the street with my face in my phone, I’ll turn my head up and see the sky as if for the first time.

Again, don’t just take my word for it or think that my experiences are the end all be all of travel. Take my words and use them as inspiration to find your own experience of life. Seek out the world. Exercise your sense of adventure. Acknowledge your need to discover. I promise that you’ll find something there that you will never be without again.

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