What lies at the heart of a lot of the major problems we face in our world today? Ignorance, bigotry, prejudice and discrimination are often the main culprits. Why is this the case? Might it have something to do with the fact that we stubbornly occupy our one tiny corner of the world and stay there for our lifetime? If that is the case, there is a simple solution to this problem… Travel (and the life lessons learned from travel).
When one travels, they are forced out of their comfort zone and are exposed to new cultures, new food and new people. As a result, travel broadens our perspective and imprints us with a greater appreciation for the world and all those who live in it. Travel is the cure for ignorance and narrow-mindedness. It is also the tool that you can use to become the best and most complete version of yourself.
Travel changes you. If you have an open mind, you will be able to learn and grow as a result of your experiences. I truly believe that experience is the best teacher in life and there is no greater experience than travel.
Here are some of the life lessons travel will teach you…
Travel makes you feel alive
It’s hard to be “all there” when you’re mindlessly going through your daily routine; your nine to five job. We’re always told to “live in the moment” but very few of us ever do. We just go from day to day, allowing life to just pass us by. But, that all changes when we travel. With our routine out the window, it becomes so much easier to just focus on the present moment. As a result, life stops passing you by and you feel more alive than you ever have before. Is it any wonder why travel is so darn addictive?
The world is a beautiful place
You won’t realise this until you actually go and look at it.
The less “stuff” you have, the more experiences you can afford to have. The less stuff you bring with you, the less weight you have to lug around, the more exploring you get to do. Since I started travelling, I’ve gotten very into the concept of minimalism – ridding our lives of all unnecessary excess and only focusing on the things that are most important to us and that bring our lives the most value.
Just do it
It will never be the perfect time to travel; to do this or that. Things will always come up. People always make obstacles for themselves where there are none. You will never be able to travel until you say “f**k it” and just do it.
We occupy a tiny, little corner of this world
It’s hard for people to sympathise or understand other cultures and other people if they spend their wholes lives in the same tiny corner of the world. The world is a big place (surprise) and every time you travel, you will gain new experiences and learn about new cultures and new people.
Don’t listen to the mainstream media
The news is great at shaping our thoughts and opinions of certain places, even if we’ve never been there. We live in a fear-based society where people will avoid particular countries just because of what they’ve heard on the news (which is often a bunch of BS).
When you travel, you will realise that the world is a lot safer than you think and that there are far more good people in the world than bad. Just don’t do any stupid sh*t and you’ll be fine!
Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone
We all form a comfort zone as we grow up. The problem is, once we reach a certain age, we stop developing it. We stop growing it. And, as a result, we cease to develop as people. It is only by escaping our comfort zone, that we can actually grow as people. Travel not only forces you out of your comfort zone, it helps you make a new one.
Food tastes better in new places
Food is an integral part of learning and experiencing a new culture. Seriously, just put it in your mouth and ask questions later. On your travels, you will discover some of the tastiest things you’ve ever tried and you’ll also try things that you’re not even sure are edible. It’s all part of the experience and you will create some awesome memories with awesome people and it will all be down to food!
but, Scorpions don’t taste great
I was offered one when I was in Bangkok, Thailand and felt that I couldn’t say no. It wasn’t the tastiest, but I’m glad to have the experience!
Focus on experiences, not things
“Spend money on experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.” – Unknown
Personally, I would rather travel around the world than live in a fancy apartment or drive a flashy car. All it took was a re-examination of my priorities. When I decided that travel was what I wanted to do, it wasn’t difficult to stop spending on things and start investing in experiences.
Home is still home
No matter how insane a time you’re having on your trip, there will come a time when you miss things about home. You may miss your bed, your shower, the food you use to cook or your family. Travel helps you appreciate what you already have, and how lucky you are to have it. Instead of being pissed that your trip has come to an end, you will be excited to get back home.
You can make friends anywhere
This will be especially evident if you travel alone. Often, locals will want to just come up and chat to you to practice their English, or maybe just take a picture with you. You’ll often have endless opportunities to make other travel buddies if you’re staying in places like hostels, where there will likely be plenty of other backpackers and nomads for you to bond with.
There’s no such thing as a mistake…
… to an extent! Don’t eat raw chicken. Don’t walk across a motorway (I had to do this in Hanoi). Just research a bit about the country you’re going to and then just focus on having an awesome, unforgettable trip.
When something doesn’t go according to plan, don’t think of it as a mistake, turn it into an adventure; a cool story to tell people later.
I (along with most of you, I assume) have been guilty of overpacking. I use to wait until the morning I set off to pack my bag and I would proceed to just throw in whatever clothes I could get my hands on, without a real thought about what I would actually use. I’ve since become a lot better at this and now can travel anywhere with just a backpack (usually accepted as hand luggage)! This makes packing easier and travelling as a whole since I’m only travelling with the stuff that I actually need.
Travelling light is travelling smart!
Learning another language (even a little bit) is very helpful
You’ll be surprised how much local people will appreciate an attempt (however awful) at speaking their language. It won’t be a necessity everywhere you go, but it’s a great way to get rid of the stereotype that all westerners are terrible at foreign languages.
No guidebook or blog can tell you everything
Guidebooks and travel itineraries are great. They teach you a lot about the place you’re travelling to and give you a great list of things to see and do.
The internet is incredible. With the rise of blogs (travel blogs in particular), it seems like you can find out anything and everything using Google.
That being said, these resources don’t tell you everything. The best travel experiences are those that are spontaneous and authentic.
I’m not saying “don’t read travel blogs”.
Read mine! They’re great!
I’m just saying that travel is different for everyone and the absolute best travel “teacher” is travel itself.
We create some of our most powerful memories through the music we listen to, and how we associate it to different places. For all those long plane journeys, train rides and taxi trips, have a playlist ready.
Keep a travel journal
No matter how basic it is, keep a note of your experiences and it will be a great thing to look back on when your travels are done.
Bring a camera
Another great way to have a permanent screenshot of your memories and experiences. The cameras I use are the Canon EOS Rebel T5 and the Nikon D300. Both of these are amazing cameras that take beautiful pictures in almost any light. The Canon is the cheaper of the two; perfect if you want really good quality photos without breaking the bank. The Nikon is better suited for more experienced photographers, who maybe have a little extra camera money lying around.
…and a GoPro
If you’re doing some kind of extreme activity, you will regret not bringing one of these. The newest model is the GoPro Hero 6. I use the Hero 5 and it does almost everything the 6 does, just for cheaper.
…but, don’t forget to actually experience the place
Sometimes, us tourists can have a tendency to get caught up in getting the best photo or piece of footage, that we forget to stop and step away from the lens to realise where we actually are. Remember to appreciate where you are and fully immerse yourself in the moment and the experience.
Crossing the street in downtown Hanoi is the scariest thing on Earth
Remember, when I said I needed to walk across a motorway? Well, that was here when our uber driver dropped us on the wrong side of the road to our hotel!
You will learn to master chopsticks
This was a skill I always wanted to master, just because I thought that chopsticks looked cool. This is actually an extremely useful skill to learn, especially if you travel to Asian countries. The locals will be very impressed.
We all need to look after the world better
If we want our children and grandchildren to have the same, incredible travel opportunities we do, we need to start doing our part to look after the world. You’ll be no stranger to the topic of climate change and it’s up to each individual to help fight against it.
This fact becomes even more evident when you venture to the other side of the globe.
We are all the same, in the end
There are warnings thrown in our faces every day about why it’s dangerous to visit a certain place; like everyone, there is out to get you as soon as you step off the plane. This type of attitude is to be expected when we’ve grown up in a culture with such narrow-mindedness and ignorance towards other countries and cultures.
At our core, we are all people and we are all bound by the same human needs and laws of nature. All prejudice, bigotry and discrimination is a result of our ignorance; our failure to understand one another.
When you travel, all of that goes away.
Our perspective is shaped by our environment, so if we stay in the same place for our whole life, our perspective will be very small and narrow. However, the more you travel; the more you see the world, the bigger and broader your perspective becomes.
You don’t have to be rich to travel, but you must travel to truly become rich
A lot of us are extremely privileged. A few decades ago, it would have been considered impossible to just go and travel the world for an indefinite amount of time. Now, it’s more possible than ever. As long as you know the tricks and how to travel smart, you can really make travel a lifestyle; something very few people in history have been able to do.
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Unknown
You will never be finished
Travel is like knowledge; you can never have enough of it. The more you travel, the more you want to travel and so on. There is not enough time in our lives to travel everywhere and see everything, but we may as well get started now!