Travel has taught me some of life’s most important lessons.
From my earliest wanderings, I remember coming home from each trip with a wealth of knowledge and experiences that I could have never gotten in a classroom. In lieu of souvenirs, these were always my most treasured tokens.
After many years of being on the road, I’m convinced that travel has been my best teacher in life.
Keep reading to discover the top 15 things travel has taught me.
15 Things Travel Has Taught Me
1. You Don’t Need a Lot of Money to Travel
This is something I hear all the time:
“Travel is so expensive, I just can’t do it,” or “You guys are traveling somewhere again?”
When it comes to travel, most people think it’s money that’s holding them back from seeing the world. Many seem to assume that getting away has to consist of fancy hotels and exotic destinations.
The truth is, the only thing preventing you from exploring the globe is your own mindset. If you really want to travel, you’ll find a way.
While there is definitely a monetary requirement to travel, it’s really all about how you prioritize your income. What you spend your money on dictates how much money you will have left to put aside for your travels.
Some people choose to forgo the trendiest clothing, the newest cars, or the latest tech gear so that they can have more money to travel. Some people (myself included) have a travel fund, where they intentionally save for travel each month.
Combine making travel a priority with additional research and careful budgeting, you’ll soon realize travel is not as expensive as you think.
2. You Don’t Need to Quit Your Job to See the World
Just because you have a job or home base does not mean you have to give up a life of adventure.
I am a huge advocate of balancing wanderlust with a “normal” lifestyle. It’s easy to get sucked into the seemingly glamorous life of perpetual travelers, but to be honest, I love having a routine and a place to come home to.
If you play your cards right, you can have the best of both worlds. By strategically using your vacation days and combining them with national holidays and weekends, you can stretch your travel time. Also, take advantage of the weekends! Not every trip has to be long or far away.
3. We Are More Similar Than We Are Different
Travel has taught me that people are largely the same.
No matter where you find yourself, whether it be Thailand, Morocco, or the United States, you’ll realize that most people want the same things in life.
Everyone wants to be happy, healthy, and to provide for their families. Additionally, they want to love and be loved in return.
Traveling helps you see that no matter what language you speak or what religion you believe in, we are all much more similar than we are different.
4. Always Have an Open Mind
Open-mindedness is not something that can be taught to you by a college professor or read from a textbook.
This is something that can only be learned by finding yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable, and travel will do that to you.
It is only when you leave your comfort zone that you truly begin to open your mind to unfamiliar things and acknowledge viewpoints different from your own.
Additionally, while traveling, you’ll be forced to try new things you probably wouldn’t have tried at home. This includes everything from tasting exotic foods, making friends with strangers in a hostel, and taking part in unique cultural practices.
Your travels will be much more rewarding when you forget what you think you know.
5. The World Isn’t As Scary as the Media Would Like You to Believe
Different does not mean dangerous.
Western media sometimes likes to paint a scary picture of what life is like in other countries. More often than not, these articles focus on isolated situations, terrorist attacks, and negative information that makes these places seem dangerous and “not worth visiting.”
The truth is, just because a culture or religion is different from yours does not make a destination unsafe.
In fact, I’ve come to realize that the world is a much safer place than the media would like you to believe. I’d still advise being alert and trusting your gut when you’re in a foreign city. However, experience has taught me that strangers are much more helpful than they are threatening.
6. You Don’t Always Have to Go Somewhere New to be a Traveler
There are so many places to see in this world, and every time I debate on returning to a country I’ve already visited, I remind myself that there are so many others to see.
Still, for some reason, some destinations keep pulling me back.
For me, Thailand is an example of one of those places that I just can’t seem to shake. It has left a mark on my heart, and part of me feels like I’ll never get enough of that beautiful country.
Through so many years of traveling, I’ve come to realize that we leave bits of our hearts around the globe, and sometimes those places keep calling us back.
And why not return to a destination you’ve already visited instead of going somewhere new? Just because you’ve been somewhere doesn’t mean you’ve seen all there is to see. Sometimes you have to go back a few, or even a dozen, times to really get to know it.
7. Not One Travel Style Fits All
Not everyone was born to be a backpacker or to sleep in a hostel, and not everyone was made for luxury travel.
It’s okay to be one or the other, and it’s okay if you find yourself somewhere in between. There is no right or wrong way to travel.
Don’t feel like you have to change your style to “fit in”, and don’t think that, over time, your style won’t change.
8. It’s Okay if You Don’t Fall in Love With a Place
You don’t have to love every single place you visit. Sometimes, some a destination just doesn’t sit well with you.
Maybe it was a bad experience that you had, or maybe a place just didn’t wow you.
Too often we feel pressured into making ourselves believe that every destination we visit has to be amazing. There are bound to be places or even countries that fall short of our expectations, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
9. You Are Never Really Alone
I remember the first time I moved abroad and my dad told me: “Even if it feels like it, know that you’re never alone. Go to the city and take a walk, go to the park…you’ll see there are people all around you.”
I never really understood what he meant until I was sitting at home one night feeling extra lonely.
Whether you’re in your hometown, or abroad, you can meet people and make friends anywhere. Strike up a conversation with one of your neighbors or be the first to smile at someone else staying in the same hostel as you.
It may seem like you’re just throwing yourself at strangers, but the reality is, most people are in the same boat as you – feeling lonely and open to chatting with someone.
Don’t be afraid to approach someone, you’d be surprised at how friendly people are!
10. Travel Has Taught Me Confidence
When traveling, you’ll be confronted with many things that are different from what you’re used to.
Languages you don’t understand, foreign street signs, and feeling generally lost are all parts of travel that help build up your confidence.
Travel teaches you self-assurance when you’re feeling disoriented, it teaches you that you can still communicate with locals despite the language barrier, and it teaches you to use the skills you have to take the situation you’re in and own it.
11. Getting Lost is a Good Thing
Travel has taught me that getting lost can be a good thing.
Sometimes, losing the map and allowing yourself to get lost will lead you to discover something you otherwise wouldn’t have stumbled upon.
Technology has completely changed the way we travel, and most people can’t imagine visiting a new place without relying on their phone and Google Maps to get around. But what happens when your phone dies, or when you’re in a remote area that isn’t well-documented by Google?
Travel sharpens your sense of direction.
Being able to read a map, communicate with the locals, and find your orientation are all extremely useful skills to have.
12. Travel Has Taught Me Flexibility
If you’ve ever traveled, you’ll know that not everything will always go to plan.
When traveling, most things are out of your control. You’ll most likely be faced with delays, canceled flights, bad weather, and maybe even food poisoning.
Things will inevitably go wrong while you’re on the road, and travel teaches you to learn how to go with the flow.
If things always went according to plan, travel wouldn’t be as much of an adventure! Plus, when things actually do go right, you appreciate them so much more.
13. People Back Home Won’t Always Understand…And That’s OK
No matter how incredibly cool you think your travels are, sometimes people back home just won’t understand…and that’s totally fine.
As animated as I am when sharing every intricate detail of my trips with friends and family, I occasionally find that they don’t share in my excitement.
This is completely normal.
Sometimes you, and only you, are the only one that can sincerely appreciate the experiences you’ve had while traveling. Other people may never understand, and that’s just something you learn to come to terms with.
14. You Don’t Really Need Much to Survive
When you’re traveling, you become more aware of things in your life that you don’t actually need.
A lot of times, different countries won’t carry the same brands, the same type of food or even the same type of beverages you’re used to consuming at home. Sometimes, when you’re on the road, you won’t eat three full meals a day and you won’t even sleep in a “real” bed.
But in reality, you don’t really need much to survive.
Just the basics are sufficient enough to keep you going. You’d be surprised to find out how much extra “fluff” we convince ourselves we can’t live without until we don’t have access to it anymore.
15. Travel Has Taught Me to Always Be Thankful
Traveling opens your eyes to many different ways of life you have never witnessed or could have even imagined.
Everyday things like Western toilets, not having to worry about when our next meal will be, and even the freedom to walk around and go where we please are things that make you realize how much we take for granted. I remember seeing locals that live on so little, yet exude so much happiness – it really puts things into perspective.
When I come home from a long trip, I find that I am so much more appreciative of my cozy bed, my family, friends, and a home-cooked meal.
Travel is the best teacher in life
No matter how much you study or how much you read, nothing can teach you as much about yourself, or the world, as travel can.
What lessons has travel taught you? Let me know in the comments!