11 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Travelling The World

Like many others, I’ve spent years of my life stuck in classrooms and behind desks, attempting to absorb as much information as humanly possible. You’d think we’d all end up pretty smart, right?

So how come some of the brightest scholars and business (wo)men turn out to be shockingly close-minded? Or, on a different note, how come so many of us still feel unfulfilled in one way or another? Isn’t it ironic that, in many cases, the “proper education” so many people stand behind saves us from neither unhappiness nor ignorance?

Well, perhaps it’s not that surprising. Studying tirelessly or solving problems at the office is one thing, but to grow as a person you need to get up from behind your desk and go out into the world. You need to stop watching TV and actually engage with people from different cultures.

When I graduated high school, I took a gap year to work, travel and live abroad. To this day, I feel like I learned more during that one year than I did during my six years of high school. I may have killed a few brain cells in the process (ah, those were the days), but the understanding I gained was priceless.

We’re almost ten years later now, and I still believe travel is one of the best teachers out there. If you’ve ever wondered why travelling is important or how it changes your perspective, this post is for you. Here are 11 valuable life lessons I learned from travelling the world!


Disclaimer: Please only consider travelling if you can do so safely while following the current restrictions in your area.


The Importance Of Travelling: 11 Life Lessons Learned On The Road

1. WHAT MATTERS IS HOW YOU TREAT OTHERS

One of my favourite travel quotes by Mark Twain pretty much sums up the entire point I want to make here:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

― Mark Twain

When you’re travelling, you’re bound to encounter people from different backgrounds with a variety of interests and preferences. The stories they tell you will inevitably broaden your perspective.

You will hopefully realise that age, gender and race don’t mean much: they’re mostly just societal constructs that only divide us further. When you’re meeting people abroad, all of these categories become obsolete. Everyone is just there to explore, have fun and experience life to the fullest! In these moments, it isn’t hard to see that we’re all the same in many ways.

Consequently, it’s almost impossible not to become a more accepting, aware and openminded person. For me, travel has definitely solidified that the only thing that really matters is someone’s character and how they treat people. Not what they look like, who they like, how much money they have or what they believe in.

2. EXPERIENCES OVER LUXURY

Sometimes I feel like we’re living in a world where everyone is trying to accumulate as much stuff and “riches” as quickly as possible. Our capitalist system has many of us convinced that the more things you own and the more luxurious your lifestyle, the happier you will be. This is, of course, nonsense. No amount of stuff will ever fill the voids in your life.

This isn’t me preaching that “money can’t buy happiness”. On the contrary, I believe that money can greatly contribute to your happiness. I also think that luxury and materialism often become distractions from what matters most in life.

When you’re travelling, you’re constantly reminded of how little it all means and that what really brings humans joy is usually very simple. Being in nature, being creative, adventure, friendship, love. In the words of Robin Williams, “those are the things we stay alive for.” All of these experiences will make you feel rich in a way that a fancy car or a designer handbag never could.

3. IT’S ALL ABOUT CONNECTION

What’s even more important than the experiences you’re having, are the people you’re having them with. There’s no better illustration of this than the king of all travel movies: Into The Wild.

As you may know, Into The Wild tells the true story of Chris McCandles, who feels out of place in society, sells everything and withdraws into nature to lead a solitary life. He goes on crazy adventures and witnesses amazing sights, but towards the end he had to conclude that “happiness is only real when shared.”

Although I strongly believe in going on adventures by yourself sometimes, humans are social creatures and our best (travel) memories usually involve other like-minded souls. You can be in the most beautiful place in the world, if you don’t feel connected to the people around you (and to yourself, perhaps even more important), you won’t enjoy it as much as you could have. Connection is everything.

4. THERE’S MORE THAN ONE PATH TO SUCCESS

Growing up in your little bubble of family and school, it’s easy to start believing you should be doing what everyone else is doing. However, when you think about it, everyone else probably just means your immediate surroundings.

Obviously, yes, there are certain norms in society and therefore choices that are deemed better than others (think: prestigious school, fancy degree, respectable 9-5). So many of us feel pressured to take that route, even if we don’t see the appeal. It’s unfortunate, because plenty of people have achieved success in alternative ways.

If you’re lucky, you don’t have to travel to find them, but it can sure help in order to meet more free-spirited individuals. The more you talk to and surround yourself with successful people who’ve dared to defy the norm, the more you will feel encouraged to live your own truth.

5. YOU’RE A LOT TOUGHER THAN YOU THINK

Whenever I travel for a longer period of time, I always have to conclude that I’m capable of way more than I thought. It’s not surprising: you’re constantly forced to deal with new and tricky – sometimes even dangerous – situations, and you learn to figure it out.

You may not be able to imagine it from the comfort of your couch, but once you’re out there by yourself, you will become resourceful. You will learn to get things done, because you don’t have another choice. Before you know it, you can hardly believe the stories you tell really happened.

6. DON’T LET FEAR BE YOUR GUIDE

Fear creates nothing but limitations and obstacles that for the most part, only exist in your head. You can’t be guided by fear when you travel or you will miss out on all sorts of adventures, new experiences and interesting conversations.

So, in many ways, travelling forces you to be fearless until you are. Obviously I’m not advising you to be reckless, but there’s a huge difference between using your common sense and being fearful all the time.

Another thing you will learn from travel is that what the media (or your family, lol) has made you believe is often overly negative and exaggerated. You’ll arrive in places with a vague fear of being kidnapped, only to be stunned by how kind and hospitable people are.

7. TAKE THE INITIATIVE & SAY YES TO LIFE

Travelling is the perfect opportunity to try new things, get out of your comfort zone and push yourself. It can be both scary and liberating, but one thing is certain: you will grow from it.

Solo travel in particular is like constant practice in taking the initiative. In my experience, people don’t tend to come up to you first, so if you want to make friends, you’re probably going to have to make the first move. Then, once you make those friends, you may get invited for activities that don’t really seem like your cup of tea (Bungee jumping? Pub crawl?).

However, I’ve learned that sometimes blindly saying yes to things often lead to the most exhilarating moments! Remember: you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did do.

8. DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONAL

Nothing will teach you not to care about the opinions of others like travelling will. A big part of exploring new territory is making a fool of yourself in some way. You don’t always know the language, the appropriate customs or the right thing to say. You will inevitably make mistakes. It doesn’t matter as long as you can laugh about it and are willing to educate yourself.

Besides, it isn’t all in your hands either. Depending on where you go, people may not be used to seeing foreigners at all. You may receive some stares, get scammed or feel judged and unwelcome. The good news is, you’ll get used to it and you’ll care less and less!

9. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

It’s easy to get caught up in negative thoughts about yourself, whether that’s about your appearance or just little things that go wrong throughout the day. Travelling low-budget and being part of the backpackers community has definitely made me care less about how I look. It’s surprisingly freeing to see people (especially women) come as they are and it makes you realise that this should always be enough.

Besides, when visiting certain places, you will be confronted with more serious issues than the shape of your eyebrows… Poverty, plastic pollution, crime, etc. are unfortunately very prevalent in many parts of the world and can make the things you worry about seem rather trivial.

10. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THEY’RE DOING

When you’re young, it always seems like grown ups are these all-knowing beings that have everything figured out. Then you grow up and you not only realise that you don’t know anything, but that everyone around you doesn’t know anything either. We’re all just doing what we believe is right, but no one has all the answers.

When I lived abroad, I met people 10 years older than me who still had no idea what they wanted to do with their life. And guess what? They weren’t freaking out about it! There’s something to be said for simply enjoying the present moment while giving yourself time and space to make mistakes and try different things.

So, whenever you feel out of place or clueless or judged for wanting whatever it is that you want, just remember that everyone feels this way sometimes. Yes, even the ones who seem like they’ve got their shit together!

11. MINDSET IS EVERYTHING

Don’t be fooled. A change of location doesn’t mean you’ll instantly feel different or better. Travelling won’t magically turn you into a happy and confident person. It will give you plenty of opportunities to get out of your comfort zone. However, as with anything in life, the outcome still largely depends on your mindset.

If you expect negative things from your trip, you will find plenty of those, but if you focus on the positive, you’ll most likely have a great time (even when things go south!). This can be applied to pretty much anything: every successful undertaking in life starts with a positive attitude.

These are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned from travelling and why I will encourage anyone to travel at least once in their lives! Few things can bring about as much personal growth and transformation in such a short amount of time. Travelling truly has the potential to alter your mindset and change your life for good!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post, let me know what you think in the comments! 🙂 What has travelling taught you?


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