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 things 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 met and travelled to. 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 adventure. I remember getting lost in a 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 a boat I was on that took me from Bangkok to the Island of Ko Samui hit a rock out at sea and almost sank. I was bitten by a scorpion on a Island and almost died. 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 knowing to take time to access and be aware of one’s surrounding and acting accordingly (smartly). This lesson has served me well throughout the years.
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 cultural differences I encountered. This was a fabulous experience, as I learned several different ways to communicate that proved helpful.
7. You Learn To Have Meaningful Conversations
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 at times, I had to hang in there if I was to meet people. Patience is an absolute virtue especially when travelling.
8. You Can Absolutely Live Without Devices
I know, why would you want too and yet — it wasn’t an option. I had no idea what I was missing or living without as devices and computers hadn’t been on the scene yet. I relied on phone booths and letter writing. This was probably why my parents were so worried about me. Any time I wanted to communicate with my family, I needed to go to the local post office wherever I was and place a call. Typically collect.
However, not being introduced to smartphones and computers until later in my life, taught me not to get so hung up about constantly using my device. Now, when I travel, I really look around and have noticed that I don’t take that many photos. I’d rather just be in the moment and take it all in.
9. Receiving Letters From Home Is Life Saving
This was important. There were MANY times I was home sick. Longing for my parents. In fact, 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. I’d hug them close to my heart.
I’d let my family know ahead of time where I was traveling to so they could send me letters before I got there. There were only a few times when I ended up not going to various places, and I often wondered if the unopened letters are still at those post offices.
10. Trust Yourself – You See Everything Differently
The first thing those around me said when I set out on my journey, and this was after I graduated from university was,“You’re going to waste time travelling when you could be starting your career. What are you going to put on your resume?”I thought, ‘resume?’ I’m not living my life so I can add something to my work resume. I’m setting out to explore and learn about the world. I’m going to be meeting different people and working at various places. When I get back, I’m interested in either creating something on my own or working for a company that embraces adventurous-minded people who aren’t afraid to take a leap. Fast forward — my world adventure was one of the best decisions I had ever made.
Not to mention ….
When things aren’t going the way I hope, or I find myself thinking all kinds of fearful things, I’m always reminded that no matter what, things are going to be just fine. I know I can live (although I don’t really want to test this out again) 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.
If you’ve had an opportunity to travel, I’d love to hear what your adventures have taught you ….