8 Life Lessons Travel Has Taught Me
So, why travel?
It forces you out of your comfort zone, it can be lonely, jet lag sucks, and its freakin expensive! Not to mention, in the age of social media, it seems as though now you can experience any region of the world through the comfort of your laptop computer or iphone.
But I wholeheartedly believe that any and all domestic or international travel experiences, are truly worth taking the risk to go.
Here’s a short (well, somewhat) and sweet list of the life lessons traveling has taught me =)
1) Life Begins at the end of Your Comfort Zone
Sure, traveling is fun. However, I can’t help but notice that when telling friends or family about my trips and the places I visit, most if not all listeners immediately think only about the good times had on these adventures without even entertaining the difficulty it takes (emotionally, physically, etc.) to get up and journey to a place that you know absolutely nothing about. It can get lonely. It can be scary. And, often times, it immerses you in third world countries and poverty stricken regions- areas of the world that might cause discomfort to us, fortunate Americans, and force us to open our eyes to the devastation that is reality to most of humanity.
Hanging out by the beach in Paul do Mar, Madeira Island (Portugal)
There are a plethora of factors that can make a traveling experience incredibly uncomfortable, in addition to the few I’ve mentioned above. Yet, it’s submersing yourself in that discomfort that allows you to take a step back and analyze your own life to make positive changes within yourself. Whether it be your career, your standard of living, your mindset, your goals, your morals and values or your everyday routine. Not only that, but taking a walk in someone else's shoes might also motivate you to help others around you, and globally. Travel opens your heart to experiencing a deeper sense of empathy and compassion; a truly beautiful process.
Playing it safe will ALWAYS get in the way of LIVING. Choose change. Choose risk. Choose to shake up the scene. It’s tough, I can guarantee you that. But you’ll never be the same. And you’ll fall in love with that fact ;)
Ringing in the new year (2013) from Times Square
Times Square before the countdown
View from the Empire State Building
2) New friends Really are Very Cool.. Especially the International Ones =)
You will meet the coolest people ever when you travel. That’s just a fact. Stay in hostels, and you’ll meet even cooler people. Man, I’ve meet Colombians in Argentina, Venezuelans in Portugal, dope New Zealanders in Brazil. Anyways, you get the point. The amount of people and the extent of their travel knowledge and recommendations can go on forever. New friends are incredible! They remind you of the vastly cultural globe we live on and absolutely extinguish any discrimination by teaching you that… we’re all basically the same =).
New friends we met in Costa Rica
Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the USA all represented in this pic, taken while on a mission trip in Peru!
Enjoying a mini cruise in St. Petersburg organized by LUT- a University in Finland where I took some classes to finish up my MBA
With more new friends in Lappeenranta, Finland
With family and friends in Madeira Portugal
3) Travel Causes Inspiration
Whether you’re a college graduate with absolutely no clue on what you want to do in life or have had a successful and fulfilling career for the past 20 years, you can always use a little inspiration. Inspiration fuels our souls and ignites passion in the pursuit of our ambitions/goals. I would have never chosen my major AND career path without travel. If you’re feeling routinely drained and need a little excitement, pack a suitcase and hit the road. The choice itself, to pick up and go, is inspiring.
La Boca Neighborhood- Buenos Aires, Argentina ( Ranked as one of the most colorful towns in the world
Gorgeous sunset after a minor thunderstorm in the Dominican Republic
Loved this bumper sticker I found on a food truck in Hawaii
A beautiful sunset in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Night cruise in St. Petersburg, Russia
A cool mural in Lisbon, Portugal
Central Park in the winter
4) Travel Teaches you how to be a Minimalist
Boy, does it! Especially if you choose the backpacking route, which I highly recommend. Often times when you travel, even more so on a college level budget, your belongings are confined to one devastatingly inadequate suitcase (ugh!). It’s even worse if you leave for weeks at a time. However, forcing yourself to limit your personal belongings and the amount of things you have for weeks or even months at a time, allows you to realize that it is quite possible to live minimally and still be very happy. We live in a culture that constantly shoves the notion down our throats that what we already have …is never enough. It’s truly liberating when you experience for yourself and thoroughly understand that less really is more-And that materialism will never lead to true and unconditional joy.
My my handy dandy backpack in Brazil!
5) Travel Teaches you Appreciation
The U.S. has the largest economy in the world. Our standard of living is increasingly higher than that of about 80% of the globe. An eclectic variety of jobs (esp. in the Bay Area), opportunities to attain economic and financial mobility, paved roads, basic human rights, running water and an abundance of relatively safe cities and communities are a part of American culture. In the busyness that occurs with our everyday lives, we forget to appreciate the simple blessings that come with being an American citizen. And any wanderluster would agree that traveling is the #1 eradicator of ignorance and, conversely, the #1 teacher of appreciation.
In Oahu, Hawaii
6) Travel Pushes you to Overcome Fear and Push the Limit
Before I started traveling, I thought I knew, perfectly clearly, what my identity was. I was not the adventurous type. I was content with my calm and safe life in sunny California. What need was there for me to ever leave?I liked structure, I liked control, I liked routine. And thats exactly what I had. I was scared of change.
Then I started venturing off to other countries on my own, and man was I wrong. I did crazy things like stay at hostels in developing countries, zip line 200 meters ( or over 650 feet) above the rainforest floor and dive 40 feet deep into the ocean and swim with sharks. WHO WAS I!? I was a person who had realized that I could do more than what fear had limited me to do.
Paulo Coehlo’s quote in the book, Aleph, does a great job at describing this new sense of identity that can only be achieved through letting go of the reluctance to change or explore…
“After weeks on the road listening to a language you don’t understand, using a currency whose value you don’t comprehend and walking down streets you’ve never seen before, you discover that your old, “I”, along with everything you’ve ever learned is at absolutely no use at all in the face of these new challenges. You begin to realize that deep in your unconscious mind, there is someone much more interesting and adventurous and someone much more open to the world and new experiences.”
Before ziplining thousands of feet above the ground through the Costa Rican rainforest
Before Scuba Diving with my cousin in Hawaii - we even ran into a 6 foot shark!!
7) Travel Makes You Aware
I can be pretty oblivious to my surroundings. A car could be getting broken into next to me and I might not notice (OK, maybe over-exaggerating just a bit). But in all sincerity, I can be pretty inattentive or naive at times.
But! there's nothing like going to another country and realizing that all people are not as honest and nice as yourself =). For example, my first time in Brazil, traveling solo with only my female cousin, I learned the importance of using my, sometimes shy and meek , voice to speak up and protect myself from danger. Thievery/pick-pocketers in general were rampant and so I didn't take any treasured items or particularly "nice" clothing : I only brought old pieces from either target or forever 21 (I even had to sleep with my money and passport in my bra one night – our hostel lacked lockers lol) . Moreover, on the beaches, my cousin and I would have to trade off getting into the water and watching our bags because unattended backpacks and belongings were often stolen (even if you were literally only gone a minute).
What I’m getting at is that situations like these, where you have to learn to watch your back, make you more aware of your surroundings. The more you travel, the more aware you become and, therefore, the more prepared you are in protecting/ looking out for yourself. The two countries with the most pick-pocketers that I visited were…
Madrid, Plaza Cibeles
Parc Guell in Barcelona with my brother
In front of the Sagrada Familia
Touring the Real Madrid Stadium
La Boqueria- Barcelona - known as one of the best fresh food markets in the world
Photo I took on our way up to see Christ the Redeemer
EXPLORE... ilha Grande, Brasil
8) Lastly, it Reminds you that You are Capable of Accomplishing Anything… YOU CAN do Anything =)
This statement could not be any more true (especially if you’ve volunteered abroad). Removing yourself from your comfortable life to head to a region of the world you’ve never been to, in which you’ve never spoken the language, eaten the food, used the currency etc. is very courageous.
In addition, there's nothing greater than standing in front of, say, Machu Picchu, the Nile River, the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal and realizing that YOU got yourself there. Somehow, through your hectic schedule, you were able to haul your booty across the globe to see a sight you had only ever seen on TV. I cannot put into words how amazing that feeling is.
And if you can do something like, survive in a third world country on your own, then what can’t you do?! Traveling allows you to see how small the world really is. And that, if you do pursue your dreams, there are no limits to what you can accomplish. =)
“I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on earth…Then I ask myself the same question.” Harun Yahya-