It’s guaranteed that we’ll have our share of lessons sticking together with our travel stories. Every day brings new situations that push us to learning, and maturing; when traveling, these every-day experiences are heightened—we face harder obstacles, and are forced to find a solution right on the spot, and still manage to stay calm.
In my experience, traveling the world is amazing, eye-opening, jaw-dropping, and simply the best way to learn. But everything comes with a price. As travel teaches greater lessons, the lesson learning process becomes tougher, too.
So what are really the unexpected lessons we learn traveling?
1. EXPECTATIONS MAY BE YOUR BEST FRIEND, OR YOUR WORST ENEMY. HAVE THEM AT OWN RISK
Okay. Expectations are a funny business because you’re either bound to disappointment, or get to be surprised with an even better experience than originally planned, (excluding the possibility of getting exactly what you hoped for) but when traveling to new places, and experiencing new cultures, it’s nearly impossible to plan out and experience a trip just the way you thought it would unfold. Over trips and time, I’ve learned to not expect, just plan. Do your research and book what you trust, but always be prepared for the unexpected, or just really be prepared and expect everything.
2. YOU LEARN TO TRUST YOURSELF
Go out on your own and you’ll realize how far you can go. Trust me. There’s no limit to the things you can accomplish, you just won’t know this until you test yourself. Take a train, get lost, talk to a stranger; find your way, beat the obstacles. Not until you realize how independent you can be, will you truly experience freedom. Learn to trust yourself, learn to live; no ties, no doubts, and no what if’s.
3.YOU LEARN TO GO WITH THE FLOW AND LET THE UNEXPECTED SURPRISE YOU
Because you never know what’s right around the corner, you develop the ability of living in the moment and going with the flow. I love this about traveling because this means you get to experience and savour each and every moment, not always knowing what’s next on the agenda, or what adventures the day may hold. Maybe you get to sail on a river, or hike a mountain, maybe even meet a lifelong friendship, or maybe you get to see the most amazing landscape you didn’t even know existed. That’s the beauty of it. Go with the flow, and find what you didn’t know you were looking for in the first place.
4. YOU LEARN MANY THINGS ABOUT OTHER CULTURES AND THEIR HISTORY that REALLY STICK
I’ve never loved history and art as much as the day I strolled and left my heart at the Louvre in Paris, or the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, or the day I was enlightened by the Vatican’s immensity. History comes alive just by standing there surrounded by world-class paintings and statues that truly define perfection. You look up and realise you stand under magnificent, perfectly carved and detailed ceilings, and you suddenly get it: you get the composition, and the lighting and what it all symbolises, and in that moment, life’s greater than you. So great, that you understand history—and guess what, you remember it all because it touched you in ways that history books could never put into words.
5. YOU REALISE YOU DIDN’T EVEN HAD YOUR OWN COUNTRY FIGURED OUT
Oddly enough—when on the road, you not only learn about other countries, but you deeply get to understand your own. It’s like your definition of “normal” changes as you move around; like you get to live other people’s normality that it makes you see your own with brand new eyes.
The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes-Marcel Proust
6. YOU LEARN TO TALK TO STRANGERS
Talking to strangers is really something you need to learn to do—even when you travel in large groups. It’s funny how I, for example, rarely spoke with strangers at home, but always did when traveling. After some time, I realized locals have the best suggestions and are often than not, really friendly and helpful. You don’t even have to have long conversations if you’re not up for it, but you’ll need to ask for directions eventually, and knowing to spot who to approach and how to talk to strangers can really save you valuable time, or the hassle from finding your way all on your own.
7. YOU FIGURE OUT YOU CAN ACTUALLY SURPRISE YOURSELF
Have you ever heard or read the phrase: Get lost and you’ll find yourself?
Well, travel has a funny way of putting things into perspective and bringing them out into the surface. For this reason, I’ve always liked to define travel as: exploring the world and yourself through it. Not until you’re on your own, immersed in a different environment from where you’ve lived all your life, will you dig up distinct sides of yourself that unearth with brand-new experiences and emotions. You will surprise yourself. You’ll see with new eyes, and will astound yourself with what you’re capable of accomplishing. You’ll surprise yourself with your thoughts, with your actions and in the many ways you can change your life just by being independent, positive and free.
8. YOU LEARN TO VALUE EXPERIENCES OVER THINGS
Once the travel bug bites, you’ll see all those materialistic “necessities” vanishing away. Who cares if you don’t have all the latest fashions when you get to travel the world? You learn to value life’s realest moments, and discover that all of them are worth every single penny, as opposed to spending all your savings in one designer’s bag that won’t feed your soul as much it did emptied your bank account. Our time in the world is limited, and what a beautiful world did we came to be born in! So get out and see it. Experience it. See the northern lights you’ve been wanting to see since forever, do the camel trekking in the Sahara you’ve been postponing, buy the tickets, live the moment, and enjoy the show.
9. YOU DISCOVER A NEW WAY OF LIFE
Seeing the world gives you the privilege of perspective. It’s simply inevitable to sit on a scenery train ride overlooking nothing but mountains and nature for miles, and not set your mind to think. About what? Anything and everything. Getting out of your comfort zone, and experiencing life outside from your own bubble will make you understand many things about life, other cultures, and traditions.
10. YOU LEARN TO APPRECIATE A GOOD NIGHT SLEEP, AND A DELICIOUS AND COMPLETE MEAL
All the way. This is an unexpected lesson because traveling always looks so glamorous on the Internet, when reality is just a bit different sometimes, so that can be derailing. Traveling the world also teaches you to appreciate all you have at home. Whether that’s a comfortable bed to sleep on every night, delicious and complete meals, or simply the company of those closest to you because truth is—sometimes, you can be starving, and be stuck in a hotel room with no room service or food services at all, and be surrounded by closed establishments or unreliable food options. You can also find the bed uncomfortable, the space too cramped, or the shower can be tricky; these are all the results of the small luxuries we give up to afford seeing the world, but it’s always worth it. Every single time.
11. YOU’LL FIND YOURSELF OVERWHELMED WITH HAPPINESS
It catches up with you at the most unexpected and random moments, but you feel it; loud and clear. You can be casually walking down the street, riding the tram, or just sitting somewhere, and suddenly it gets to you: the sentiment of absolute fulfilment and joy. Pure and honest. No ifs and buts. Experiencing this usually comes after a while, when you’ve settled into a different way of life. You find yourself smiling and laughing more than you used to, and complaining far less about what goes on in your life. I like to believe this happens because you overcome obstacles, and find ways to adapt. More often than not, finding yourself happy somewhere that at first seemed so different or even scary is one of the best feelings because that means a fear was overcome, and
12. YOU LEARN A LOT
Out of everything you can take with you from your travels, lessons and memories are always the best type of souvenirs. You don’t need to visit cultural sites for this, just being out there is enough. Living, experiencing and allowing your mind to expand and yourself to grow.
Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.-Anita Desai
What are the lessons you’ve taken with you from traveling the world? I’d love to hear about them! Feel free to leave them in the comments!