Living abroad and traveling teaches you way more than any school in the world possibly can. It teaches you to be independent, to be resourceful, to be respectful and to never stop being curious. It teaches you to be grateful for being lucky enough to receive that kind of education and wealth in the first place.
A wonderful writer I once met said: “When you’re young, you have this huge desire to change the world. You’re eager to make the world a different place, a better place. Then, after years and years pass, you realize you haven’t really changed the world… but the world sure as hell changed you.” Here are 15 valuable travel and life lessons my long term relationship with the world taught me:
1) TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT
More often than not, when I hear how people talk to each other, how they talk about others or how they treat one another I get really sad. The first and by far the most important life lesson (even if you’ve never traveled) is RESPECT! We never know what a person has been through or what he/she is going through right now. And even if we do, and even if we don’t agree with someone’s life choices or behavior we should always treat people with respect. Treating people disrespectfully never helped anyone and has harmed so many.
Photo source: www.theodysseyonline.com
2) FIND COMFORT IN YOUR DISCOMFORT ZONE
If you’ve ever traveled you know that although it’s a blast, travel might get uncomfortable at times. Especially if you go somewhere completely different from everything you know. Especially if you do it on a low budget. I’ll never forget how afraid I was leaving Europe to travel alone through Southeast Asia for months. The fear didn’t stop when I arrived there. It didn’t even stop for the first couple of weeks. And although I was discovering great, new, magnificent things, I wasn’t too comfortable. Until I suddenly was. Until I suddenly let go of what I thought I needed and managed to find great comfort outside of my comfort zone.
Photo source: www.theworryfreelife.com
3) ENCOURAGE YOUR CURIOSITY
Recently someone told me he thought I was brave for traveling alone. I laughed. My travels have nothing to do with bravery. In fact, I’m one of the biggest cowards ever. However, I am very, very curious. Passionately, madly curios. So thank God I’m not a cat (allegedly curiosity kills cats only)!
Photo source: www.quotefancy.com
4) GET CREATIVE
If you’ve ever traveled on a low budget, backpacked, stayed in hostels, camped or anything similar you already know you won’t have all the things you normally use. For a couple of months in Southeast Asia I only had an 8 kg backpack – 4 shirts, 2 shorts, flip flops and sneakers. Being a woman, that’s quite challenging. So I started wearing the shirts I had inside out and suddenly I had 8 shirts instead of 4.
Photo source: www.actualinsights.com
5) BE KIND TO PEOPLE
The latest trip I went on was the hardest trip in my life. The people were very pushy and difficult to interact with. However, I am the one visiting the country, the country didn’t visit me. Therefore, I have to adjust, whether I find someone’s behavior rude or not. Moreover, you never know why someone acts rude – maybe they’re having a bad day or going through something terrible. Maybe they’re just genuine pricks. Whatever the case is, be kind – for both yours and other people’s sake.
Photo source: www.amightygirl.com
6) KEEP THINGS SIMPLE
This travel lesson can apply to a vast number of life situations. If you’ve ever backpacked or traveled with just a carry on you know you can only pack your essentials. So maybe we should start perceiving life as a trip as well, maybe we should really think about what our life essentials are and get rid of all that clutter that somehow got in the way.
Photo source: www.quotefancy.com
7) EMBRACE DIFFERENCES
Living abroad, traveling and hanging out with people from different parts of the world can be challenging. You come across cultural differences, language barriers, unintentional misunderstandings… However, by embracing one another’s differences our lives become so much richer. If someone ever told me I would be able to swear in Hungarian, to have a mini conversation in Hebrew, to learn so much about the war in Cambodia firsthand, to sing songs in Urdu (even if I don’t know what the lyrics say), to have a better understanding of so many cultures I would call them crazy. But that’s what embracing differences does to you.
Photo source: www.myfamilybuilders.com
8) BE PATIENT
This is a tricky one, because we live in the world of NOW. We live in the world of INSTANTLY. You wanna see a certain series? Just go online, you can find every episode of every single show. You want your favorite band’s latest LP? Download it, you don’t need to save up some money to go buy it in the record store. The thing is though, people’s minds haven’t evolved the same way the internet has. People need time. Someone needs less time, someone needs more time. But most of the things simply cannot happen right here and right now, instantly, immediately. We have to understand that and start implementing it in all kinds of life situations.
Photo source: www.mountbethelministries.com
9) LEARN TO SPEND TIME ALONE
I’ve always wanted to live in Paris – it seemed as the most romantic and exciting place in the world. And then I moved to Paris for an exchange student program. And it sucked. It sucked big time. It was very hard to get to know people, my French didn’t reach a level the people would approve of and I felt quite lonely. But then I learnt how to have a glass of wine by myself, how to go to museums by myself, how to go to concerts by myself, how to have lunch and walk the city’s charming and lovable streets by myself. I finally started hanging out with Paris, and it turns out – it is, in fact, one of the most romantic and exciting places in the world.
Photo source: www.stylist.co.uk
10) SEE THE POSITIVE IN THE NEGATIVE
If you’re a true, hardcore traveler you won’t just be interested in the popular sights of a place you’re visiting. You’ll want to see how the locals live and how less popular parts of the cities and countries look like. You’ll see poverty, you’ll see crime, you’ll see human struggles you weren’t even aware existed. You’ll also discover there’s so much beauty and positivity amongst the less fortunate. I didn’t get the best memories from seeing a famous building or visiting a museum. The best memories include talking to people who have far less than one could ever imagine and are happy with the little they have. The best memories include having a meal with someone who was generous enough to share it with you, even if you were a complete stranger. This is what really shakes you to the core – the amount of positivity in a somewhat negative world.
Photo source: www.thehopefoundationblog.wordpress.com
11) GET RID OF PREJUDICE
Unfortunately, the world is full of assumptions and prejudice. Our perception of people and things is highly influenced by the society and the mass media. The fact that we can easily dismiss prejudice through traveling is just amazing. Until you’ve actually spent time with someone, until you’ve actually given someone the chance to show you who they are, how they live and why they live like that you simply cannot understand them. And even when you do understand, don’t judge.
Photo source: www.globalcitizen.org
12) COLLECT MOMENTS, NOT THINGS
I would be lying if I said I didn’t like things. More in particular, shoes. And dresses. However, I can’t say any pair of shoes or a dress brought eternal happiness or fulfillment in my life. On the other hand, collecting moments and creating a colorful collage of memories – whether through traveling the world, walking the streets of the cities I’ve lived in, getting to know people from all over the world or learning a new language definitely has.
Photo source: www.unevensidewalks.com
13) REALIZE THAT TRAVELING DOESN’T MAKE YOU ANY BETTER
In the western culture nowadays, travel is an unspoken must. People literally feel the pressure of having to travel, because it’s fashionable, because everybody is doing it, because you’re a “better person” if you travel. But let me tell you a little secret: TRAVELING DOESN’T MAKE YOU ANY BETTER – a change of a location doesn’t necessarily change your state of mind. Stamps in your passport and all the kilometers you’ve crossed don’t make any difference if you don’t decide to make a difference. The core of who you are and what you carry inside of you doesn’t change with a 15 hour flight. If you’re a genuine prick there’s quite a possibility you’ll remain a prick even after a 15 hour flight.
Photo source: www.entrepreneur.com
There are times when I don’t feel like smiling, there are times when I can’t get rid of my frown. However, if there’s something I learnt it’s that a smile can change so much. When you smile at someone, even if you don’t know them, it makes you feel good (unless it’s your crush and he/she looks the other way – then you feel pretty much like shit). When someone smiles back at you it makes you feel even better. And when your smile turns someone’s frown into a smile, well that’s just wonderful.
Photo source: www.thetravelbunny.com
15) FIND OUT WHAT MATTERS TO YOU
Stop feeling bad about not having your life all figured out. Most of the people don’t have it all figured out either, even if they say they do. Instead of dealing with the immense pressure of figuring out your entire life, why don’t you just focus on discovering what matters to you. You can even do it through a process of elimination – try a bunch of different things, hell, try everything, see what floats your boat and try to do these things more often.
Photo source: www.quotefancy.com