Lessons I've Learned While Travelling
“The world is a book, those who do not travel read only one page”.
I never could have guessed that a quote written on a chalkboard in a Milan hostel would still impact me three years after seeing it.
As a bookworm and a newly-minted traveler, I related to the quote on many levels at the time and have repeated it a lot over the last few years.
Before my best friend moved to London for two years, I had been interested in seeing the world but it was never at the top of my bucket list. I had quite a few friends who had gone on post-university trips to Europe and Asia to return home “changed”. I was happy to hear about their adventures and look at photos but I never truly understood why they spent so much time planning their next trip instead of putting their heart and souls into their careers.
All of my thoughts changed when I took my first trip to London and the subsequent trips that followed. Not only did I make memories for a lifetime, but I realized that sometimes you can learn more about life running through a Copenhagen train station at 6 a.m. with an Australian stranger you just met than completing a group project or endless essays.
Today I am sharing a few of the lessons I brought home with me from my trips abroad:
1. Getting lost can lead you on new adventures you didn’t mean to take
I am very good at getting lost – I do it at least once a week. People ask me if I know where I’m going so much that I no longer think it is a joke. Getting lost in a new country without GPS is a lot tougher than my usual misdirection on the way to the grocery store. There were many times on trips that I had to lean against a building pretending to text when really I was trying to not look like a lost solo tourist.
As an A-type personality, I do not do well when my plans change. One morning in Stockholm I spent an hour researching the sightseeing I was going to do for the day. I spent the remainder of the day continuously lost and went back to my hostel room absolutely crushed that I had wasted the day and did not see any of the things I wanted to. When I got back on my iPad and looked at all the places I had starred on the map – it turned out I had in fact walked by and checked out all the places I wanted to see other than one museum. That museum was open late and had a discount for any visitors after 5 p.m. Turns out it was 4:40 p.m. and I was about 20 minutes away from the museum – leading me to check out the museum for cheap! Something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had followed my original plan.
Like in travel, life can through curveballs you don’t expect. Always remember that changes to your best made plans can often turn out to have even better endings!
2. Being a team player and working independently are both beneficial and not mutually exclusive
I will preface this lesson by letting you know that I am a mix of the strong independent woman that Destiny’s Child encouraged me to be in my youth and a person who took buddy trips to the shared washroom in my university dorm. In October 2016, I was planning a trip to visit a couple of friends in Europe and found out that they were both busy during one of the weeks that I had planned to be there. Rather than wait it out or try to find someone else to go with, I decided to push myself past my limits and spend a week exploring some extra countries, alone. As intimidating as I found it at the beginning, I ended up really enjoying myself. I made new friends. I asked strangers for ideas on what I should see while I was there. And most of all, I felt capable of being on my own – which was the most rewarding part!
Last November, I went on a girl’s trip to Ireland with some of my best friends. We met up with people we knew from university, explored the Irish countryside and spent every night laughing until our faces hurt.
Both trips impacted me in so many ways and reminded me that whether you are alone or with friends, you can always make the best of it.
3. Making friends is easier than you expect
As an incredibly social human being, after a couple of hours being alone on trips I was ready to find someone to talk to. Making friends has never been a struggle for me, but it can be a little frightening to introduce yourself to new people. Being in a hostel makes it pretty easy to meet people since travelers are generally equally as excited to meet you. You also already have travel in common which makes it much easier to break the ice. Not only does meeting people on the road make you feel instantly more comfortable but it gives you new perspectives.
I’ve taken this lesson home and made sure to put more of an effort into getting to know people. I’ve also made it a rule to always be nice to someone that is trying to get to know me or someone new to the group.
4. Time for yourself is important
Obviously, travelling alone is very different from travelling with friends. You don’t have anyone to turn to if you can’t remember whether to turn right or left to get back to your hostel. But it gives you a huge chance to reflect on your time. When I was on my semi-solo trip, I decided to write down what I did every day so that when I got home I could look back on it and remember all the little details.
Taking a few moments at the end of each day was such a good way to appreciate what I was experiencing. I enjoyed it so much that I took the tip home and started a regular journal practice.
5. We’re all human
I think this is the most important lesson that many people could use as a reminder based on the things that happen in today’s society. After taking in all the cool sights on a trip, the world starts to seem a lot smaller. You can hop on a plane and be on the other side of the world in less than 24 hours. In addition to that, I’ve found that wherever I go, people are always generally kind. If you are lost, people will generally try to help you out. And if you strike up a conversation with a stranger, you will generally have something to talk about.
Regardless of the country we come from or the things we believe in, we are still all human. We still all deserve respect and we should all work hard to provide that to each other, every single day.
I’d love to know what you’ve learned in your travels that you bring with you into your everyday life. Leave me a message below!