I was talking to a friend who’d been on a six-month trip through Africa and I asked him about the most important thing he learned from that trip. Without any hesitation, he answered, “That trip taught me to follow my heart”. I could absolutely relate to his answer. Years ago, I embarked on a five-month round-the-world trip. The lessons I learned during that trip had a profound impact on myself and my outlook on life. When I returned home, I knew my life wouldn’t be the same again. Travel had taught me so many new things about the world and myself. I wrote an ebook called “Travelations: The Trip That Opened My Eyes” as a reminder to myself of these lessons and, hopefully, as a source of inspiration to others.
Curious about what others have learned from their travels, I decided to ask my friends about their views on what travel can teach us. Below are their insightful answers to the question:
What has travel taught you?
Travel has taught me to see the details of life. In the familiar, my eyes brush over the surroundings as I pursue my daily tasks and goals with a kind of mental tunnel vision. Traveling removes me from the known and forces me to be more attentive: from the way blades of grass jitter in the wind to the calcium deposits crawling up ancient fountains to the ripple of cloud shadows over ceramic roof tiles. These details hold the wonder in life; travel gives me access to them. The result is a richer, more meaningful experience and long lasting memory.
I’ve eaten sheep’s testicles, I’ve slept in a smokey, claustrophobic train cubicle, I’ve tip-toed around hundreds of worshipping monks and I’ve mastered the art of peeing in a hole in the ground (many Asian toilets).
Granted some of those experiences were unpleasant but there was not one moment that I thought the country or the culture was weird. Travel has given me the ability to accept and appreciate the differences that make up the world we live in. It’s taught me that skin colour, ethnic foods, living conditions and the way we speak are unique qualities of one race – human.
Jason and Aracely
Flexibility has been our greatest behavior while traveling long term. Flexibility gives us the ability to spend extra time with new friends we suddenly met. We can venture out to a new city or a new hike that we just learned of from other backpackers in the hostel. Flexibility allows us to relax and wind down in a single place and put our travels on hold. Great experiences and friendships would have been missed had we not been flexible during our journeys.
A man once told me this. It’s easy to be a chief in your own village where everybody has known you and your family forever. It’s far harder to walk to a village 20 miles away and prove you deserve to be a chief.
Travel taught me that on the road we can’t fall back on the social standing we’ve earned at home. In jeans and a jean jacket we all look alike, travelling from point A to point B. It’s only our inner strength and generosity of spirit that will, in the end, earn us the full respect of others.
That we never stop learning. There is so much joy to be had and awe to be present in our lives when we continue to learn and grow. A favorite saying of ours is “When you’re green you’re growing and when you’re ripe you’re rotten.” Traveling presents you with unlimited opportunities to learn. And to me that is what travel is – a process of discovery. I learned an incredible amount about life and myself through my experiences traveling, because I was open to learning them. I cherish these lessons because they have helped me to live an empowered life. Live Your Best Life!
I used to travel with lists of must-dos and went at a feverish pace to cram in as much as possible. It made for constant stimulation and highs, but I often ended up feeling like it was more work than pleasure. So now I go to one or two things per day, and spend the rest of the day meandering about, return to restaurants I’ve enjoyed, nap. Which brings me to the other thing I’ve learned – never feel guilty about spending a whole day lolling about in bed in the hotel, especially if it’s a nice one. It’s a holiday, after all.
Hands down, travel is the world’s best teacher. Blessed with (mis)adventures in 85+ countries, I’ve crashed into a snowdrift on a runaway Sami reindeer sled, been zapped with tear-gas in my curlers outside a Seoul hair salon, helped biologists collect howler monkey squat in Central America, woken up in a stranded rail car somewhere in rural Romania, discovered underground Moscow with a black market “entrepreneur”…Time after time travel shows me that with an open mind, a touch of serendipity, and big supply of laughter, we really can better understand this planet we share.
What travel has taught me:
- That there is more to see and do than can ever be seen or done in a lifetime
- That humanity knows no limits when it comes to creating food, shelter, dance and drink, yet seems constrained by the snow globe when it comes to souvenirs
- That a little courtesy and kindness goes a very long way
- That carrying toilet paper is a good idea
- That it’s not for everyone
- That it’s definitely for me
At the risk of sounding selfish, I’ll say that the most important thing I’ve learned from travel is that I am capable. It’s not that I don’t appreciate different cultures. I love expanding my mind, exploring, meeting people and discovering repeatedly how we can be both different and similar regardless of where we live. But the most important thing to come of my travels is to learn that I am capable of navigating the world and negotiating the new because this ability presents more opportunities for all the other great things that travel offers.
Travel has taught me to not be blinded by the obvious, to explore and discover the rich life behind and beside famous sites, to turn around and see what delights are available in another direction.
Beauty and interesting people exist profusely in off-the-beaten-track and less known places. They are alive and vibrant, not relics frozen in time. Crowds, high prices and congestion are less likely this way and I am seldom disappointed. I experience beauty and delight that many others never notice, having learned to not be seduced by the obvious. Life feels much richer because I’ve learned this invaluable lesson.
The most important thing travel has taught me is to take less photos. I know this may seem counter intuitive to some but it’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give. When you are travelling you will see it all the time; individuals with their phones or cameras snapping away furiously. When you show the photo to someone else they won’t always understand the significance as they weren’t there. Every now and again put the camera down. Just take it all in, be in the moment and don’t worry about taking the perfect picture.
Travel has taught me empathy. By experiencing the many different ways people interpret what it means to be human, I’ve been able to reflect on and shape my own vision of life. I’ve learned that there are multiple ways of being in the world, and that we are all struggling to survive. In this struggle, I’ve noticed there are far more people eager to lend a helping hand than to cut one off. Kindness can prevail. These revelations have helped me become a more tolerant and compassionate person. Humanity is one; and we all share a delicate planet.
One of the most important things I’ve learned traveling is to SLOW DOWN. Every time I rush to see a big list I have in my head, I rarely enjoy the travel experience. I’ve learned that seeing less is more: more depth of experience, more connections, and more conversations with the people around you. The best example in my travels was in Turkey. I had many cups of apple tea around the country. I still saw what I came to see but I left with a great connection to the country. And, when I think back about that trip, it’s those chats over tea and the people I remember most.
What travel is about
Travel is more than just about going on a trip somewhere. Whether I’m travelling for business or pleasure, to me, travel is about using our senses to experience a different place and culture, meeting new people, and it’s about what these experiences teach us.